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Cryogenic Treatment Benefits Composite Materials

15 October 2004

Cryogenic Treatment Services is using technology developed by NASA scientists to treat metals and other composite materials.

From its roots in Scotland, the cryogenic treatment of metals and plastics was developed by NASA during the space race and commercialised, through the 1990s, in the USA with many applications.

Andy Priscott, Director of Cryogenic Treatment Services, says: ""The applications in high performance engineering are many: we have undertaken work in aerospace for both production and for finished products"".

""Motorsports teams are increasing their use of this remarkable process on many engine components as well as brake discs and pads to improve their efficiency and lifespan - we're even treating complete engines. The greatest cost savings to be found have been shown when the process is applied to cutting tools"".

Codirector, Barry Lomas, commenting on the process, says: ""A product is placed into a state of the art processor and cooled down, in stages, to -195C and then returned, again in stages, to room temperature. This can then be followed by a temper, up to 300C, depending on the material being treated. It is a dry process, meaning that it takes place in the gases of liquid nitrogen, not in liquid itself"".

The whole process, a mixture of chemistry and physics, means that the molecular structure of the material is altered.

The larger waste molecules that are produced in the original manufacturing process are transformed into smaller molecules that bond tightly together and therefore produce a harder wearing material.

To encourage companies to experiment, the process is priced to be attractive. The cost to process an average single carbide insert is GBP 1.50, drills average GBP 2.50, and the company will accept orders from GBP 75 plus VAT.

The company offers this guarantee: ""If your production records clearly indicate that the processed tools show no cost advantage over the unprocessed tools, we will gladly refund the cost of the cryogenic processing"".





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