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Innovating Aluminum Thermal Processing with Superconducting Magnetics

By tony On Friday, June 09, 2017 10:13:00 AM

Queen City Forging has collaborated with Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) on several innovative research projects, yielding award-winning manufacturing solutions such as Rapid Infrared Hot Aluminum Forging. QC Forge also participated in an ORNL-led research effort, initially involving the use of superconducting magnets for thermal processing of ferrous alloys . . .

What is Thermomagnetic Processing?

An interdisciplinary team of ORNL researchers led by Gerard Ludtka and Gail Mackiewicz-Ludtka, along with partners Eaton Corporation, American Magnetics, Inc. (AMI), and AJAX TOCCO Magnethermic Corporation, applied liquid helium-cooled superconducting magnet systems to developing a “heat-free heat-treating method.”  The use of an 8 Tesla superconducting magnet, 150,000 stronger than the earth’s magnetic field, generated and controlled metallurgical phases and structures that are not normally produced by conventional thermal processing. This not only produced refined microstructure features with improved physical and mechanical properties, but also accelerated phase transformation, especially for the tempering of finer carbides. ORNL’s research into Thermomagnetic Processing Technology, earned an R&D 100 award in 2009.

QC Forge Aluminum Post-Processing Experimentation

The potential to eliminate thermal processing steps, reduce costs and enhance strength properties of lower ferrous alloys and light metals, led to QC Forge's exploration of thermogenic processing of paramagnetic aluminum alloys. Working with the ORNL team and partners, QCF participated in several experiments investigating metallurgical enhancements from the application of superconducting magnetic fields as an alternative to thermal post-processing of forged aluminum components.

The initial results of this exploration suggested some interesting possibilities . . .

  • Enhanced tensile and yield strengths, potentially allowing lighter weight designs;
  • Reduced post-heat treating stress, eliminating specialized thermal processing steps and associated costs;
  • Changes in paramagnetic properties;
  • Reduced energy use in the typical heat treating process.

Although QCF’s innovative collaboration on thermomagnetic aluminum processing was not concluded due to limited research funding, this ground-breaking work suggests that promising opportunities lay ahead for additional development and a possible solution to your next manufacturing application.


Although these specific results weren’t mentioned in our discussions about aluminum, these benefits were mentioned in other content I researched re: this ORNL project.
 
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