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magnesium tubing is a key component of modern bikes. It’s lighter than aluminum, and it carries less weight. It has also been shown to be more resilient and have better ride qualities than other materials. However, bringing magnesium tubes to market has been challenging.
Upstart bike manufacturer VAAST is taking the lead by integrating their high-end magnesium alloy, called Allite Super Magnesium, into their new bikes. The company claims their proprietary magnesium tubing, which is made by melting rare earth metals and aluminum into a powder, can provide better ride qualities and stiffness than conventional steel.
However, achieving the necessary performance of these new frames requires more than just the material; it takes the correct design and precise manufacturing processes to ensure that the frame works correctly. For this, a lot of work has to be done on the drawing board and in the shop.
The main challenges of using magnesium alloys in hot forming processes are to avoid the formation of cracks and to limit the circumferential strains to a maximal value, while maintaining good mechanical properties such as tensile strength and elongation. To achieve this, it is necessary to heat the metal at a temperature region that is sufficiently large in order to facilitate deformation and to re-establish its workability after the forming process.
PNNL scientists have developed the ShAPE (Shelf-Assisted Pressure Extrusion) process, which allows for the rapid heating of magnesium alloys to the required working temperatures. They have successfully extruded very thin-walled round tubing from the magnesium-aluminum-zinc alloys AZ91 and ZK60A, improving their room temperature ductility by more than 25%.