As the global leader in amorphous metal manufacturing, research, and production, Liquidmetal Technologies strives to give you the tools to be an amorphous metals expert. Keeping the Liquidmetal design guide up to date with the latest information regarding part design, production, and the post processing of Liquidmetal alloys is critical.
During an eventful week at the MIM2016 conference, members of the Liquidmetal team presented on Amorphous Metal Technology and R&D Efforts. At the only international powder and metal injection molding event of the year, Paul Hauck, EVP of Sales and Marketing, and Joe Stevick, Senior Physicist, introduced a new twist on traditional injection molding.
As Liquidmetal technology gains exposure to engineers in a variety of industries, applications that stand to benefit from the process are illuminated. The automotive industry has a vast landscape of components, each requiring a very specific set of attributes. These attributes are often mission critical, as the safety of millions is on the line.
Backed by an experienced team and a premier medical advisory board, CoNextions Medical looks to innovate soft tissue tendon repair. In an effort to find a manufacturing solution that allows for improved performance without inflated cost, Liquidmetal technology came to light.
Traditional suture-based tendon repair often leads to long recovery times, complications, and high costs for the patient. In many ways suture-based tendon repair procedures have reached practical limits, opening the door for new procedures to enter. CoNextions has designed a device with the intention of overcoming these problems, resulting in improved post-operative condition and quality of life for the patient, along with improved health economics. Testing shows the new, less invasive procedure results in decreased tendon trauma, increased repair strength, greater ease of use for medical staff and more.
“The watch features a bi-directional, rotating diving bezel, made from black, polished ceramic, combined with a LiquidMetal® 12 hour scale, so that time can be kept with any country in the world.”
There are many manufacturing methods and materials available to designers of metal components today. The processes each offer different benefits but are never without trade-offs. Similarly, different materials allow for a wide range of performance characteristics, but not without a certain cost.
As the Liquidmetal process and alloy continue gaining traction in a changing manufacturing marketplace, there is a growing need for comprehensive engineering information on the technology. Following its total update, thousands of copies of the Liquidmetal Design Guide 2.0 were read both online and in hard copy in recent months. The guide enabled engineers to identify candidate product applications for the technology as well as design new components for the process. The Liquidmetal Design Guide 3.0 will provide expanded information to customers on several topics including biocompatibility, corrosion resistance, magnetism, and more.
With a host of procedures covering a wide range of physical demands, minimally invasive medical devices are produced by the millions every year. Common procedures include: Aortic valve surgery, appendectomies, biopsy tumors, and arthroscopy of most joints. Many devices or the components they are composed of contain parts that are currently CNC machined, injection molded, investment cast, stamped, or fine blanked. Liquidmetal technology is often a good alternative to these expensive, time-consuming processes.
Liquidmetal alloys’ strongest asset is likely its incredible precision and repeatability. When it comes to surgery on the human body, every patient and doctor demands the highest level of precision and accuracy from the equipment used. Liquidmetal alloys offer precision in relatively uncharted territory with part-to-part variation at 0.0003-0.0006” and dimensional tolerances at 0.0005- 0.0015”. CNC machining generally can achieve part-to-part variation of 0.0005-0.0010” and dimensional tolerances of 0.0007-0.0015”.
Durability is a critical factor in all medical equipment, but especially components that are expected to perform with high precision in harsh environments. Liquidmetal alloys’ strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance perform equally or better than commonly used materials like 17-4PH, 316L and 420 stainless steels.
Sporting arms components face a unique set of challenges and requirements because of the complexity and nature of the equipment. Market demands typically incorporate weight, durability, customization, and precision as areas for improvement. Manufacturers often face cost or technology restrictions when considering which of these technology improvements they will incorporate into a part. This case study outlines how Liquidmetal technology could overcome many trade-offs manufacturers must make when designing and producing a sporting arms component.
With Liquidmetal alloys – what you mold is what you get. This means custom designs like laser etching, hand engravings, or CNC machined markings can be molded into the part with remarkable precision. A part normally hand engraved can now be replicated thousands of times, with only one engraving on the mold cavity surface.
Engineers face an extra challenge when designing and manufacturing metal parts for marine applications. The harsh oceanic environment wears on equipment with the corrosive nature of salt, along with other unforgiving natural elements. SCUBA equipment must not only withstand these elements, but also perform at a high-level throughout the life of the product. Because of this challenging environment, it can be difficult to find a material that is corrosion resistant, economical, durable, and lightweight.
With all the above factors in mind, this case study will dive into Liquidmetal alloys’ potential performance in SCUBA equipment – specifically the regulator system. Regulator systems require significant durability, precision, low weight, and has improved in recent years with the integration of titanium alloys. Titanium regulator components have allowed manufacturers to develop SCUBA equipment that is more durable and significantly lighter than previous materials, two critical attributes. Liquidmetal amorphous alloys outperform titanium in almost every specification; including strength, hardness, and density.
