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Properties and applications of titanium

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Titanium is a strange material, not least for the myths surrounding it. It is often described as being incredibly hard, or incredibly strong, when the truth is that it is neither. It can be impressively strong compared to its density, but it does not stand out in this respect. It has been very expensive, and to the man on the street it has the reputation of being out of reach. It is, however, no more expensive per unit mass than many grades of steel or aluminium. It is widely used in...

The application of tool steels in race engines

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The use of steels in race engines continues to be significant, owing to the combination of properties such as fatigue strength and stiffness these alloys offer. Within the larger category of steel is a still wide range of materials which are known as tool steels. These often have properties that go beyond the usual standards set by low-alloy steels, and were developed for use as tools, often for cutting or forming metals. Although metal-cutting tools are now often made from pure carbides,...

Metal-matrix nano-composites

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Metal-matrix composites (MMCs) have suffered from a couple of problems in motorsport. The first is that there have been restrictive regulations banning such materials, either explicitly or via a limit on specific modulus (the ratio of elastic modulus to density). The second barrier to their use in those series that have not already outlawed such materials is cost – below a certain level of budget, there is simply no need for a ban as the financial constraints on competitors means they...

Magnesium as a piston material

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The racing piston market is dominated by aluminium, as are the roadcar and motorcycle markets, although in general the alloys used in racing are quite different from those in passenger vehicles. As racing engineers we look for increased durability and damage tolerance in our pistons, so we tend to make our pistons either as forgings from high-quality wrought material or machine them directly from billets of wrought aluminium. The exceptions to aluminium pistons in racing are those steel...

Rapid prototyping

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The development of rapid prototyping (RP) methods as a manufacturing technique has been fascinating to witness. There are several strands to this: many RP techniques simply produce a facsimile of a component or assembly but which have no functional use, as the materials are very low in strength, stiffness and ductility. The materials in this category include paper and some polymers. There are other polymer materials that are well suited to the production of ‘unstressed’...