Shaping the future of metal processing

A fellowship from Germany’s largest research funding organization is helping a Lehigh engineering professor push for improvements to the processes by which metals are shaped and formed into products.

Wojciech Misiolek is particularly interested in the processing of magnesium and its alloys, which could potentially make cars more environmentally friendly.

Misiolek, the Loewy Chair in Materials Forming and Processing in the department of materials science and engineering, is spending the fall semester as a Mercator Visiting Professor at the Institute for Metal Forming and Light Construction at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany.

His six-month stay is being supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-DFG), Germany’s equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

In Dortmund, Misiolek is working with graduate students and advising Ph.D. candidates. He is also collaborating with German scientists and engineers and helping develop an M.S. program in manufacturing technology that is being offered in English for the first time this semester. He has lectured on metal forming in the new program.

Toward refinements in extrusion technology

The Mercator Professorship has enabled Misiolek to give presentations in several countries about his use of software, numerical modeling and microscopy to refine extrusion and other metal-forming processes.

One topic he has discussed is the software that engineers use to fine-tune the extrusion process, in which metals are forced through dies, split, and then welded into new shapes.

Commercial software predicts process parameters like temperature, stress and strain distribution, and helps determine how a material flows during processing and what its final geometry will be.

But commercial software has shortcomings, says Misiolek.

“The software programs we use cannot predict if the extrusion welds will be sound or not. We have proposed a solution and pushed industry to develop better predictive capabilities for extrusion welding.”

A greater role for magnesium in autos

Misiolek has also discussed the processing of magnesium and its alloys, which automakers are considering as a replacement material for aluminum.

Magnesium is lighter than aluminum, and could make cars more lightweight, cleaner, more fuel-efficient and easier to handle.

Misiolek studies the structure and mechanical stability of a magnesium alloy containing zinc and cesium. The alloy improves magnesium’s ability to deform without compromising its strength or ability to bear loads.

“This is especially important to auto manufacturers,” says Misiolek, who directs Lehigh’s Institute for Metal Forming (IMF). “The parts of a car are geometrically complex and require a material that can deform to create the right shape with the required geometrical tolerances.”

Invitations to Italy, Austria and Poland

Misiolek gave the keynote address before 700 people at the 10th International Conference on the Technology of Plasticity in Aachen, Germany, in September. His presentation was based on research conducted with eight former graduate students.

In October, he gave the plenary lecture to 130 people at the Fourth International Conference on Extrusion and Benchmark in Bologna, Italy. This presentation was based on research that formed another student’s M.S. thesis.

He’s given a series of research seminars at TU-Dortmund and a presentation at Montan University in Leoben, Austria, and has also been invited to talk at the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg in Freiberg, Germany, and the AGH-University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, his alma mater.