A radically different manufacturing process can produce materials with enhanced properties, while using significantly less energy and a smaller manufacturing footprint. The process, called ShAPE™, was developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and received the Association of Washington Business (AWB) Green Manufacturing Award.
Among other factors, AWB considered energy efficiency maximization, waste minimization, and reduced carbon emissions in production processes. The Green Manufacturing Award was presented to PNNL during one of AWB’s Manufacturing Week tours, which are streamed here.
ShAPE stands for Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion. Not only is it a less energy-intensive manufacturing process for things like wire, bar, and tubular components, ShAPE-extruded products can be produced in a way that consumes less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases. The ShAPE process uses much less energy in fabricating components, in part, because it produces unique material structures that eliminate the need for energy-intensive heat treatment steps that are typical of conventional extrusion.
“With ShAPE, high-strength aerospace aluminum alloys can be fabricated with up to 75% energy savings compared to conventional extrusion,” said Scott Whalen, a senior materials scientist at PNNL. “The energy savings are even more significant when scrap is used as the feedstock, which results in more than a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to using primary aluminum.”
ShAPE can also directly extrude specialty powders into high-performance components in a single step, eliminating the numerous process steps that are required in conventional extrusion.
Additionally, the ShAPE manufacturing process makes it possible to tailor a metal’s microstructure to deliver products with improved performance compared to those produced by conventional extrusion processes. These properties can include increased strength, ductility, corrosion resistance, and other material characteristics such as increased electrical conductivity.
PNNL developed the technology and a first-of-its kind ShAPE machine with support from the Department of Energy—specifically the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing and Vehicle Technologies offices. The Washington State Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund has provided nearly $1 million in a research, development, and demonstration grant for a next-generation ShAPE machine, that will have a significantly higher torque and ram force. The ShAPE design, tooling, and techniques are part of a suite of Solid Phase Processing technologies and are available for licensing. Applications span a variety of industrial markets including aerospace, automotive, defense, and manufacturing.