Superplastic forming

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Superplastic forming is an industrial process used for creating precise and complex components out of superplastic materials.

In materials science, superplasticity is a state in which solid crystalline material is deformed well beyond its usual breaking point, usually over about 2000% during tensile deformation. Such a state is usually achieved at high homologous temperature. Examples of superplastic materials are some fine-grained metals and ceramics. Other non-crystalline materials (amorphous) such as silica glass and polymers also deform similarly, but are not called superplastic, because they are not crystalline; rather, their deformation is often described as Newtonian fluid. Superplastically deformed material gets thinner in a very uniform manner, rather than forming a "neck" that leads to fracture. Also, the formation of microvoids, which is another cause of early fracture, is inhibited.



The material is first heated up to promote superplasticity. For titanium alloys e.g. Ti 6Al 4V and some stainless steels this is around 900 °C (1,650 °F) and for aluminium alloys e.g. AA5083 it is between 450–520 °C. In this state the material becomes soft so processes that are usually used on plastics can be applied, such as: thermoforming, blow forming, and vacuum forming. [1] Inert gas pressure is applied on the superplastic sheet forcing it into a female die.

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a pliable forming temperature, formed to a specific shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product. The sheet, or "film" when referring to thinner gauges and certain material types, is heated in an oven to a high-enough temperature that permits it to be stretched into or onto a mold and cooled to a finished shape. Its simplified version is vacuum forming.

Vacuum forming A simplified version of thermoforming, where a sheet of plastic is heated, stretched, and forced against a single-surface mold by a vacuum

Vacuum forming is a simplified version of thermoforming, where a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, stretched onto a single-surface mold, and forced against the mold by a vacuum. This process can be used to form plastic into permanent objects such as turnpike signs and protective covers. Normally draft angles are present in the design of the mold to ease removal of the formed plastic part from the mold.

Advantages and disadvantages

The major advantage of this process is that it can form large and complex workpieces in one operation. The finished product has excellent precision and a fine surface finish. It also does not suffer from springback or residual stresses. Products can also be made larger to eliminate assemblies or reduce weight, which is critical in aerospace applications. [1] Lower strength required and less tooling costs. McDonnell Douglas utilized SPF design and production technology into the F-15 in the 1980s.[ citation needed ]

Surface finish, also known as surface texture or surface topography, is the nature of a surface as defined by the three characteristics of lay, surface roughness, and waviness. It comprises the small, local deviations of a surface from the perfectly flat ideal.

Residual stress

Residual stresses are stresses that remain in a solid material after the original cause of the stresses has been removed. Residual stress may be desirable or undesirable. For example, laser peening imparts deep beneficial compressive residual stresses into metal components such as turbine engine fan blades, and it is used in toughened glass to allow for large, thin, crack- and scratch-resistant glass displays on smartphones. However, unintended residual stress in a designed structure may cause it to fail prematurely.

Aerospace engineering effort to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics)

Aerospace is the human effort in science, engineering, and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). Aerospace organizations research, design, manufacture, operate, or maintain aircraft or spacecraft. Aerospace activity is very diverse, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications.

The largest disadvantage of the process is its slow forming rate. Cycle times vary from two minutes to two hours, therefore it is usually used in low volume production applications. [2] [1] Another disadvantage is the non-uniformity of the produced part thickness. [3] Several methods are used to improve the thickness uniformity of SPF parts. One is to apply a designed varying gas pressure profile instead of a constant pressure. [4] Another approach is to tailor the contact friction between the die surface and the superplastic sheet. [5]

See also

Hot metal gas forming (HMGF) is a method of die forming in which a metal tube is heated to a pliable state, near to but below its melting point, then pressurized internally by a gas in order to form the tube outward into the shape defined by an enclosing die cavity. The high temperatures allow the metal to elongate, or stretch, to much greater degrees without rupture than are possible in previously utilized cold and warm forming methods. In addition, the metal can be formed into finer details and requires less overall forming force than traditional methods.

Superplastic forming and diffusion bonding (SPF/DB) is a technique allowing to manufacture complex-shaped hollow metallic parts. It combines Superplastic forming (SPF) with a second element "Diffusion Bonding" to create the completed structures.

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Powder metallurgy

Powder metallurgy (PM) is a term covering a wide range of ways in which materials or components are made from metal powders. PM processes can avoid, or greatly reduce, the need to use metal removal processes, thereby drastically reducing yield losses in manufacture and often resulting in lower costs.

Extrusion process used to create objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile

Extrusion is a process used to create objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile. A material is pushed through a die of the desired cross-section. The two main advantages of this process over other manufacturing processes are its ability to create very complex cross-sections, and to work materials that are brittle, because the material only encounters compressive and shear stresses. It also forms parts with an excellent surface finish.

