If you work in the metal forming industry, you probably spend some portion of your time thinking about how to optimize your production and outgrow your competition. There are lots of factors you can try to influence in order to achieve this, but some are more easily influenced and more promising than others. Some key questions you might ask yourself are:
- How quickly do my tools wear out and break?
- How high are my production costs?
- How quick is my production?
- How high is the quality of my products?
These are all questions that direct you toward areas with a potential to improve your company's performance. You may now think that each of these areas needs to be approached and dealt with separately, that you need to find different individual solutions to improve your status quo in each of these areas. However, there is a way to tackle all of these at once and make a big leap forward on many fronts simultaneously.
Tool materials: Tackling many problems at once
The common factor between all of the questions mentioned above are your production tools. They are obviously involved when it comes to how quickly they wear out and break, causing delays and increasing costs. This implies that they also play a role in the scope of your production costs. Also, they influence how quickly you produce your products. And finally, they are of course an important factor when it comes to the quality of your finished products.
It therefore follows that if you can optimize your production tools, you will have the chance to make improvements on many fronts at the same time and benefit your company a lot without having to make many different individual adjustments. It would be fantastic if there was a material for forming industry production tools that was able to improve all of the factors mentioned at once, wouldn't it? It turns out that there is such a material, and that material is the alloy aluminium bronze.
From the inspection of the deep drawing process requirements, we can conclude that deep drawing tool materials must excel particularly concerning hardness, strength and friction properties. A particular problem in this area is that hardness is to a certain extent incompatible with ductility; as hardness goes up, ductility goes down and vice versa. This means that a compromise is necessary between these properties. There are a lot of metals and alloys to choose from that are a less than optimal choice because of this. They force manufacturers to prioritize a property at the cost of another important property. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are materials that reduce the need to compromise by a lot. The prime candidate in this area is called aluminium bronze.
Aluminium bronze: Reliable and versatile
First of all, tools made from aluminium bronze wear out and break at a slower rate. That is because this alloy comes with extreme hardness and great compressive strength. And while other hard materials usually don't have much more to offer than hardness and strength, aluminium bronze comes with many more advantageous properties. The reason for this is the combination of the properties of bronze with those of aluminium. Compared to pure bronze, aluminium bronze has a more continuously homogenous microstructure, significantly better sliding properties and clearly lower wear.
Using aluminium bronze tools reduces friction between the tools and the materials being processed. The friction coefficient of a good aluminium bronze alloy is at about 0.18, while standard tool steel has a friction coefficient of about 1.11 (both in unlubricated condition). And this is not the only advantage aluminium bronze has over tool steel: it also takes galling out of the equation, reduces the number of steps required in your production, allows for tool manufacturing without heat treatment and makes modification easier. Compared to coated materials, a bigger wear area definition is possible , reconditioning becomes more simple and changes of geometry are possible at any time with aluminium bronze.
A game changer for the forming industry
In short, aluminium bronze can be described as a real game changer for the forming industry. It tackles many problems at once and improves many factors that influence your company's success significantly at the same time. It makes your tools more sturdy so you have to repair and replace them far less frequently. It reduces your prep and production costs because it makes production easier, more flexible, quicker and more reliable. Ultimately, it allows you to create better products. If that is what you are aiming for, aluminium bronze is for you.
Download our Technical Paper «Aluminium Bronze Alloys for a higher quality and productivity in the metal forming industry».