A new name in light, stiff and strong aluminium matrix composite (AMC) materials says they are set to be used in new demanding aerospace, automotive and consumer applications.
Alvant, formerly known as Composite Metal Technology (CMT), says that AMC material is being specified in an increasing number of demanding applications in aerospace, defence, automotive, consumer and industrial sectors, including a Safran landing gear project.
The new name comes with a new management team and follows a series of new contracts.
In parallel, Alvant has just been selected by Safran Landing Systems to participate in the £28 m ‘Large Landing Gear of the Future’ R&D project. The company has also received orders to supply the ‘Breakthrough Aerospace Materials’ project with Rolls Royce, and an R&D project with Ford investigating the application of hybrid-AMC components for high-performance production cars. More contracts are expected to be announced shortly.
The Basingstoke-based company manufactures AMCs using a proprietary Advanced Liquid Pressure Forming (ALPF) process. The core technology is based on continuous ceramic fibres embedded into an aluminium matrix to give unique properties, which can be tailored according to the application. Within the past 12 months, commercial demand has increased significantly for the advanced composite material due to its greater strength, higher stiffness, lower weight and superior wear resistance, as well as lower coefficients of thermal and electrical conductivity. Alvant’s new management team has focused on responding to and shaping these commercial opportunities.
“Commercial readiness of AMCs comes at a time of increasing demand for strong, yet lightweight, components in transport and defence, industrial processes and high-end consumer products,” explains John Bonas, managing director of Alvant. “Today’s design teams are looking for ways to increase product capabilities and performance while simultaneously meeting ambitious goals for fuel efficiency and sustainability. These are often conflicting challenges for which AMCs can be a solution.
“AMCs provide the strength and stiffness of steel at less than half the weight. They also offer advantages over carbon composite material, including higher transverse strength and stiffness, superior damage tolerance, and a higher thermal operating range. AMCs can be used to engineer more durable lightweight components for harsh environments,” says Bonas.
Alvant owns the proprietary rights to the ALPF AMC manufacturing process and has full-service capability, offering engineering consultancy, concept development and component design through to prototype manufacture, low-volume production, and the sale of licensing for higher-volume production.
AMCs became known in the 1980s, primarily for their use in automotive components, when the material was in its infancy, its properties largely unproven and sometimes over-sold. Industry attention turned to carbon composites. CMT (now Alvant) has led research and development into the manufacturing of AMCs resulting in AMCs’ properties now being precisely manufacturable, dependable, more affordable and repairable than carbon composites.
Alvant is currently engaged in the following active projects:
‘Large Landing Gear of the Future’ R&D project with Safran Landing Systems, to develop, mature and demonstrate key technologies to improve aircraft landing gear design, manufacture, operation, and cost of ownership. Two-year project, with £513,000 grant for Alvant’s contribution.
‘Make it lighter, with less’ (AMCCAE) competition run by Innovate UK, to create new computer aided engineering (CAE) software modelling packages for the design and analysis of AMCs, to reduce product development lead times. Three-year, £1.2m R&D project with a grant to Alvant of £395,000, collaborating with GE Aviation, YASA Motors, and the National Composites Centre.
‘Materials & Manufacturing’ (NGM) competition run by Innovate UK, to develop next generation low cost AMCs for the emerging global market. 30 month, £1.4m collaborative R&D project.
‘Materials & Manufacturing 2’ R&D project with Ford Motor Company, developing a new casting method for the manufacture of hybrid-AMC components for high-performance production cars. 30-month £1.6m R&D, with an Innovate UK grant to Alvant of £751,000.
‘Breakthrough Aerospace Material’ (BAM) three-year project, with Rolls Royce, through the Aerospace Technology Institute, to research the use of woven composite material for application to aircraft structures.