A thin film is a layer of material ranging from fractions of a nanometer (monolayer) to several micrometers in thickness. The controlled synthesis of materials as thin films is a fundamental step in many applications. A familiar example is the household mirror, which typically has a thin metal coating on the back of a sheet of glass to form a reflective interface. The process of silvering was once commonly used to produce mirrors, while more recently the metal layer is deposited using techniques such as sputtering. Advances in thin film deposition techniques during the 20th century have enabled a wide range of technological breakthroughs in areas such as magnetic recording media, electronic semiconductor devices, LEDs, optical coatings, hard coatings on cutting tools, and for both energy generation and storage. It is also being applied to pharmaceuticals, via thin-film drug delivery. A stack of thin films is called a multilayer.


Galling is a form of wear caused by adhesion between sliding surfaces. When a material galls, some of it is pulled with the contacting surface, especially if there is a large amount of force compressing the surfaces together. Galling is caused by a combination of friction and adhesion between the surfaces, followed by slipping and tearing of crystal structure beneath the surface. This will generally leave some material stuck or even friction welded to the adjacent surface, whereas the galled material may appear gouged with balled-up or torn lumps of material stuck to its surface.

Friction stir welding process to join two surfaces without melting

Friction stir welding (FSW) is a solid-state joining process that uses a non-consumable tool to join two facing workpieces without melting the workpiece material. Heat is generated by friction between the rotating tool and the workpiece material, which leads to a softened region near the FSW tool. While the tool is traversed along the joint line, it mechanically intermixes the two pieces of metal, and forges the hot and softened metal by the mechanical pressure, which is applied by the tool, much like joining clay, or dough. It was primarily used on wrought or extruded aluminium and particularly for structures which need very high weld strength. FSW is capable of joining aluminium alloys, cooper alloys, titanium alloys, mild steel, stainless steel and magnesium alloys. More recently, it was successfully used in welding of polymers. In addition, joining of dissimilar metals such as aluminium to magnesium alloys has been recently achieved by FSW. Application of FSW can be found in modern shipbuilding, trains, and aerospace applications.

Sheet metal metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces

Sheet metal is metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces. Sheet metal is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking and it can be cut and bent into a variety of shapes. Countless everyday objects are fabricated from sheet metal. Thicknesses can vary significantly; extremely thin sheets are considered foil or leaf, and pieces thicker than 6 mm (0.25 in) are considered plate steel or "structural steel."

Rolling (metalworking) metalworking process

In metalworking, rolling is a metal forming process in which metal stock is passed through one or more pairs of rolls to reduce the thickness and to make the thickness uniform. The concept is similar to the rolling of dough. Rolling is classified according to the temperature of the metal rolled. If the temperature of the metal is above its recrystallization temperature, then the process is known as hot rolling. If the temperature of the metal is below its recrystallization temperature, the process is known as cold rolling. In terms of usage, hot rolling processes more tonnage than any other manufacturing process, and cold rolling processes the most tonnage out of all cold working processes. Roll stands holding pairs of rolls are grouped together into rolling mills that can quickly process metal, typically steel, into products such as structural steel, bar stock, and rails. Most steel mills have rolling mill divisions that convert the semi-finished casting products into finished products.

Aluminium alloy alloy in which aluminium is the predominant metal

Aluminium alloys are alloys in which aluminium (Al) is the predominant metal. The typical alloying elements are copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, tin and zinc. There are two principal classifications, namely casting alloys and wrought alloys, both of which are further subdivided into the categories heat-treatable and non-heat-treatable. About 85% of aluminium is used for wrought products, for example rolled plate, foils and extrusions. Cast aluminium alloys yield cost-effective products due to the low melting point, although they generally have lower tensile strengths than wrought alloys. The most important cast aluminium alloy system is Al–Si, where the high levels of silicon (4.0–13%) contribute to give good casting characteristics. Aluminium alloys are widely used in engineering structures and components where light weight or corrosion resistance is required.

Clinching bulk-sheet metal-forming process aimed at joining thin metal sheet without additional components, using special tools to plastically form an interlock between two or more sheets

Clinching or press-joining is a bulk-sheet metal-forming process aimed at joining thin metal sheet without additional components, using special tools to plastically form an interlock between two or more sheets. The process is generally performed at room temperature but in some special cases the sheets can be pre-heated to improve the material ductility and thereby avoid the formation of cracks during the process. Clinching is characterized by a series of advantages over competitive technologies:

Permanent mold casting is a metal casting process that employs reusable molds, usually made from metal. The most common process uses gravity to fill the mold, however gas pressure or a vacuum are also used. A variation on the typical gravity casting process, called slush casting, produces hollow castings. Common casting metals are aluminium, magnesium, and copper alloys. Other materials include tin, zinc, and lead alloys and iron and steel are also cast in graphite molds.

