ThinKing January – New electrochemical micro transformation allows for the design of lightweight metal surfaces for specialized applications



Modern multifunctional surfaces open new application fields for lightweight materials and can offer considerable benefits and added value to a wide range of products. The newly developed micro arc oxidation technology (MAO) allows the multifunctional modification of lightweight metals such as aluminum, titanium or magnesium. Surfaces can be designed for their desired functions and the performance of lightweight medal components significantly improved. This allows for new functional and decorative applications – including in mass produced products – with significant reductions in weight, material and costs while maintaining or even improving functionality.

The Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Wuerttemberg is presenting this new innovation by AutomoTeam GmbH in Stuttgart as its ThinKing for January 2017. Leichtbau BW GmbH presents this title monthly in order to innovative products and services in the Baden-Württemberg lightweighting sector as a free promotion platform.

The METAKER® Micro Arc Oxidation Process modifies the outer layers of lightweight metals to form a strong, multifunctional atomic metal-ceramic bond. By adapting the process parameters, the material attributes (functionality) as well as their combination (multifunctionality) can be calibrated for specific applications.

Double digit savings potential

The procedure allows for a range of mechanical, chemical, electrical, optical, haptic, biological, ecological and technological properties of lightweight metals to be modified on an industrial scale. This transforms the surface into a constructional element which can open new possibilities for the industrial application of lightweight metals. For example, double digit improvement potential can be achieved in weight reduction, product and processing costs, lifespan, efficiency and many other areas.

MAO surfaces have many potential applications for the implementation of lightweight metals throughout a range of key industries. These applications include material substitution, functional integration as well as in hybrid lightweight design. In one instance, a manufacturer of high performance electric motors was able to replace a moving component made of out copper with a component made out of aluminum. The implementation of the lighter material resulted in a cost reduction of 92 percent and a weight reduction of 72 percent while at the same time improving the functionality and increasing the lifespan of the product.

The newly developed MAO procedure for the electrochemical nanotechnological surface treatment of light metals such as aluminum, titanium and magnesium uses billions of microplasma discharges (micro arcs) to transform the surface area of the material of a workpiece into a sealed atomically fused metal-ceramic bond.

This metal-ceramic bond creates a complex, heterogeneous, multi-functional and gradient material mix whose composition, structure, substance and properties vary from the interior to the surface of the product and can be adapted to specific applications. The ceramic substances used in the procedure are high-strength, high-pressure and high-temperature modifications of various oxides.

Billions of microplasma discharges form complex metal-ceramic bonds

The properties of the material can be controlled through changes to the various process parameters such as the electrolyte chemistry, electric current, voltage and discharge time. The surface and process properties offer truly unique features that provide unprecedented application potential as has been confirmed time and time again by researchers and industries.

“The newly developed combination of water-resistant material components such as plastics, steel or glass with modified aluminum components allows engineers to take new approaches in incremental and disruptive innovations,” notes managing director Eugen Pfeifer. “If one were to choose for example a fiberglass reinforced plastic, the aluminum component can specifically modified prior to overmolding to improve its resistance to corrosion and wear and to improve its surface structure for better bonding, and after overmolding modified again to further improve wear resistance.”

The nearly limitless possibilities to combine and alter materials as well as the adjustable geometric complexity of METAKER® material hybrids create a foundation for developing new technical systems and processes.

Further information is available at