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Magnetic Power Used to Cut Steel in New Industrial Technology

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Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz, Germany, are working on a project that will change the way automobile manufacturers and steel industry make holes in the metal they are processing.

Dr. Verena Kräusel, head of department at the IWU, explains: “The new method is based on electromagnetic pulse technology (EMPT), which was previously used primarily to expand or neck aluminum tubes. We’ve modified it to cut even hard steels. Whereas a laser takes around 1.4 seconds to cut a hole, EMPT can do the job in approximately 200 milliseconds — our method is up to seven times faster.”

This kind of cutting process is the greenest possible, since it uses a lot less energy and doesn’t cause the wear that ordinary mechanical cutting tools do, thus reducing the overall time and energy consumed to recycle those tools and produce others.

The device that the scientists devised uses pulse generators made up of a coil, a capacitor battery, a charging device and high-current switches. The capacitor discharges through the coil in a few microseconds when the switch closes, producing a high pulsed current. The coil converts the capacitors’ energy into magnetic energy, thus exerting a high pressure of the field that hits the steel. The researchers say that the pressure is approximately 3,500 bar, equaling to “the weight of three small cars on a single fingernail,” as Kräusel said.

We can also get green by changing the very internal processes that the industry relies on. After all, the industry is the biggest player in carbon emissions – so making it better is as important, if not more important than getting our cars going electric.

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