Shear forming

Shear forming, also referred as shear spinning, is similar to metal spinning. In shear spinning the area of the final piece is approximately equal to that of the flat sheet metal blank. The wall thickness is maintained by controlling the gap between the roller and the mandrel. In shear forming a reduction of the wall thickness occurs.

Friction stir processing

Friction stir processing (FSP) is a method of changing the properties of a metal through intense, localized plastic deformation. This deformation is produced by forcibly inserting a non-consumable tool into the workpiece, and revolving the tool in a stirring motion as it is pushed laterally through the workpiece. The precursor of this technique, friction stir welding, is used to join multiple pieces of metal without creating the heat affected zone typical of fusion welding.

Superforming is a hot metal forming process that uses similar principles to thermoforming plastics, where a sheet of material is heated and forced onto a male or female form using gas pressure. The process is useful for producing complex surfaces. The technique was pioneered for use in alloy fighter jets, with a sheet of aluminum heated like "taffy" and then "blown" into a mold by a press system, allowing complex curves. It heats the sheets to 500 degrees Celsuis, and after molding, vacuums out the air.

Tailored blank

Tailored blanks are semi-finished parts, which are typically made from sheets with different alloys, thicknesses, coatings or material properties. After joining, these will be subjected to deep drawing or stamping.

Diffusion bonding

Diffusion bonding or diffusion welding is a solid-state welding technique used in metalworking, capable of joining similar and dissimilar metals. It operates on the principle of solid-state diffusion, wherein the atoms of two solid, metallic surfaces intersperse themselves over time. This is typically accomplished at an elevated temperature, approximately 50-70% of the absolute melting temperature of the materials. Diffusion bonding is usually implemented by applying high pressure, in conjunction with necessarily high temperature, to the materials to be welded; the technique is most commonly used to weld "sandwiches" of alternating layers of thin metal foil, and metal wires or filaments. Currently, the diffusion bonding method is widely used in the joining of high-strength and refractory metals within the aerospace and nuclear industries.

Kuppuswamy Anantha Padmanabhan is an Indian academician well known for his contributions in the field of Materials & Metallurgical Science and Engineering. In particular, he is well renowned for his contributions to Superplasticity. He is currently Professor of Eminence (Honorary), Anna University, Chennai; Member, Research and Innovation Advisory Board, TCS and a Research Advisor to TCS and Aditya Birla S&T Company. He is a former Director of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and a former Dean, Academic Research, IIT Madras, India. In 1994, he became the first Indian to receive the "Forschungspreis" of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. For his research contributions, the University of Cambridge, UK, conferred on him the highest academic degree ‘Sc.D’ in 1998 and he is the first Indian engineer/ materials specialist to be conferred this honour. He also served as the Mercator Professor of DFG at the Institute of Materials Physics, University of Münster, Germany.

Friction extrusion is a thermo-mechanical process that can be used to form fully consolidated wire, rods, tubes, or other non-circular metal shapes directly from a variety of precursor charges including metal powder, flake, machining waste or solid billet. The process imparts unique, and potentially, highly desirable microstructures to the resulting products. Friction extrusion was invented at The Welding Institute in the UK and patented in 1991. It was originally intended primarily as a method for production of homogenous microstructures and particle distributions in metal matrix composite materials.

Dissimilar friction stir welding

Dissimilar friction stir welding (DFSW) is the application of friction stir welding (FSW), invented in The Welding Institute (TWI) in 1991, to join different base metals including aluminum, copper, steel, titanium, magnesium and other materials. It is based on solid state welding that means there is no melting. DFSW is based on a frictional heat generated by a simple tool in order to soften the materials and stir them together using both tool rotational and tool traverse movements. In the beginning, it is mainly used for joining of aluminum base metals due to existence of solidification defects in joining them by fusion welding methods such as porosity along with thick Intermetallic compounds. DFSW is taken into account as an efficient method to join dissimilar materials in the last decade. There are many advantages for DFSW in compare with other welding methods including low-cost, user-friendly, and easy operation procedure resulting in enormous usages of friction stir welding for dissimilar joints. Welding tool, base materials, backing plate (fixture), and a milling machine are required materials and equipment for DFSW. On the other hand, other welding methods, such as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) typically need highly professional operator as well as quite expensive equipment.


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