IBC’s cost-effective, high-performance castable beryllium-aluminum alloy
IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. (TSXV: IB | OTCQX: IAALF) is a leading rare metals advanced alloys developer and manufacturer — for the global market — with a focus on specialty copper alloys and high performance beryllium-aluminum castings. IBC’s engineered solutions are essential for high technology products used in a broad range of market sectors including nuclear power, automotive, oil and gas, telecommunications, electronics, and aerospace. Complementing the company’s alloy manufacturing operations are research-and-development initiatives, focused on enhancing and supporting IBC’s growing US manufacturing base.
Beryllium is a relatively rare element that is very light, extremely stiff and stronger than steel, x-ray transparent, non-magnetic and non-sparking, and melts at 2,307°C, which is extremely high when compared with aluminum that melts at a much lower 660.32°C. Pure beryllium plays a strategic role in the nuclear, aerospace and defense industries, and is widely utilized as an alloy in telecom, computing, electronics, medical, oil and gas, and automotive industries.
IBC produces a family of patented beryllium-aluminum alloys — marketed as Beralcast® — that overcomes the limitations of pure beryllium and existing powder metal beryllium-aluminum products, while retaining the benefits of the two metals. IBC’s Beralcast offers a cost-effective solution for high performance applications by combining beryllium’s lightweight and high stiffness with aluminum’s excellent processing characteristics and low cost. Beralcast is produced using a process similar to conventional vacuum investment casting and can be cast into complex shapes that require minimal machining. This metal matrix composite material has been effectively used for such products as optical and mechanical components for guidance, control, targeting, and stabilizing applications, and satellite structures for aerospace and defense purposes. Other Beralcast applications include precision positioning and alignment system components, optical sensors for the semiconductor industry, and mainstream commercial applications such as bicycle compnents and golf shafts.
In May of 2011, IBC opened a new state of the art 63,000-square foot manufacturing and advanced casting facility in Wilmington, Massachusetts. The plant is capable of producing advanced investment castings manufactured from the company’s Beralcast family of alloys. Later that same year, IBC engaged metallurgical consultant Chris Huskamp to help the company develop and implement a range of growth initiatives in the autosports and aerospace markets. Huskamp, who holds the title of Director of Aerospace Development at IBC, was previously an Associate Technical Fellow at Boeing, and develops high performance materials strategies and solutions for military and commercial aerospace projects. Mr. Huskamp is also the owner and president at Huskamp Motorsports where he provides consulting services to Formula One, Grand-Am Daytona prototypes, IndyCar, and Formula One prop boat teams.
Beralcast high modulus alloys are ideal for high performance industrial and high tech components (as well as for a wide range of aerospace applications) and can be used in virtually any commercial or military application requiring complex, lightweight, and high stiffness parts. Beralcast serves as a higher-performance, lower-cost replacement material for cast aluminum, magnesium, titanium, metal matrix composites, nonmetallic composites, and pure beryllium or powder metallurgy beryllium-aluminum. Beralcast alloys are an attractive alternative for lightweight, high-stiffness applications because they combine the high modulus of elasticity and low-density characteristics of beryllium, with the excellent processing characteristics and lower cost of aluminum.
Utilizing the synergistic properties of the two primary components, beryllium and aluminum, Beralcast materials offer a unique combination of improvements in properties when compared to aluminum. Beralcast alloys are more than three times stiffer than aluminum with 22% less weight and can be precision-cast to produce parts with unique three-dimensional complexity.
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The low coefficient of thermal expansion also makes Beralcast better suited to mate with steel and germanium than aluminum. The unique combination of properties present in Beralcast can result in as much as a 30% to 50% savings in weight over aluminum based upon the straight density advantages and stiffness driven design benefits (i.e. reducing the required casting thickness). Currently, Beralcast can be precision cast, depending on the part configuration, to wall thickness of less than 2 millimeters and more than 20 millimeters. The maximum casting size is approximately 0.75 meters wide by 0.85 meters deep and 1.2 meters high.
The Beralcast family of alloys has a proven track record over a 15-year period of use in the aerospace and defense sectors. Additionally, a materials characterization program with Lockheed Martin to develop design allowables for the Comanche program produced Beralcast data that was being prepared for inclusion in the MIL-5 Handbook. IBC is now working to complete the new requirements for inclusion in the Metallic Materials Properties Development and Standardization handbook that replaced the MIL-5 Handbook. Beralcast also can be found in the SAE Aerospace Materials Specifications as AMS-7918. Over 400 types of different components have been produced by investment casting Beralcast. Most recently, IBC has produced over 500 ATFLIR targeting systems for the Naval Air Systems Command that is being flown on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 fighter jet.
IBC’s range of advanced alloys and composites have a consistently high stiffness-to-weight ratio, as well as other important materials characteristics, which will allow engineers greater design flexibility and more options to achieve significant performance gains.
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