Just two days following the grand opening of the Liquidmetal Manufacturing Center of Excellence, all investors were invited to attend the Liquidmetal Technologies Annual Shareholder meeting and experience the newly upgraded facility first hand. The event kicked off with the Annual shareholder meeting, followed by presentations by Dennis Ogawa, Vice President Marketing, and Paul Hauck, Vice President World Wide Sales and Support. Following the presentations by Dennis and Paul, Tom Steipp, President and CEO, hosted a question and answer session with all investors present and invited guests.
October 13, 2014, Rancho Santa Margarita, California – Liquidmetal Technologies hosted fifteen North American Application Specialists, also known as manufacturer’s sales representatives (MSRs), for sales training. The daylong event covered every aspect of the company’s technology and involved the entire team behind Liquidmetal Technologies.
October 14, 2014, Rancho Santa Margarita, California – Liquidmetal Technologies held its first ever open house at the recently opened Liquidmetal Manufacturing Center of Excellence. Prospective customers from throughout the country flew in to experience the new facility, see the latest advancements in technology, and meet the Liquidmetal team in person.
Every day Liquidmetal® Technologies remains focused on the cutting edge of research and development of amorphous metal alloys (aka metallic glasses). One of the most important aspects of this effort is collaboration with outside researchers and universities. Recently, Liquidmetal scientists began a strong relationship with Vitrified Metals: Technologies and Applications in Devices and Chemistry by presenting at their 1st annual meeting.
Powder Injection Moulding International is the leading publication specifically for the metal, ceramic, and carbide injection molding industries. The publication is based in Shrewsbury, UK and is in its 8th year covering the industries. In PIM International’s September publication Liquidmetal® Technologies was featured in an article authored by Liquidmetal Vice President of World Wide Sales and Support, Paul Hauck. Paul utilizes his more than 27 years of experience in the MIM industry to share insights about MIM and Liquidmetal products. He provides a brief history of Liquidmetal Technology Inc. and compares and contrasts the two processes.
“The invitation to write the article for PIM International was a great opportunity to showcase and contrast the Liquidmetal process with Metal Injection Molding (MIM). Both technologies bring special processing capabilities for complex metal parts. The uniqueness of Liquidmetal’s single step process is one of its most notable differences with MIM,” said Paul Hauck, Vice President of Sales and Support, for Liquidmetal Technologies.
To read the article you can download a free copy at www.pim-international.com/magazine.
Welding is a joining process commonly used to build larger structures out of smaller components. Because amorphous metal formation requires specific critical cooling rates, the part size and thickness are somewhat limited. The ability to weld Liquidmetal® alloy to itself and to other dissimilar metals would extend the engineering applications of amorphous metals, helping to overcome the size limitation and offer more flexibility in part design and performance. Welds provide the strength, efficiency, versatility, and economic advantage necessary to build the myriad of structures and objects all around us – bridges, skyscrapers, automobiles, boats, oil rigs, the International Space Station, jewelry, sculptures (see Chicago’s Cloud Gate, a.k.a. “The Bean”), and more.
We are very pleased to present the results from our first round of ISO 10993 testing for our latest commercial alloy, LM105. ISO 10993 is a set of standards used for evaluating the biocompatibility of a medical device prior to clinical studies. Since several biomedical device companies have shown interest in Liquidmetal® alloys, we thought it would be beneficial to get a jumpstart on pre-screening the alloy for its potential use in biomedical applications. Of course, each biomedical device must undergo its own ISO certifications to account for its specific processing methods, but this set of tests serves to give potential customers confidence that LM105, our beryllium-free commercially available Zr-based amorphous metal alloy, is highly promising as a biomedical device material.
One of our most popular case studies compares various manufacturing methods for a missile component that controls flight. Supersonic missiles are highly sensitive to the exact geometry of control surfaces and precision is mission critical. Canards (French for “duck”) are the pivoting fins attached to the side body of missiles ahead of the main wing that provide stability and maneuverability for a projectile. Supersonic missiles must also shift between subsonic and supersonic speeds and canards affect the airflow against the main wing, altering the center of mass, and shifting the aerodynamic center. Thus, any deviation in geometric specifications will greatly affect flight control, causing extra turbulence and unanticipated movement.
Surgical stapling procedures have been in practice for over 100 years. Hungarian physician Dr. Humor Hultl is credited as the first surgeon to utilize stapling on a patient. Various stapling devices have been developed over the years, but the basic concept is unchanged and relies heavily on anvils with “precisely shaped pockets” to produce well-formed and secure staples. Typical surgical staples utilize stainless steel and titanium alloys which fire with controlled force sometimes excising and joining tissues simultaneously.
