Potentials in lightweight construction
Alu Menziken successfully processes magnesium alloys
‘Light, lighter, lightest’ is the motto in the automotive and aerospace industries. The current development in these industries leads to an ever increasing demand for lightweight materials. The legal resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels is being pursued in the automotive industry through the development of more efficient drive concepts and through promotion of consistent lightweight design.
Magnesium is becoming increasingly important in the advancement of lightweight materials. However, processing of magnesium and magnesium alloys requires finesse.
Alu Menziken recently successfully completed its magnesium extrusion experiments. Using a magnesium alloy certified for aviation, the project team produced thin-walled hollow profiles for applications in the interior of aircraft cabins.
‘After completing these experiments, we’re now able to extrude, form and machine different magnesium alloys on CNC machines’, explains Ingolf Planer, CEO of the Swiss metalworking company.
Lower weight means lower carbon emissions and thus cost savings. It equally benefits the manufacturers and the environment.
Reduction measure for aluminium profiles
Magnesium is up to 30% lighter than aluminium and up to 75% lighter than steel, but simultaneously features high specific strength; therefore, it has extremely high potential for lightweight construction. Furthermore, magnesium can be machined very well and is available in practically unlimited quantities. Limiting factors are its corrosion and high-temperature properties as well as its hexagonal lattice structure, which is responsible for its limited formability.
In contrast to aluminium components, which are largely processed as wrought material, components made of magnesium alloys are mainly produced by die casting. Based on the current state of the art, extruded products made of magnesium alloys are primarily produced as solid profiles.
Consequently, Alu Menziken has advanced and successfully implemented industrial production of complex thin-walled hollow magnesium profiles in the direct extrusion process using porthole tools. One particular challenge was the tool design. Since magnesium alloys exhibit different flow behaviour than aluminium alloys, the porthole tool must have an adapted tool design. Another challenge was adapting the plant engineering and the entire process control to the hexagonal lattice structure of the material.
‘Our success in producing profiles made of aluminium-magnesium alloys offers new opportunities for innovative solutions in weight and emission reduction for our customers in the aerospace and automotive industries’, Planer says confidently.