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Spinodal Alloys to Replace Beryllium from the Workplace

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Spinodal Alloys to Replace Beryllium from the Workplace

Beryllium is a lightweight, hard metal that is non-magnetic and a good conductor of both electricity and heat. It is not surprising, therefore, that many different uses have been found for its various compounds over the years – from transistors in the electronics industry to the brake systems of aircraft, from window material for X-ray tubes to nuclear reactors and even golf clubs.

However, it has long been recognised that although beryllium ore is relatively non-toxic, the compounds that offer the greatest commercial value also exhibit significant pulmonary toxicity. Individuals employed in the beryllium manufacturing, fabricating, or reclaiming industries face significant health risks through the inhalation of the dusts and fumes that different beryllium compounds emit.

Much has been done to mitigate these health risks by limiting the allowable exposure of industrial workers to these toxic particles. Indeed, December 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a proposal to further tighten the rules to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in American workers. The same kind of response by the appropriate authorities can be seen on an international level.

While these efforts are to be applauded, the fact remains though that eliminating beryllium from the workplace has to be a better option than mitigating its harmful effects. For some considerable time now, AMETEK Specialty Metal Products has been working to achieve that through alternative materials.

Spinodal alloys, such as AMETEK SMP's C72900 (Pfinodal®), C72650 (AM-388®) and C72950 offer similar mechanical properties to Beryllium Copper but without the harmful exposure risks. Not only are they heat treatable to high levels of hardness and tensile strength, they can perform with less distortion than alloys containing Beryllium. As a result, AMETEK SMP has already seen many of its customers, across the Automotive, Oil & Gas, Aerospace and Electronics industries, turn to these Spinodal alloys.

Pfinodal® and AM-388™ can be roll tempered to desired mechanical properties and age-hardened for increased strength, making them ideal for bearing materials as well as electrical connectors with spring properties. The low distortion during hardening allows for the complex forming of parts prior to heat treatment without the need for costly fixtures.

For the AMETEK SMP facility in Wallingford, one of the five specialist metallurgical businesses that constitute the AMETEK SMP division, this has been a particularly important development. Renowned for producing near net shapes and bar products as well as high purity metal strip through the use of Cold Isostatic Pressing (CIP) and Pneumatic Isostatic Forging (PIF), SMP Wallingford has been offering Pfinodal® for the manufacture of market-leading tri-cone drill bits for over 20 years.

As the business continues to expand into new down-hole applications for the Oil & Gas industry, its use of Pfinodal® has also diversified into different markets such as connectors for the medical industry. The material is available in a variety of forms and Iengths, as strip, plate, custom engineered shapes and in finished parts.

When you can eliminate a serious health risk to your workforce and at the same time deliver a better product for your customers, it has to be a win-win outcome.