A simple salt water immersion corrosion test was set up to get a general idea of the corrosion properties of Liquidmetal alloys. Here are the specimens we tested:
A recent project, along with your feedback, has resulted in successful chess set designs by our summer intern, Cassidy Stevick.
Several people suggested a simple Staunton design to enable players to more easily distinguish the rank and position of the pieces. We have chosen to incorporate a few of these design elements, yet remain close to the original Liquidmetal theme. Traditional Staunton designs are technically possible, but please allow me to explain our intent and direction.
One of the prototypes that we have produced recently is moving closer to production. The prototype showcases the extraordinary elastic properties of Liquidmetal as a clamp. To protect customer confidentiality, we have disguised the geometry but are reporting actual results. We hope these will be of interest to other existing and potential customers.
In the first prototypes, two clamp spring designs were evaluated. A comparable steel solution would be expected to lose efficacy within 100 cycles, as the steel would yield and the clamp force would decrease. For this prototype design, a goal of at least 200 cycles without a decrease in the clamp force was specified. The clamp needed to be opened to create a gap close to the diameter of the circular clamp when closed (about 12mm).
Liquidmetal alloy has high resistance to corrosion for a number of reasons. Firstly, crystal defects, such as grain boundaries and dislocations, can act like galvanic cells to initiate localized corrosion – Liquidmetal does not have any such defects. Secondly, the elements we use in Liquidmetal form mechanically stable oxides which act as a passivating layer. Thirdly, the passivating layers form uniformly on the Liquidmetal surface, and so passivating elements are more effective than similar elements in a crystalline alloy.
Over the years, Liquidmetal Technologies have done various corrosion studies on our materials, and we are taking the chance to summarize some of the results here.
The Liquidmetal team emphasizes innovation and idea generation from within, and outside the company. A recent exciting design exploits the remarkable elastic properties of our material.
UPDATE: The Liquidmetal Hybrid Knife is now available for purchase on our website. Formed using the Liquidmetal process, the hybrid knife is artistically designed and backed by a breakthrough technology. The two-piece knife is not a fixed blade or a folding knife, relying on the incredible precision of the Liquidmetal process to create a tight fit between the blade and protector. You can read more about the science and R&D behind the Liquidmetal Knife in a case study here.
Because Liquidmetal alloy is hard like a ceramic, stiff like steel, elastic like a plastic, and corrosion resistant like it has been given an expensive coating, a keen area of interest is in blade or blade-like applications. This is not surprising, especially given the nearest-to-net shape moldability of our alloy. In fact, we are currently investigating new applications where precise piercing of metal foils with high repeatability are required.
Size limit is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions about the commercial fabrication of Liquidmetal alloys. “How big can we make it?” If you are familiar with typical commercially molded parts from Liquidmetal alloy you may have already observed a common theme; parts a few inches in any dimension and typically thin walled sections. The questions about size typically arise when engineers and designers become aware of the mechanical properties of Liquidmetal alloys: twice the strength of steel, high hardness, corrosion resistance, lustrous as-molded finishes, and high elasticity, among others. It’s not surprising that alloys with similar mechanical properties would be desired for high-performance structural applications such as aircraft bodies, I-beams, bridges, and car bodies. This post aims to help consumers understand the uses and clarify a few limitations of Liquidmetal alloys.
Michael Ashby, a professor from Cambridge, England, has developed strategy for the selection of particular materials for a specific application, a process called Materials Selection for Mechanical Design. In this method, all material properties are plotted against one another on axes displaying different mechanical properties (strength vs. toughness or cost vs. density, for example).
The difference in microstructure between Liquidmetal alloy and other materials may be the most underappreciated difference between Liquidmetal alloy components and products manufactured with other techniques such as metal injection molding (MIM) or additive manufacturing (AKA “3D Printing”).
If you have studied our website or have researched “bulk metallic glass”, you have likely seen an illustration of randomly distributed circles against a white background representing the liquid-like microstructure of Liquidmetal alloys. It is this random atomic structure that fundamentally enables the material properties and process advantages of our alloys. For more background and a history of bulk metallic glasses, please download our Liquidmetal whitepaper.
Liquidmetal Technologies was a featured exhibitor and presentor last week (Apr. 2-4) at the annual Advanced Aerospace Materials and Processes conference (AeroMat), which is considered the “premier conference for applied materials and processing for the global aerospace industry.”
In the parts industry there are mechanical parts (brackets, frames, mounts, housings, etc.) which drive product performance, and cosmetic parts (bezels, cases, trim, grilles, etc.) which drive product appeal.
Often, a part is required which attempts to fulfil both these functions, but with limitations in one area or the other. Cosmetic materials such as brass, silver, gold, and platinum do not typically have extraordinary strength, stiffness, hardness or wear resistance. On the other hand, widely used engineering materials such as titanium, steel, and copper alloys are difficult to make appealing to the eye without expensive coatings or paint which are themselves subject to scratching, flaking, and oxidizing.
