Manufacturing of Light Metal Matrix Composites by Combined Thermal Spray and Semisolid Forming Process – Summary of the Current State of Technology
The demand for lightweight structures in the automotive and aerospace industry increases permanently, and the importance of lightweight design principles is also increasing in other industrial branches, aiming towards improved energy efficiency and sustainability. Light metals are promising candidates to realize security relevant lightweight components because of their high specific strength; and amongst them, aluminum alloys are the most interesting materials due to their high plasticity and strain to failure, good processability, passivation in oxygen containing atmosphere, and low cost. However, for many applications, their stiffness as well as strength and fatigue behavior at elevated temperature are insufficient. Metal matrix composite (MMC) formation by integration of reinforcements in the form of continuous or discontinuous (short) fibers can yield a high increase in the alloys’ specific mechanical properties at room temperature and at elevated temperature. The integration of fibers with conventional manufacturing techniques like squeeze casting, hot pressing or diffusion bonding leads to restrictions in the component’s geometry. Moreover, these techniques result in elevated process costs mainly caused by long cycle times and the need of additional protective fiber coatings. In the present paper, an alternative method for the manufacturing of aluminum matrix composites is described, combining thermal spraying and semisolid forming (thixoforging) technologies for the formation of fiber prepregs and subsequent forming with simultaneous densification. Therefore, prepregs with the matrix alloy as a thick surface coating on the reinforcement fibers are manufactured in a fast, automated coating process, while reheating, densification and shaping are performed in a separate process, allowing an optimization of both processes towards cycle times and resulting material properties. Continuous fiber and short fiber reinforced aluminum matrix composites are manufactured using woven or parallel arranged continuous fibers, or short fibers as a fleece or fiber paper material. For the coating process, twin-wire electric arc spraying is applied as a well established, cost efficient thermal spray technology. The coating process is optimized towards microstructure of the matrix alloy prior to semisolid forming, which requires a globular alloy microstructure, and reduced fiber damage during the high-temperature liquid melt deposition. The thermally sprayed fine-grained matrix material enables semisolid forming at liquid contents of 40-60 vol% of the alloy, with short flow paths, reduced mechanical loads and short cycle times. Thus, limited fiber damage and residual stresses will occur, leading to good mechanical material properties. A production line for industrial-scale coating of fiber fabric coils in a continuous process is introduced in order to provide prepregs of various fiber-reinforcement materials and fiber architectures; moreover, a winding equipment for simultaneous fiber winding and coating is presented that enables local reinforcement for components with adapted, tailored composite material design.
Mohamed A. Taha, Ahmed M. El-Sabbagh and Iman M. Taha
M. Wenzelburger et al., "Manufacturing of Light Metal Matrix Composites by Combined Thermal Spray and Semisolid Forming Process – Summary of the Current State of Technology", Key Engineering Materials, Vol. 425, pp. 217-244, 2010