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New technology forms high-strength lightweight magnesium sheet

02 September 2010

Thixomat subsidiary, Michigan, USA based nanoMAG has developed a new lightweight, high-strength magnesium sheet technology which provides 200% higher strength and improved toughness compared with conventional magnesium, while also providing the strength of carbon steel sheet at one-fourth the weight.

Until now, magnesium alloy sheet has been cost prohibitive, difficult to form, and limited in availability. nanoMAG’s new material is targeted at lightweight applications in military vehicle armour, resorbable biomedical implants, and structural aerospace applications. The patent-pending process features isotropic fine-grained strengthening, which permits low-volume manufacturing for specialised applications at a competitive cost.

Stephen LeBeau, president of nanoMAG says the development is a significant advance for magnesium that brings unprecedented performance in terms of strength and low weight, and one that meets the challenging demands of the automotive, military, biomedical, and aerospace markets.

The company has received a two-year $730,000 contract from the US Department of Defense to develop lightweight composite military vehicle armour using nanoMAG sheet as the base structural carrier for the vehicle platform.

The Thixomoulding Thermal Mechanical Process (TTMP), developed in conjunction with the University of Michigan, produces ultra-fine-grain nanocrystalline magnesium sheet with properties superior to conventional materials like steel, aluminum, and titanium. The nano structure is produced in-situ in a bulk form, avoiding the manufacturing issues associated with the handling of fine powders. The process uses Thixomat’s Thixomoulding technology to produce a sheet bar which is put through secondary thermo-mechanical heat processing. A key factor is the precise control of the microstructure which increases the yield strength of the original Thixomoulded stock by more than 200% to more than 250Mpa, along with 10% elongation.

nanoMAG’s ‘mini-mill’ operation consists of discrete manufacturing cells capable of producing 500 tons per year with a modest initial capital investment. This manufacturing strategy reduces operating cost over traditional casting/rolling methods, permits economical short-run specialist products for niche markets, and allows incremental capacity to be brought online in response to market needs. The fine-grain sheet material also boasts greater formability, allowing fabrication of net-shape finished components currently not available.

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