The research team is developing a one-piece brake rotor that will be made of a single material that is both lightweight and extremely durable. The team will replace the traditional cast-iron rotor material with an aluminum alloy designed for high-temperature operation. The alloy is reinforced with ceramic particles and fibers that are functionally graded to create a material whose properties can be customized in each section of the rotor.
"These functionally graded materials allow us to create the optimal composition for each part of the rotor," Gupta said in an NYU-Poly press release. "The hybrid material allows us to provide reinforcement where additional strength is needed, increase high-temperature performance, and minimize stress at the interfaces between the zones. Together, this should boost rotor life significantly, reducing warranty and replacement costs, and the weight savings will improve the vehicle’s fuel efficiency."
Gupta and the research team expect to have a functional rotor prototype within 12 months.
I was wondering about the method of manufacture and secondary finishing operation.What alloy compound elements are tolerant enough to withstand the casting process yet still be machineable-?From the photo, I was further wondering about the dimples on the face of the rotor; their purpose and how they were formed.Is this a powder sintered part-?
Thanks, Dave, I was hoping you'd weigh in with some info and feedback about metal matrix composite (MMC) technology. Thanks also for the links. I'm especially interested in what you said about machinability. In fact, when I first read about this MMC I wondered how the heck the ceramic chunks would affect both flatness and flexibility of the matrix fabric. The only thing that came to mind was if they are very, very small chunks or particles.
Thanks for the comments and feedback. Beth, I was also pleased to see an area of the vehicle besides batteries and body panels targeted for weight reduction. Al, this is still in R&D--the prototype isn't yet completed--and there was no mention yet of any industry partners. I, too, was impressed by the 3x service life improvement--I hope it turns out to be true. Stephen, thanks for the info about unsprung weight. And I agree, it's most likely that this, like many other automotive material innovations, may be aimed at higher-priced vehicles.
@Ann: Thanks for a good article about an issue which is very close to my heart. I used to work for a brake manufacturer, and heavily promoted the use of metal matrix composites for both rotors and calipers. As your article points out, this is an area where significant weight savings can be achieved. Many companies are doing work in this area. One which comes to mind is GS Engineering.
It may be worth noting that cast iron itself can be thought of as a composite material (with graphite as the reinforcement), and that induction hardening can provide "functionally graded" properties. In that sense, functionally graded metal matrix composites are not really such an exotic departure from what brake manufacturers have been doing for years -- we just never called it that. But aluminum MMC technology gives us an even greater ability to tailor material properties, at a fraction of the weight.
It would be very interesting to know some of the details of this product. For example, what is the reinforcement? (Silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, both, or neither?) Is the composite made by stir casting or infiltration? How is the distribution of the reinforcing particles/fibers achieved? Of course, REL might be understandably reticent about revealing all of these details.
A major issue with MMCs, not mentioned in the article, is machinability. Putting hard ceramic particles or fibers in a material is a great way to improve its mechanical properties. But how do you machine something which is full of chunks of hard ceramic without destroying your tooling? You either have to use expensive diamond tooling, or you have to find an ingenious way to keep ceramic out of the areas you want to machine.
One interesting approach for brake calipers, which Allied Signal took out a patent on back in the '90s, is to cast an aluminum MMC with unreinforced aluminum inserts. The inserts go in the areas which are going to be machined later.
I could go on and on about this. Thanks for an article on such an important topic!
The best part is the weight reduction is unsprung weight, so has the potential to improve handling and ride quality as well as improve fuel economy and hard braking performance.
Logical place to start would be w/ performance/luxury brands/models, where the higher initial cost is better tolerated, then move down into lower priced/featured vehicle lines as high volume real world experience accumulates, much as (long long ago now) front disc brakes, then, more recently, rear, have replaced drums.
Ann, Great story. The possibility of a 3x service life is obviously a huge advantage and balances off against the higher initial cost and makes determining the value more interesting. Any specific interest among industry partners for this technology? Manufacturability and ability to scale to achieve target costs have to be a major objectives.
Cool development and yet another tool for auto makers to take weight out of their vehicles, aiding in energy efficiency and potentially, reducing costs. With all the focus on EV battery weight and other aspects of the next-generation of more fuel efficient cars, it's great to get a handle on some of the other developments and research around materials that can also aid in promoting more efficient vehicles.
HP revealed more of its 3D printing plans in a recent webinar. Senior vice president of inkjet and graphics solution business Stephen Nigro spoke about how the technology works and expanded on HP's vision of open collaboration to commercialize its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology for end-production, and open collaboration on new materials. He also said HP will create software to help users decide when to use Multi Jet Fusion versus conventional subtractive manufacturing.
A lightweight electric urban concept car designed by several European companies weighs only 992 lb without its battery. It would have weighed 26.7 lb more if its windows were made of glass instead of the specially coated LEXAN polycarbonate resin from SABIC Innovative Plastics.
Skylar Tibbits' team in MIT's Self-Assembly Lab is now 4D printing self-assembling shapes made of programmable carbon composites and custom wood grain. The composites are being used in a sport car airfoil, and the wood grain is beautiful.
The NanoSteel Company has produced high-hardness ferrous metal matrix composite (MMC) parts using a new nanosteel powder in a one-step 3D-printing process. Parts are 99.9% dense, crack-free, and with wear resistance comparable to M2 tool steels.
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