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Shearline pushes new frontier with ecometal

Shearline has moved closer to becoming the first commercial organisation in the UK to offer the revolutionary Magnesium Thixomoulding® process. A process which offers weight savings of up to 75% when compared to steel, potentially reducing energy costs for a range of transport. The sustainable metal is less energy intensive to process and 100% recyclable.

Charles Maltby, Technical and Commercial Director at Shearline, the precision engineering company, explains that the company 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.

“Magnesium is an exciting metal, alloys can be moulded to create structures that are strong, light and require reduced processing. A good example application is seat structures for aeroplanes. Reducing the weight of seating by 35% will make a huge difference to the energy consumption of the aircraft.

“Our bid team includes Magnesium Elektron, a UK company that has developed the alloys, JSW/Buhler, makers of injection moulding equipment, Sirris, a Belgian research organization with their own existing generation Thixomoulding® machine and AM2 a German company

led by Bernd Wendinger, an authority in this field. These commercial partners together with the University of Sheffield and the Advanced Forming Research Centre, linked to the University of Strathclyde offer a strong team with worldclass expertise.”

The consortium will look to expand knowledge of the commercial applications of the technology. Thixomoulding® uses a semi-solid state for the alloy to allow it to flow freely within a complex mould. The resulting structures have thinner walls than conventional die-casting and also produce less waste and near zero polluting bi-products. All unused material can be reused in a process that requires less energy than creation from raw materials.

Shearline already has a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate working in the company evaluating the properties of the new alloys, which offer significant improvements over earlier magnesium alloys.

The company is keen to explore the potential of using the process for relatively large structures for use 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.

Charles concludes, “We are grateful for the support that EEDA has given us, its grant funding of experts in the field of creating applications for FP7 funding has enabled us to progress this exciting project which offers added value to the region’s worldclass cluster of high tech industries.”

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