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14.03.2018 | Manufacturing | News | Onlineartikel

Transforming Lightweight Metal Surfaces

Dr. Hubert Pelc

It has up until now been possible to provide metal-ceramic surfaces of lightweight metal components with defined properties only within narrowly defined limits. A new technology now allows the microstructure of a material to be transformed into a multifunctional gradient material.

Micro Arc Oxidation (MAO) technology showed promise originally but could not prevail as a wide-ranging, production-ready application method for surface modification. Technology company AutomoTeam has unveiled the Metaker Surface process, which is based on the MAO principle but differs fundamentally in its operating processes. The term MetaKer is composed of the German words "Metall" (metal) and "Keramik" (ceramic) and refers to the electro-plasmachemical production of a metal-ceramic layer on lightweight metal. This means that, in complex processes, the microstructure of a material in the boundary layer area is transformed into a multifunctional gradient material. The reliable control of these processes and their adjustment possibilities allows diverse functional, haptic and optical properties to be precisely matched to the desired target applications of lightweight metal components.

Potential for innovation for key industries

The process can be used to modify the surfaces of finished components or semi-finished products made of aluminium with a layer 2 to 200 µm thick, but full functionality is achieved on subeutectic aluminium alloys in this case. Limitations have to be expected for hypereutectic alloys. This process can also modify the surface of other lightweight metals such as magnesium and titanium.

The consistency of the aluminium workpieces is irrelevant for surface modification, since solid material can be processed as well as thin sheet metal, foil, thin film, fabric, aluminium foam, porous aluminium castings and water-resistant material hybrids with aluminium components. Even complicated geometry, for example with sharp edges, beads or bores, does not affect the output of a homogeneous surface.

As Metaker Surface has already proven itself as technology suitable for serial production on an industrial scale since 2010, the process offers huge potential for innovation for all key industries (e.g. automotive, mechanical engineering, plant construction, aerospace and medical technology).

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