Metals and ceramics design and processing

Light alloy engineering

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Our expertise in light alloy engineering is based on a deep understanding of physical metallurgy and alloy microstructure and how this microstructure will change and affect alloy performance during post-production processing.

Using this understanding, we are able to manipulate the chemical, electrical, physical and mechanical properties of alloys to meet specified performance criteria. We can then identify the process steps required to economically produce the tailored alloys up to 30 kg batch scales (and beyond if necessary). 

Photo of researcher loading a sample into a furnance for heat treatment.

Understanding what happens to the structure of alloys during heating and cooling processes is crucial for improving alloy performance.

Alternatively, we use our expertise to work closely with clients to identify the cause of problems such as shrinkage defects and hot tears within alloys, and then recommend the alloy composition or process changes required to avoid these problems.

Improving alloy performance

An understanding of what happens to the structure of alloys during heating and cooling processes is central to addressing problems within existing alloy production processes. It is also crucial for improving alloy performance.

For example, understanding the effect of cooling rates on different alloys means we can develop a specified cooling regime in order to improve properties such as corrosion performance, strength and fatigue resistance.
 
Understanding the effects of heat treatment on alloy microstructure, particularly the effect it has on precipitates and distribution of elements within the alloy, enables us to modify existing and develop novel heat treatment processes aimed at strengthening wrought, cast, or even high pressure die cast alloys.

Tools and techniques

We use a suite of characterisation, modelling and property evaluation tools and techniques to help us understand the microstructure of alloys before, during and after processing.

These include:

  • ThermoCalc software
  • optical metallography
  • scanning electron microscopy
  • thermal electron microscopy
  • spark optical emission spectroscopy (spark OES) and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES)
  • air circulation furnaces
  • fluidised bed furnace
  • servo-hydraulic test-rig.

Life cycle analysis

We also offer expertise in life cycle analysis of aluminium and magnesium alloy products, processing and component manufacturing cycles. These analyses start with alloy smelting and include usage, recycling and reuse of the alloy.