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18 PROCESSING
18
PROCESSING

Figure 1.10. Tridimensional network of silicon carbide foam

infiltrated with copper. (Courtesy of T. Fitqeruld and A. Mortensen, hUT)

when cost is not relevant, whereas particles or chopped- fiber reinforced alloys have found larger-scale commer- cial applications (Donomoto et al. 1983; Ebisawa et al. 1991; Hoover 1991; Hoover 1990; Khmovicz 1990). Efforts are still needed to improve the fabrication of high-quality fibers and preforms. Conversely, inexpen- sive reinforcements that may not produce excellent structural materials, but feature low weight, good wear resistance, or noise damping, have been proposed. An example of such material is red mud, a by-product of aluminum fabrication (Sing Solanki et al. 1991).

1.5.2 Manix

Porosity may be found in the matrix of materials pro- duced by any of the liquid-metal processes, but can be minimized in several cases by a better understanding of the processes. Application of a vacuum and reduction of the vortex during mixing, for example, reduces the amount of residual porosity in dispersion processes. In infiltration, heterogeneity of the matrix composition or microstructure in infiltrated materials may also be re- duced through control of the processing parameters. For example, high-speed infiltration of a low- temperature Saffil (Imperial Chemical Industries, RUNCORN, U.K.) &alumina preform by molten AI-Cu alloys with very little superheat results in a fine-grained structure and concentration of macro-

segregation in a small region (Michaud and Mortensen 1992; Mortensen and Michaud 1990). New alloys specifically designed for use in MMC fabrication have also been developed to minimize chemical reaction between matrix and reinforcement or to modify the matrix microstructure.

1.5.3 Process Development

The four basic methods presented in this chapter have been modified and combined to create new processes. Plasma spray and in-situ processes have been combined to form metal-ceramic composite by reaction of the metal with the surrounding gas during flight (Mathur et al. 1989a). Combinations of infiltration and in-situ pro- cessing have also been investigated (Fukunaga et al. 1990), as well as combination of infiltration and disper- sion (Klier et al. 1990; Tank 1990). Other liquid-metal

routes have been

investigated, including laser melting of

a metal surface to locally incorporate a reinforcing

phase, or methods closely related to powder metallurgy processes, such as liquid-phase hot pressing and sinter- ing. The processes investigated for MMC production

are generally batch processes, which

limit the products’

size and fabrication speed. Various methods for contin- uous casting of MMCs have been proposed, adapting squeeze casting (Atsushei 1985) or pressure casting (Clifford and Cook 1989), although both are often impractical because of the need for a pressure vessel. Infiltration using electromagnetic body forces might be used for continuous casting (Andrews and Mortensen 1991). Spray processes could conceivably also be adapted for semicontinuous processes (Mathur et al. 1989a). In order to minimize the composites’ cost, emphasis has been put on the development of net-shape or near- net-shape processes such as squeeze casting to reinforce metals with fibers or whiskers. Conversely, low-cost, particle-reinforced aluminum alloy ingots have become commercially available; they can be remelted and recast using investment-casting or die-casting processes. An advantage of these materials during die casting is their increased viscosity in the molten state as compared with unreinforced alloys, which reduces the turbulence dur- ing mold filling and thus the porosity in the casting (Hoover 1991).

1.6 Summary

During the last 10 years, a large research effort has focused on developing and understanding various liquid-state processes for the production of MMCs. As