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Amorphous metals combined with polymers for the first time

Engel and Heraeus have reduced cycle times by up to 70 percent compared with previous production solutions for the injection molding of amorphous metals. In doing so, the two system partners have opened the door to these alloys with truly special qualities entering large-scale production for a wide assortment of end uses. Engel is presenting the next big step in this development at K 2019. Two-component parts made of amorphous metal and silicone will be produced for the first time – a process that is taking place in a fully automated manufacturing cell.

ENGEL at K 2019 AMM 1 400 x 267.jpg

Premiere for the two-component AMM process. A silicone seal is directly molded onto the parts, which are made of amorphous metal. Picture: Engel

ENGEL at K 2019 AMM 4 400 x 267.jpg

Engel is combining a victory 120 AMM with an insert 60V/45 vertical injection molding machine for the production of two-component housing demo parts at the K show. Picture: Engel

Due to their randomly arranged, non-crystalline structure, amorphous metals are both extremely hard and highly elastic. They exhibit good elastic recovery, are extremely corrosion-resistant and biocompatible according to ISO 10993-5. With this combination of properties, these alloys are superior to steel, titanium and many other materials.

On the basis of its proven hydraulic and tie-bar-less victory range, Engel has developed a new injection molding machine for processing amorphous metals from Heraeus’ Amloy product range. The Engel victory AMM (amorphous metal molding) delivers fit-for-purpose parts with a premium quality surface finish within very short cycle times.

For the production of two-component housing demo parts at the K show, Engel is combining a victory 120 AMM with an insert 60V/45 vertical injection molding machine, which is equipped with a two-station rotary table. The manufacturing cell is fitted with both an Engel viper linear robot and an Engel easix articulated robot for the fully automated production process.

The first step involves injection-molding the basic structure for the housing on the victory AMM from a zirconium-based Amloy alloy. To do this, the viper robot takes an Amloy pre-material from the separator and transfers it to the injection unit. After less than 70 seconds, the metal component takes full shape. The viper removes the part and deposits it onto a tray. The easix articulated robot takes over from there, placing the Amloy component on the lower mold half on the insert machine’s rotary table, where a liquid silicone rubber (LSR) seal is molded over the part. The elastomer component also consistently fills out the seal structure on the bottom of the part through narrow openings on the surface of the housing.

Both of the molds are made by long-term Engel partners. The mold for the AMM process was provided by Flex, while Starlim Sterner supplied the LSR injection mold.

The demo parts combine the needs of portable electronic devices with the innovative properties of the Amloy materials.

In addition, two-component injection molding opens up new opportunities for designing housing frames that are almost indestructible while enjoying better protection from dust, water, and radio waves. “Fully automated hybrid production is unlocking huge potential, especially for the consumer electronics industry,” Gerhard Dimmler, Senior Vice President of product research and development at Engel Austria, states. “Our development work has confirmed that, in multi-component injection molding, it is possible to create stable combinations not only of silicone but also of other elastomers and thermoplastics with Amloy materials.”

Zirconium-based and copper-based alloys for large-scale applications are currently available in the Amloy product line, with alloys based on titanium, iron, and platinum also in the works. With this variety of materials, Heraeus and Engel cover a huge range of new applications. The list includes portable electronic devices, durable instruments for minimally invasive surgery, stable suspension and wear-resistant drivetrain components for the aerospace industry, premium decor elements for cars, and abrasion-resistant watch components.

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