Many experienced product designers confuse Liquidmetal Injection Molding with MIM* (Metal Injection Molding). In an attempt to clarify the difference we have been crafting our message more carefully, and our new website is an attempt to do just that.
However, a picture is worth 1,000 words:
As Liquidmetal Technologies manufactures parts for new and exciting applications, Liquidmetal alloys continue to gain substantial attention from material scientists and physicists due to the unique properties and performance advantages of its amorphous molecular structure.
In the cover story in the February 2013 (Volume 66, Issue 2) print edition of Physics TodayIssue Cover, Liquidmetal Technologies’ class of materials (scientifically refered to as bulk metallic glasses) is featured in the article written by Dr. Jan Schroers, Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science at Yale.
Why Liquidmetal? A Liquidmetal case is nearly indestructible, has a beautiful as-cast mirror finish, and is highly resistant to scratches and corrosion. Each case produced from Liquidmetal has exactly the same shape, allowing parts to fit together precisely. In addition, a Liquidmetal case can be opened and closed thousands of times without the slightest deformation, even when subject to extreme force. The same is true for clamps, whether used as part of a case design or other device. A Liquidmetal clamp will hold with the same force after thousands of uses.
In material science, deformation (described quantitatively as strain) occurs when a load (described quantitatively as stress) is applied to a material sufficient enough to cause the material to change shape. A temporary shape change that is completely reversible after the force is removed, so that the object returns to its original shape, is called elastic deformation.
When a load is sufficiently large enough to deform the metal irreversibly, so that the object does not return to its original shape after the load is removed, it is called plastic deformation. Plastic deformation involves the breaking of atomic bonds by the movement of dislocations which cause the material to yield. Dislocations are irregularities within a crystal structure which allow the atoms in crystal planes to slip past one another at low-stress levels.
While metallic glass has existed for decades, the majority of people became aware of its revolutionary properties when it was introduced as a product by Liquidmetal Technologies. Many people have seen our popular ”bouncing ball” demonstration on Youtube, where ball bearings dropped on plates of steel and titanium stop bouncing after a few seconds, while the ball on a plate of Liquidmetal seems to bounce well over a minute.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely used for imaging soft tissue in clinical and pre-clinical medicine for many reasons. Not only does MRI provide excellent contrast between various tissue types, but it does not require the use of ionizing radiation such as x-rays (CT Scanners) or gamma-rays (PET scanners). The theory of MRI is based on the interaction of subatomic particles with magnetic fields in a process called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which describes how atomic nuclei with a quantum property called ‘spin’ precess in a magnetic field the same way that a gyroscope or a spinning-top precesses in the earth’s gravitational field (if you’re not familiar with gyroscope precession, watch this video).
For this reason, the primary component of an MRI scanner is a very powerful magnet, which generates a very strong magnetic field (typically 1.5-3 Tesla, or about 3,000 times the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field) where the object is being imaged, and also in the region surrounding the magnet.
For designers who have traditionally expected dull, unattractive and pitted surfaces of traditional metal injection molded and die-cast parts, seeing the gorgeous as-cast surface of a Liquidmetal part comes as a shock. Liquidmetal parts have a shiny metallic luster straight from the mold without the need for time-consuming and costly secondary operations.
Liquidmetal alloy’s beautiful finish begins with using high purity alloy feedstock provided by one of the world’s leading metallurgical companies, Materion Brush. Liquidmetal Technologies then feeds that alloy into its own proprietary high purity vacuum injection molding platform.
There is a secret to designing an explosive device that penetrates heavy armor. More than a hundred years ago designers discovered a munitions device is more powerful when the explosive material is pressed into a concave shape on the open end of the casing, creating a cavity. When detonated, at just the right distance from the target, the force of a shaped charge can penetrate the thickest armor. When the cavity is covered by a copper or glass liner, the force from the explosive is much stronger. While in use for decades, the properties of this phenomenon were not fully understood. Pioneering work from the world-renowned Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory now allows the properties of the supersonic jet that escapes from lined shaped charges upon detonation to be accurately modeled. Detonation forces the liner to collapse inwardly with tremendous force, projecting a tightly focused jet of liner material with enormous energy.
Mirrors are used every day by nearly everyone. A reasonably accurate, inexpensive mirror can be made by simply silvering a plate of glass. Deliberate distortions can be made by forming the glass into shapes, such as fun-house mirrors that can make you appear shorter, taller, stout or slender.
You may have been reading about recent developments in metals technology from a diverse range of sources. Many of the exotic metal alloys being described are actually the same material being referred to by different names. For example, Liquidmetal Alloys, amorphous metal and metallic glass are basically synonyms for the same new class of metals which exhibit a non-crystalline atomic structure.