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Shearline is close to becoming the first commercial organisation in the UK to offer the low-energy, low-waste Magnesium Thixomoulding process, a more environmentally friendly way to process magnesium.

Thixomoulded Magnesium has many benefits, for example it is strong yet can be 75 per cent lighter than steel so can reduce energy usage when used for components in transport systems.

The manufacturing process itself uses less energy than traditional casting and can produce less than half the waste.

Shearline has put together a consortium of leaders in the industry to bid for European funding (FP7) that could see the company developing the largest facility for Magnesium Thixomoulding in the UK.

A good application for this type of magnesium would be in seat structures for airplanes, in which reducing the weight of seating by 35 per cent would make a big difference to the energy consumption of the aircraft.

Shearline’s bid team includes Magnesium Elektron, a UK company that has developed the alloys; JSW/Buhler, makers of injection moulding equipment; Sirris, a Belgian research organisation with its own existing generation Thixomoulding machine; and AM2, a German company led by Bernd Wendinger, an authority in this field.

These commercial partners will work together with the University of Sheffield and the Advanced Forming Research Centre, looking to expand knowledge of the commercial applications of the technology.

Thixomoulding uses a semi-solid state for the alloy to allow it to smoothly fill complex shape moulds.

The resulting structures can have thinner walls than conventional die-casting and a higher resistance to fatigue and corrosion.

These qualities mean a wide range of industries could benefit from using magnesium, with applications ranging from medical devices to defence equipment.

Shearline already has a Knowledge Transfer Partnership associate from the University of Sheffield, Rachel Peachey, working in the company to evaluate the properties of the new alloys, which offer improvements over existing ones.

She said that one of Thixomoulding’s advantages is its repeatability, as traditional casting can lead to a lot of scrap because the parts are not of consistent quality.

According to Peachey, one company to which she has spoken were forced to reject about two in every five gearbox housings because the process they were using cannot ensure that each box is of a sufficient standard.

Thixomoulding can overcome this problem because each part that a mould produces is identical.

It can produce accurate and complex shapes, which means that multi-part assemblies can often be modified to use just one or two parts, reducing the energy used during both the manufacturing and assembly processes.

The company is keen to explore the potential of using the process for relatively large structures within the aerospace, automotive, defence and other high tech sectors, so part of the proposal is to install a ‘large-size’ Thixomoulding machine at Shearline’s Ely premises.

This would enable industries all over Europe to access the many benefits of Magnesium Thixomoulding.

Shearline Precision Engineering

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