Materion’s partnership with Liquidmetal Technologies is shapeshifting the market for amorphous metals.
Materials scientists are always looking for substances that can go where they have never gone before. But it often takes time for a material with exotic properties to find its market.
Materion Beryllium & Composites, with Liquidmetal Technologies Inc., is in that position today, helping to bring a remarkable zirconium-based alloy that was developed at the California Institute of Technology decades ago to the attention of commercial customers. Instead of being cast, forged or machined into finished parts, this alloy can be formed as if it were a plastic. Considered an amorphous metal because its disparate atoms refuse to crystallize, Liquidmetal’s alloy has a yield strength often twice that of titanium and stainless steel and elasticity prized by product designers – plus unparalleled corrosion resistance and an appealing finished appearance.
Materion is Liquidmetal’s certified alloy production partner, and, with Visser Precision Cast, LLC as the contract manufacturer, is collaborating to set market standards for mass-scale production of this next-generation alloy. Materion also brings global sales bench strength to supplement Liquidmetal’s commercial efforts.
Raw materials are now being alloyed and cast into slugs at Materion’s Elmore, Ohio, facility and molded by Visser into parts for customer prototypes. The technology should enable lower production costs because it requires fewer processing steps than machined parts while retaining the valued properties of machined parts.
Prototypes are now in the works for customers in the medical, automotive, aerospace and defense, sports equipment and jewelry markets. Each has applications that use small components (less than 5 inches by 5 inches) machined from titanium or stainless steel that could benefit from lower production costs. Examples include vehicle engine valve guides, watch casings, golf club heads and hand-held medical devices.
Dr. Edgar Vidal, Manager, Market & Business Development, Materion Beryllium & Composites, sees a bright future for the alloy as it finds its market. “Within five years, Materion can expect to be the world’s premier supplier of this alloy, at the lowest cost,” he says. “And we will identify additional methods of fabricating the material.”