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Aluminium given strength boost

MATERIALS Cutting Edge

AUSTRALIAN scientists have developed a method of increasing the strength of aluminium products.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have invented a novel heat treatment process they claim can double the strength of high-pressure, die-cast aluminium.

Conventional heat treatment processes can ruin the metals but the CSIRO team has developed a process that can improve the finish.

Light Metals Flagship research team leader Dr Roger Lumley said: 'Conventional heat treatment processes cause major blistering and distortion when air bubbles trapped under pressure during casting expand as they are heated.

'Our procedure provides strength improvements and an excellent surface finish without blistering or distortion.'

Laboratory tests indicate that the new treatment can at least double the strength of die-cast aluminium, giving the opportunity to make lighter parts capable of carrying out the same workload, Dr Lumley claimed.

He said: 'A lot of these components are designed for their loads and basically the stronger the material, the lighter you can make the part.

We would like to think we could see a 30 per cent weight reduction compared with current aluminium castings.' The move could also help slash production costs by cutting back on the amount of raw material needed and the technology could be taken up by plant manufacturers and hardware producers, Dr Lumley claimed.

He said: 'Anything that requires cost-effective mass production of complex castings can utilise this process.'