Keronite news

Surface technologies show the way for magnesium…

Developing components that are lightweight and easy to produce is a key issue for many industries.  Whether it’s reducing the weight of portable military equipment, aircraft or high-performance cars, weight reduction is at the top of many industry agendas.  Advances in composite technologies mean plastics are increasingly being considered alongside traditional materials such as aluminium and titanium, but there is one material that, until recently, was perceived as being too volatile to offer a viable, lightweight solution for many mainstream applications: magnesium.

Weighing 30 percent less than aluminium by volume and being both stiffer and stronger weight for weight, magnesium has a reputation for being somewhat reactive.  The development of more stable alloys, together with advances in surface technologies, mean that this is now changing and magnesium is becoming an exciting, viable option for many applications, particularly those where metallic components are preferred, for example, where components need to be strong, ductile, and have specific thermal or electrical properties as well as being easy to fabricate.

At Keronite, we’ve been working in conjunction with a number of businesses to develop technologies that will allow manufacturers to take advantage of the significant weight savings offered by magnesium.  Magnesium Elektron, with its Elektron®43 alloy, has recently shown that magnesium alloys can meet tough flammability requirements, driving a change in the wording of SAE AS8049, the aerospace safety standard, that will allow magnesium components into passenger aircraft.  But this is only part of the story.  In reality, corrosion is the greatest enemy of magnesium, which is where specialised surface treatments come in.

Magnesium is extremely chemically active and protecting it presents its own challenges.  However, at Keronite we have now commercialised the use of plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO) to impart a highly abrasion and corrosion-resistant ceramic coating to magnesium alloys.  This offers real performance improvements without adding significant weight.

PEO is an electrolytic immersion process that passes an electrical current through the surface of a light metal part, in this case magnesium.  The surface of the metal oxidises, generating a plasma oxide layer that converts the surface into a hard, yet flexible, ceramic layer that grows into and outwards from the surface of the metal.  This creates a strong bond and can be tailored to deliver a range of alloy performance improvements.  The process can also be honed to offer bespoke solutions for different applications.  Simply by making adjustments to a range of controllable parameters, the coating can be engineered to offer multi-functional performance on different parts of the same component.  So, where one part of the component might need increased wear resistance, another may need better thermal or aesthetic qualities, all of which can be delivered in one, repeatable treatment process.  The coating itself is derived from the original base metal, meaning the process doesn’t bulk out the component, which is a feature of many traditional coatings that ultimately undermines the whole lightweighting effort.  Add to this the fact that the Keronite finish can remove the need for primers, and it’s clear that the potential weight savings on offer are significant.

These developments are exciting news for OEMs working across high-performance industries such as aerospace, automotive and motorsport, as it means they can now consider magnesium components as a genuine alternative to traditional materials such as aluminium and steel.  From engine components and fuel systems to energy recovery systems and structural parts, OEMs in the motorsport sector are already exploring the benefits of magnesium and this is beginning to trickle down to the mainstream passenger car sector, where manufacturers are increasingly adopting magnesium for things like alternators, transmission casings, motor housings, and even body parts.

Finally, the recent change to AS8049 also opens up a raft of opportunities for aircraft and aerospace component designers due to the large volumes and repeatability of components required in this market.  For example, we see an opportunity to use magnesium in aircraft seating that could offer potential weight savings of almost 20 percent per part; with hundreds of seats on a typical commercial aircraft, the overall savings would be huge, making a sizeable difference to the aircraft’s environmental impact as well as its running costs.

Steve Montisci – Keronite International

Article originally taken from Engineering Subcontractor Magazine – May 2016 Click here for Magazine

The big picture in Aerospace

Matt Paris

According to Keronite’s CEO, Matt Hamblin, engaging with suppliers holds the key to lightweight aircraft design. Taking a holistic approach to the design process will help everyone see the big picture.

The aerospace industry has long been associated with innovation. From the concept of powered flight to the materials used to produce components, there is innovation at every stage of the aircraft design and build process.

However, while the industry has brought new technologies to the fore, the passenger aircraft industry in particular is often slow to adopt them. This is due to the long lifespan of passenger aircraft designs and the significant investment of time and money required to take new technologies through testing before changes to standard designs can be made.

However, while concerns about the safety of new technologies are understandable given the inherently risky nature of aviation, as an industry, this reluctance to adopt new technologies means we’re missing out on the benefits – in both environmental and financial terms – that new developments could offer.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that OEMs and component manufacturers seldom take a holistic approach to the design process. While there was some consolidation at the start of the century, individual components – let alone complete systems – often involve lengthy supply chains, with individual companies performing just a small part of the manufacturing process.

As a result, component and aircraft design takes place at an OEM or tier one supplier level, with these companies then going out to tender to supply the various parts of that design or reaching out to specialist suppliers only once a problem has been identified.

Involving suppliers at the earliest stages of the design and engineering process could revolutionise the process, allowing carriers to benefit from the environmental and performance benefits offered by new technologies while also reducing life-in-service costs of many key components.

Keronite’s unique plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO) surface treatment is already proven to improve wear resistance of components and is approved for use in the MRO market. However, bringing the benefits of this technology to new component designs has been a more drawn out process.

