- Posted by Elena Minisci
- On January 27, 2022
- 0 Comments
- #manufacturing, #Nifreepowders, #powdermetallurgy, #sustainability
On December 16th, 2021, the NEWMAN project held its final meeting at the Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Bologna.
The project consortium is formed by seven partners: 2 universities, 2 research and innovation centres and 3 SMEs.
The project funded by the EIT Raw Materials funding program of the European Union, has the scope of validating components made in powder metallurgy (PM) with nickel-free steel powders (NFP), which are more sustainable than conventional steel powders containing nickel in terms of health safety, environmental impact and production costs.
Traditionally, high-performance steels and steels powders for PM containing Nickel and other critical metals as alloying elements, have been used for applications characterized by high static and fatigue stresses. Nickel, in particular, is not only a critical raw material, but also a carcinogenic element environmentally harmful and subject to large price fluctuations. For these reasons, the NEWMAN project has characterized and optimized Ni-free powders (NFP) produced by Höganäs and the Powder Metallurgy (PM) component manufacturing process including press and sintering and heat treatments, to assess applicability to high-performance parts.
After the processes optimization and mechanical characterization, carried out by University of Bologna, which demonstrated that the AstaloyTM 85 Mo NFP could be used for the manufacturing of high-performance structural components, the prototyping activities of a shifter shaft sleeve for an automotive transmission and of a pinion for the automatic machine sectors started. During this phase, SINTERIS has supported end-users by dedicated engineering for optimizing the PM processes, including the manufacturing of press mould dies for the pinion and sleeve, and prototyping the solution at their manufacturing site in the Bologna area.
Apart from the mechanical performance validation, economic and environmental validation activities have been carried out. “All three approaches have been taken simultaneously during the two years of the project and in continuous communication with each other, to exploit the synergies between the three analyses to obtain and verify a high degree of sustainability of this new type of powder”, says prof. Alessandro Morri, University of Bologna, Project Coordinator of NEWMAN.
The life cycle impact assessment in charge of Ghent University has shown that NEWMAN solution provides a better environmental performance in terms of climate change indicators, starting from carbon footprint, which could be nearly halved by, among other factors, avoiding nickel extraction, which is added to other advantages such as reduced soil acidification and human toxicity indicators, which are relevant social aspects to be taken into consideration. These results could be even improved if energy supply is decarbonized, taking advantage of renewable sources, which are currently unequal across the different European countries’ power mixes. Besides, economic implications show that the NEWMAN solution represents considerable cost savings, exceeding double digits, and reduced financial risks due to critical materials characteristic price oscillation.
“The results achieved so far by the project are very successful”, as explained by Federico Della Ricca of Höganäs, global leader in metallic powders manufacturing and main commercialization partner of NEWMAN Project results. Indeed, they expect to enhance commercialisation for these materials in the automotive sector, its prospect main market, starting from 2023, which could be anticipated to late 2022 in case of industrial machinery components, after the promising results achieved at VICIVISION and CRF demonstration pilots.
Regarding VICIVISION’s demonstration activities, the pinion prototype for automatic measuring machine applications results very promising. On the one hand, costs per piece are dramatically reduced (up to 80%) compared to current costs, thus the return of investment, namely the design and manufacturing of the die mould, is roughly one year. “After accurate testing, with a 80,000 cycle test of full pinion stroke, no relevant fatigue or wear have been appreciated”, thus successfully validating the new component specification, says Lanfranco Ferri, Mechanical Design Chief Technology Officer at VICIVISION. Indeed, given these excellent results, VICIVISION intends to start production of this NFP-based components by 2022 and to identify other mechanical parts in their machines to take advantage of PM technology.
From CRF, excellent results have been obtained by applying NFP to a gearbox sleeve, an automotive transmission component. The validation has been made with FEM simulation, further material characterization and mechanical test-bench without failure, as reported by Davide Mangherini of CRF. Besides, the new component offers weight reduction (around 7%), at a lower economic cost with respect to a forged and carburized component. NEWMAN results could be even improved, as CRF is planning to carry out additional comparative testing by adding shot peening process to the tested material in order to validate nickel-free powder metallurgy processes in terms of fatigue resistance for other parts which undergo high cyclic loads. The additional shot peening process may provide improved properties to decrease surface porosity characteristic of sintered components, as reported by Enrico Morgano.
Besides, if CoViD related restrictions permit it, the goal of project partners is to showcase the solutions in live events starting from spring 2022, including a showroom by SINTERIS project partner in Italy, and a PM School including NFP to be held at Höganäs, Sweden.