Stronger and harder

A new technique has been developed to produce metal/polymer hybrid materials that offer designers clear benefits over metal or plastic.

DuPont Engineering Polymers has formed an alliance with Canadian-based Morph Technologies, Integran Technologies and US-based PowerMetal Technologies to develop and commercialise a new technique that can be used to produce nanocrystalline metal/polymer hybrid materials.

The materials can be used to make extremely lightweight components with the strength and stiffness of metal combined with the design flexibility and lightweight benefits of high-performance thermoplastics.

The proprietary production process applies a high-strength nanometal to a polymer component to create lightweight components in myriad complex shapes with the stiffness of magnesium or aluminium but with higher strength.

‘Nano-crystalline nickel or nickel-iron are high-performance metals that are two to three times stronger than normal steel and are also significantly harder, with better wear and friction performance,’ said to Gino Palumbo, president and CTO of Integran Technologies.

‘Metal offers strength and high stiffness, but is limited in its ability to enable integration and to cost-effectively create complex shapes. Conversely, thermoplastic offers tremendous freedom to create shapes and to integrate functions, but it has suffered from some limitation in combining strength and stiffness. With this technology, designers can have the best of both worlds,’ added Clive Robertson, business development manager of DuPont Engineering Polymers.

Initially, the companies will target the new technique at companies developing products for the automotive, consumer electronics and sporting goods markets.