Driving changes

Researchers at CSIRO have developed a novel casting technology for the automotive industry.

Researchers at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) claim that a novel casting technology will give the automotive industry a boost in the move to make lighter, more fuel-efficient cars.

The technology, T-Mag, enables super-light magnesium alloys to be cast into high-integrity, high-strength automotive components. What’s more, it’s claimed that low production costs make T-Mag castings cost-competitive with aluminium and steel automotive components.

‘With T-Mag you can make a magnesium alloy engine block that is two-thirds the weight of an aluminium alloy engine block,’ CSIRO business development manager Sam Tartaglia said.

According to CSIRO casting team leader Dr Thang Nguyen, the technology is being assessed by a group of major North American car makers. ‘If successful, this validation will open the door to key markets. It’s a fast-track entry into the market,’ he said.

So how does it work? ‘We’ve integrated melting and casting operations in a single compact unit which uses gravity rather than high pressure or vacuum to make sure the die fills smoothly from the bottom. This minimises turbulence and formation of oxides in the casting,’ Nguyen said.

‘The result is strong, lightweight castings which do not have flow lines or internal porosity; defects which have hampered uptake of magnesium alloy castings made using existing technology.’

In addition, T-Mag provides large savings in recycling and energy costs by reducing the metal needed for casting. T-Mag needs only 3.7kg of alloy to cast a 3.5kg component, compared with the 6kg to 7kg required by conventional processes.

T-Mag is being taken to market by a partnership between CSIRO and three South Australian companies, Alloy Technologies International, SAGE Automation, and FLOTEK. The partnership has attracted a $1.95m grant under AusIndustry’s Commercial Ready Program.