Powdermet has devised a powder metallurgy process allowing the retention of nanocrystallites and ductile reinforcing phases throughout the powder forging or extrusion process, resulting in high strength aluminium materials requiring minimal machining. Other aluminium lithium high strength alloys have tensile strengths of 50-70ksi with up to 12% ductility, whereas nanocomposite materials fabricated from Powdermet’s powders are showing 50-72ksi strength with up to 16% ductility, the company claims. Powdermet has also shown nanocomposite aluminium alloys with up to 200ksi strengths with 1-2% ductility.

MComP’s product development goals are to produce aluminium alloys having 100ksi strength with greater than 8% ductility without using expensive rare earth metals. Additional development goals include demonstrating thick cross-section part manufacturing using Powdermet’s newly acquired deformation processing equipment, including its small 5,000 ton press.

According to BCC Research report titled ‘Lightweight Materials in Transportation’; the total global consumption of lightweight materials used in transportation equipment was 46.7 million tons/US$95.5 billion in 2010. This market is expected to reach 67.7 million tons/US$125.3 billion by 2015, increasing at a compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) of 7.7% in tonnage terms and 5.6% in value terms between 2010 and 2015. The new strict weight and fuel efficiency requirements in the automotive markets coupled with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards are expected to add an additional US$10-US$20 billion in new market growth by 2015.

Powdermet has also joined a joint venture development team comprising Oshkosh Corp, an Oshkosh Wisconsin based specialty truck builder and Eck Industries Inc., a Manitowoc, Wisconsin based aluminium foundry to develop and produce lighter, stronger aluminium and magnesium structural components with the strength of steel, but at a much lower weight.

This joint venture will allow for wider adoption of ultra-light weight materials by reducing the cost of these unique materials, and by taking their application from simple moulded or machined parts into larger, complex metal castings. The work will expand on laboratory tests that show that the incorporation of nanoparticles can greatly increase the performance of aluminium alloys at a lower cost than rare earth additions.