Who: Precision manufacturing company Shearline is building a test rig to prove the thixomoulding process for creating complex magnesium alloy components.
Technology: Magnesium alloys are already used for low-cost, high-volume components for computers and mobile phones but manufacturer Shearline of Ely in Cambridgeshire sees potential for low-volume, high-value production of prototypes and lore-production componentry, using the thixomoulding technique.
Technical and commercial director Charles Maltby says: "Metal injection moulding via thixomoulding and new additive layer methods for producing tooling can reduce the overall cost of tooling and construction. Components that may previously have required several manufacturing processes or to have been constructed in parts and then assembled can now be integrated within a single mould."
Thixomoulding uses pellets made of magnesium alloy which are heated and moulded in a process akin to the injection moulding of plastics. The technique can produce parts that have thin wails and other complex features that conventional magnesium alloy components struggle to achieve.
Shearline is working with the University of Sheffield and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, backed by Boeing. The new facility will initially include a test rig for magnesium alloy injection moulding and the company also aims to provide design for manufacture services, tool design and procurement, moulding, finishing and assembly work.
Shearline already has one client that uses magnesium alloys components as part of an assembly. The company has precision engineering, sheet-metal fabrication and assembly services, but this it claims is the UK's first application of thixomoulding in magnesium outside research labs.
Applications: Sheafline sees applications for magnesium components produced by the thixomoulding process in automotive, aerospace and other high technology sectors. It introduced the new centre at the Farnborough Air Show this month.