Keronite is an enabling technology, allowing component designers to make greater use of light alloys in aircraft designs: for example, using aluminium in place of steel or magnesium in place of aluminium. As a multi-functional coating, it can be used on its own or as a duplex, giving it the ability to solve multiple technical challenges where more traditional coatings are strong in only one area.

We’re often approached by customers when they have identified a problem with a specific area of their design, such as sliding wear, high temperature corrosion, strength, conductivity, thermal performance or aesthetics. All of these are areas the Keronite process can help with, but all too often the designs are so advanced by the time we are approached that, while we can help, we’re not able to optimise the benefits and the process ends up being more expensive than it would otherwise be.

Engaging specialist suppliers at the earliest stages of the design process could remove a lot of time and cost from the development process, allowing suppliers to combine materials science with Lean manufacturing principles and develop a balanced solution that optimises the customer’s technical and commercial objectives. Exploring new technologies at an earlier stage would also allow more time for those technologies to pass the all-important testing and accreditation processes, facilitating their use more easily in future designs and driving far greater adoption of lightweight materials in aircraft designs.

The UK is home to a host of innovative companies, all developing new technologies and processes that make the previously impossible possible. But, as things stand, it is likely to be many generations before the aerospace industry reaps the benefits of those technologies that exist and are proven today, let alone those currently under development. And with environmental and commercial pressures greater than ever across the industry, that seems a real waste.

Original article posted on Aerospace Magazine May 2016: www.aero-mag.com

Keronite joins Growth Builder programme

Surface technology company Keronite has been named as one of the first companies to join the Growth Builder programme (www.growth-builder.com), designed to help ambitious, high-growth businesses rapidly and sustainably scale up.

 

The Haverhill-based business is home to a patented plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO) technology that improves the performance characteristics of light alloys, such as aluminium, magnesium and titanium. The treatment enables the use of lightweight metal alloys in high-performance environments, such as aerospace, automotive and energy, offering performance and environmental improvements.

 

Matt Hamblin, CEO of Keronite, said: “We’re excited to be accepted as one of the first cohort of businesses on the scheme. Our world-leading surface technology is already proving popular with customers across a wide range of high performance industries but we know its potential is greater still.”

 

“We’ve made great strides in the business over the last few years but we’re committed to identifying further growth opportunities and I’m looking forward to working with the Growth Builder team to expand our networks and develop future commercial opportunities for our ground-breaking technology.

 

The Growth Builder programme has been designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, bringing together Government, universities, entrepreneurs and leading UK companies to network and share expertise to drive growth and job creation.  It is organised by University College London, Natwest, UKTI, BT, PIE Mapping, the Fast Growth Forum, UK Business Angels Association and Loughborough University.

 

Ben Fletcher, chairman of Growth Builder, commented: “Since launching the Call for Applications in February, we’ve been delighted with the calibre and number of applications received. The programme was built because we believed there was a need to help already established businesses achieve their next level of growth – be that launching into a new sector, geography or attracting big contracts. On average, applicants were already hitting revenues of £4.5 million, backing our belief.”

Keronite strengthens team

Keronite has strengthened its sales team with the appointment of Steve Montisci to the newly-created role of business development manager.

 

Steve, who joins Keronite from Magnesium Elektron, will work alongside Keronite’s business development director Neil Watson to drive growth in new markets, in particular magnesium applications for the automotive and aerospace industries.

 

Commenting on his appointment, Steve said: “I’m pleased to be joining the team at Keronite. Having worked with Keronite as a technology partner for the last few years I’m excited by the growth potential the process offers across a range of applications and industries.”

 

Matt Hamblin, CEO of Keronite, added: “The business enjoyed a strong 2015 but we have ambitious plans for the next 12 months. Steve’s appointment is just the first part an on-going investment in the business that will help us meet the demanding but achievable targets we’ve set for the next phase of our growth plan.

 

“Steve has a great track record in the industry and brings a wealth of experience working in key markets to the role. I’d like to welcome him to the company and I’m looking forward to working with him to drive the business forward.”

 

A metallurgist by training, Steve Montisci has previously held commercial roles in the aerospace, automotive, defence and medical technology sectors.

Keronite secures AS9100C Certification

Advanced surface solutions company Keronite is celebrating after securing AS9100 version C (AS9100C) certification at its Haverhill manufacturing facility.

 

AS9100C is the international standardised quality management system for the aerospace industry and compliance with the standard is a condition of doing business with most of the aerospace manufacturers and suppliers around the world.

Matt Hamblin, chief executive of Keronite, said: “I’m delighted for everyone at Haverhill that we’ve secured AS9100C after a stringent, four-day audit.

“The certification is a key requirement for working with aerospace manufacturers and further demonstrates our commitment to supporting this important market.”

“At Keronite, we’re excited by the potential our unique technology offers aerospace manufacturers looking to improve mechanical and environmental performance of their components and, while we’re already working with a range of aerospace OEMs, the fact we now have this certification means they can have even more confidence in our ability to deliver and meet the exacting standards they require.”

 

Keronite now aims to secure AS9100C certification for its US manufacturing facility in Greenwood Indiana later this year.