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Syntactic Iron Foams' Properties Tailored by Means of Case Hardening via Carburizing or Carbonitriding

: Weise, Jörg; Lehmhus, Dirk; Sandfuchs, Jaqueline; Steinbacher, Matthias; Fechte-Heinen, Rainer; Busse, Matthias

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Materials 14 (2021), Nr.16, Art. 4358, 23 S.
ISSN: 1996-1944
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IFAM ()
syntactic foam; metal matrix syntactic foam; iron; steel matrix; case hardening steels; carburizing; carbonitriding; powder metallurgy; metal injection moulding (MiM); vibration damping

Metal foam inserts are known for their high potential for weight and vibration reduction in composite gear wheels. However, most metal foams do not meet the strength requirements mandatory for the transfer of sufficiently high levels of torque by the gears. Syntactic iron and steel foams offer higher strength levels than conventional two-phase metal foams, thus making them optimum candidates for such inserts. The present study investigates to what extent surface hardening treatments commonly applied to gear wheels can improve the mechanical properties of iron-based syntactic foams. Experiments performed thus focus on case hardening treatments based on carburizing and carbonitriding, with subsequent quenching and tempering to achieve surface hardening effects. Production of samples relied on the powder metallurgical metal injection molding (MIM) process. Syntactic iron foams containing 10 wt.% of S60HS hollow glass microspheres were compared to reference materials without such filler. Following heat treatments, the samples’ microstructure was evaluated metallographically; mechanical properties were determined via hardness measurements on reference samples and 4-point bending tests, on both reference and syntactic foam materials. The data obtained show that case hardening can indeed improve the mechanical performance of syntactic iron foams by inducing the formation of a hardened surface layer. Moreover, the investigation indicates that the respective thermo-chemical treatments can be applied to composite gear wheels in exactly the same way as to monolithic ones. In the surface region modified by the treatment, martensitic microstructures were observed, and as consequence, the bending limits of syntactic foam samples were increased by a factor of three.