How can we make the aerospace industry cleaner and more economical? Components that are both strong and light are of great importance in many markets, such as the automotive, rehabilitation care, and machinery sectors. This is certainly also the case for the aerospace industry. More and more aerospace manufacturers are therefore looking into the potential of using magnesium in aircraft with a view to reducing CO2 emissions.
Magnesium profiles for the aerospace industry reduce CO2 emissions
At Mifa, we conducted the first trials involving magnesium extrusion and investigated the feasibility of this technology back at the turn of the millennium. At the time, we concluded that magnesium extrusion was still too expensive. In 2008, by which time new technologies and prospects had surfaced, we considered the possibilities again. This time the price calculations were considerably more attractive. Magnesium constructions are of great interest to the aerospace industry as the components are much lighter and therefore result in fewer CO2 emissions.
Production of magnesium profiles
At first glance, the extrusion technique used for magnesium appears quite similar to that of aluminium: you have an ingot of starting material that is then pressed into a mould at high temperature. Even the same presses are used. The process, however, is very different. First of all, magnesium extrusion requires very different temperatures, and the window between too hot and too cold can be very narrow, depending on the alloy. We also use a different type of mould for magnesium. This has to do with the structural differences between aluminium and magnesium. Aluminium has a cubic structure, and magnesium a hexagonal structure. Materials with hexagonal lattices have more junctions and are therefore more resistant to deformation. This places different requirements on the mould and the flow through the mould – the cylindrical ingot of starting material must flow into the mould under very controlled conditions, otherwise it ends up looking much like a banana.
Magnesium profiles are a cost-effective solution for the aerospace industry
In recent years, we have increasingly mastered control of the temperature, the flow, and the mould technology. The costs for a magnesium profile have therefore dropped considerably. We are now able to achieve close dimension, torsion, and straightness tolerances for magnesium at attractive prices. To be more specific, for torsion and straightness we adhere to the magnesium extrusion standard (ASTM B107M), and for dimensions we adhere to the aluminium extrusion standard (EN 755-9), which is more stringent than that for magnesium.