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Developers of precision and precious materials

Pforzheim University – Institute for Precious and Technology Metals (Institut für strategische Technologie- und Edelmetalle, STI)

  1. The STI is active in material development, characterisation and analysis of precision components and equipped with a state-of-the-art metallographical lab, including SEM, XRD, optical microscopy, and mechanical testing equipment.
  2. A newly equipped lab for materials hydrogen processing is perfectly equipped for development and investigation of permanent magnets with a staff having 30+ years’ experience in NdFeB-type materials.
  3. The third area of competence is a novel lab for additive manufacturing of high precision metal parts in stainless steel, titanium and other technology metals. It deals with the novel indirect printing technologies material extrusion ME (sometimes known as FDM) and Vat-Polymerisation (VP), also known as stereolithography. Both processes were developed in the H2020 project REProMag (2015-2017).

As a test laboratory accredited according to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025, the STI is specialised in failure analyses and the compilation of expert reports. For this purpose, the STI has many laboratory facilities for destructive/non-destructive material testing and failure analysis.

Fast processing of the customer orders with minimum waiting times is top priority, with a strong focus on precise and standard-compliant execution of the customer orders.

Additionally, the STI develops precision engineering processes and devices for the automation of production steps and materials relevant to the local precision and jewellery industry.

  • Digital, high-resolution field emission low-vacuum scanning electron microscope, also for non-conductive materials:
    • Energy dispersive X-ray analysis for elements from atomic number 4 (beryllium);
    • Magnification: 10-100,000x;

Suitable for the examination of:

  • Surfaces/fractured surfaces;
  • Layer structure;
  • Inclusions; and
  • Quantitative and qualitative composition also in the micro range.

Climate chambers, tensile and hardness testing (down to HV 0,025) complete our portfolio. The development of tailored tests and the building of test equipment are available on request.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE
  • EDX/WDX detectors on the scanning electron microscope
  • Microfocus X-ray tube on SEM
  • Metallography:
    • Equipped with the most modern microscopic and macroscopic examination possibilities from preparation to documentation, e.g. with digital image evaluation; and
    • In addition to chemical etching processes for microstructure formation, the STI has a state-of-the-art ion polishing device (flat-milling) at its disposal. This surface treatment allows the formation of structures without artefacts and defects that can occur with conventional metallographic preparation.
  • Ion-beam cutter:
    • A focused ion beam makes the finest cuts through surfaces and coatings possible, which allows exact preparation without deformations and artefacts, which are unavoidable in conventional metallographic micro-sectioning; and
    • The prepared layer systems can be displayed in conjunction with the SEM and are accessible for further examination, e.g. of the layer structure or for measuring layer thicknesses.
  • FT-IR Spectroscopy:
    • Organic molecules absorb infrared light in a characteristic way. This makes it possible to identify organic substances by comparison with a reference spectrum and, if necessary, to quantify them; and
    • The SEM can be used to analyse the elements of an organic compound, but not the molecular structure that provides information about the origin of the substance. IR spectroscopy considerably expands the investigation of organic surface layers.
  • Confocal 3D laser scanning microscope, non-contact roughness depth and profile measurement:
    • The 3D laser microscope with very short-wave light makes it possible to measure surface roughness in the nanometre range without touching and thus influencing the sample. Even very small components with curved surfaces or narrow grooves can be measured with outstanding depth of field.
  • Differential thermal analysis, thermogravimetry:
    • In thermogravimetry, the change in mass of a sample is measured as a function of temperature and time. The sample is heated to temperatures up to 2,400°C in a small crucible of temperature-stable and inert material in an oven. The mass changes during the heating process are recorded using a microbalance coupled to the sample holder. A thermocouple measures the temperature. Final temperature, heating rate and gas flow can be controlled via a connected computer. During the analyses, the sample chamber is flushed with different gases as required. The heating processes (decomposition reactions, evaporation of volatile components, oxidation) are specific to a sample and provide information about certain material properties; and
    • In differential thermal analysis (DTA), the temperature of the sample to be analysed is measured in comparison to the temperature of a reference substance, whereby both are heated or cooled at a constant rate within the DTA apparatus. The temperature difference displayed in the trace as a function of time is measured by two oppositely connected thermocouples (one is located at or in the sample, the other at or in the reference sample). The measurement curve provides information on reaction temperature, reaction heat and, if necessary, reaction process. The DTA is suitable for the determination of solid-liquid phase diagrams, identification of phase transformations, determination of transformation enthalpies.
RESEARCH INTERESTS
  • Characterisation of ultra-thin coatings;
  • Permanent Magnets; and
  • Additive Manufacturing.
RECENT PUBLICATIONS

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