Super-Light Materials for Future Technologies: TU Opens New Facility for Magnesium

Die neue Forschungsanlage. © TU Bergakademie Freiberg
TU Bergakademie Freiberg is breaking new ground in exploring the use of magnesium – a strong, lightweight metal. On March 21, a new research facility was inaugurated to enable the production of magnesium wire.

 This research will play an important role in the courses of study “Materials Science and Technology” and “Vehicle Construction: Materials and Components”. In a world first, the facility will apply the energy- and resource-efficient casting-rolling technology developed and patented at TU Bergakademie Freiberg. A strong and super-light material, magnesium will be used in the future in biomedical applications, or in joining technologies in the form of screws or welding wire. The 5-million-euro plant was financed by Saxony's State Ministry of Science and Art. Researchers and students at TU Bergakademie Freiberg stand to benefit greatly from this development.

Inauguration of the new research facility“With the new research facility, we are in a position, for the first time, to transfer our specialist knowledge in the field of casting-rolling processes for lightweight materials in the form of sheets and strips to the production of magnesium wire. This opens up new possibilities for the manufacture of components and structural elements in machine, vehicle and tool construction, in architecture, and in the manufacture of implants in biomedicine. Our students benefit from this facility through practice-oriented learning just as much as our researchers do!" explained Prof. Dr. Rudolf Kawalla, Vice Rector of Research at TU Bergakademie Freiberg and Director of the Institute of Metal Forming.

Discussing the advantages of the new facility: Prof. Rudolf Kawalla (l.) and Prof. Ulrich Prahl. © Detlev MüllerThe plant can operate for up to eleven hours while continuously producing wires up to a diameter of 20 centimeters, or rods with lengths of up to eight meters and of up to the same cross-section. The plant includes an electrically heated melting and casting furnace with a capacity of 400 kilograms of magnesium. In the new plant, the metallic melt is cast directly between two rotating rollers and undergoes its first forming pass during the solidification process. This not only makes the wire more stable, but also makes the production sequence more efficient. With this technique, process steps and, thus, material and energy costs can be reduced, while at the same time improving both productivity and operating efficiency. If the tests are promising, the pilot plant will see the technology transferred to industrial scale.

“Along with gaining the knowledge necessary to tackle the global challenges facing our society, research at our university also serves as the driver of the modern, first-class education we impart to our students. Research on magnesium as a lightweight material has been a core element at the Institute of Metal Forming at TU Bergakademie Freiberg for years. Investigating the economic use of highly sought-after magnesium wire materials offers great potential – and especially for the construction of lightweight components in Saxony's industry,” explained Rector Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht. “At the same time, there are excellent opportunities for joint research within the framework of the Leichtbau-Allianz Sachsen (Lightweight Construction Alliance of Saxony) founded in 2017.”

As far back as the turn of the century, an innovative casting-rolling process for magnesium sheet and strip material was developed in Freiberg and successfully tested on a pilot plant specially designed for this purpose. With the utilization of casting-rolling technology in the production of magnesium wire, TU Bergakademie Freiberg is once again breaking new ground in metal forming. A pilot plant for the development of the technology has been developed at the Institute of Metal Forming since 2016, with its construction carried out by the specialized plant construction company hpl-Neugnadenfelder Maschinenfabrik GmbH. A production facility was built specially for the housing and operation of the pilot plant, with the foundation stone being laid in February 2017.

The project is being funded to the tune of five million euro by Saxony's Ministry of Science and the Arts through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

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Contact: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Kawalla Tel +49 (0) 3731 39--2479,  Dr.-Ing. Madlen Ullmann Tel +49 (0)3731 39-3095