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Story 152 – 2006 – Innovation Products

Reinvention of an old material

"SUPRALLOY" fine grain bronzes set new standards

Wieland has developed an extremely fine-grained bronze which combines, like no other before it, extreme hardness and strength with optimum formability. Due to its insensitivity to vibrations, it opens up new possibilities, particularly in the automotive sector.

The importance of bronze for the history of mankind cannot be overestimated. Developed in the fourth millennium BC, it is considered the first metal alloy and founded an entire era: the Bronze Age. Much harder than the pure copper that had been used before, bronze's comparatively low melting point enabled the production of numerous tools, equipment, jewellery – and weapons.

While from early times up to the Middle Ages zinc, iron, lead and arsenic were used in addition to copper and tin, modern bronzes are essentially alloys of copper and tin. They combine high strength, good formability and moderate electrical conductivity, which is advantageous for signal transmission. Properties that make them ideal for use in modern electronics, for example in signal contacts and switches.

In order to meet the increasing demands on the microstructural design, Wieland has consistently further developed the bronze material group and, after years of research and development, launched the innovation "SUPRALLOY bronzes" in 2006. Cast using special processes and rolled into strips using new production technologies, they combine apparent opposites to an extent never before achieved: strength and formability. This "squaring of the circle" is achieved by a worldwide unique fine grain size of about one micrometer, which is only visible under an electron microscope.

A particular advantage of the fine-grained microstructure of fine-grain bronzes is their significantly improved resistance to vibration and fracture due to material fatigue. This makes them particularly suitable for applications in the automotive sector, among others. With "SUPRALLOY" Wieland impressively demonstrates that even one of the oldest metal materials in the world can still be optimised through consistent innovation.

spring contacts made of SUPRALLOY

Stamped and embossed spring contacts made of SUPRALLOY ensure secure, well-conducting contacts to the SIM card in smartphones and other devices.

The grain size of SUPRALLOY

The grain size of SUPRALLOY is 1 µm and is not visible under the light microscope (left). Only under the scanning electron microscope (right) does the fine structure of the material become visible.