Exotic and advanced metals are used in aircraft, orthopedic components, medical instruments, cars, solar panels, military equipment, and other applications. They are referred to as advanced or exotic because they are more difficult to find and more costly to use in manufacturing.
The conventional method of using advanced metals in manufacturing is high in cost, in part because they tend to be difficult to sculpt. A new process was developed for cutting these metals that may help make them easier to use and lead to significant changes in the future of manufacturing.
The method involves applying a designer surface-active agent — the name for a variety of chemicals used in metals processing — to the surface of a metal to make it easier to cut and shape the material into parts and pieces. Common alcohols were used on an aluminum surface to cut the metal more easily with at least 50 percent less force and produce a smoother end surface with fewer cracks and tears compared with aluminum without the alcohol treatment.
The same approach shows promise for other metal systems such as stainless steel, tantalum, copper, iron, and even nickel alloys. Each metal system requires a specific designer agent since alcohols do not interact with other metals in the same way they do with aluminum.