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Research and development at Plansee

Our expertise in research and development

Research and development has played an important role at Plansee for 100 years. Starting in 1921 with the production of tungsten wire for light bulbs, today we have a wide range of product developments. Our goal here is clear: the further development of our materials and products to achieve the best performance for our customers.

We have more than 100 research and development experts at locations in Austria, Germany, France and China who work together with you on customized solutions. After all, most new developments are produced in close collaboration with our customers and academic partners. We have therefore built a global network of partners, research institutes and universities over the years to drive our materials to peak performance.

  • Global academic network

  • Development partnerships with customers

  • Research and development teams at four locations

  • High degree of innovation: 930 patents

  • More than 100 years of experience

You can access our areas of expertise here:

Materials sciences

Our sound knowledge of materials forms the basis for our daily activities. Our experts are continually enhancing the properties of molybdenum, tungsten, tantalum and tungsten composites to increase their performance limits even further. We know exactly how the materials behave and what they are capable of, and can therefore create even highly complex products. More than 100 research and development experts at our locations in Austria, Germany, France and China are working on a daily basis to optimize the behavior of our materials in manufacturing and application processes. They examine mechanical, chemical, and physical behavior in our in-house laboratories and test the findings by means of specific trials in collaboration with customers. This means that we can continually produce new products and technologies.

To make sure that the materials precisely meet your requirements, we enrich them with additional metallic and ceramic additives to form alloys or composites. Heat resistance, thermal expansion, thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, wear resistance, density, radiation absorption, and purity – these are some of the decisive properties that we adjust in a targeted manner depending on the application.

Technological know-how

We are continually expanding our material, technology and application knowledge in daily exchanges with customers, cooperations with various universities, and discussions at specialist conferences, trade shows, and customer workshops. This is how we learn everything about the demands that you place on our components. Our developers and engineers respond quickly to your technological advancements and take care of the efficient implementation of innovative material and product solutions.

We would be happy to advise you in the following areas:

  • Powder metallurgy

    We use powder metallurgy to manufacture refractory metals and composites. Powder processing is performed in the traditional way via pressing and sintering. However, we also use alternative consolidation processes for our powder, such as:

    • Hot pressing
    • Hot isostatic pressing
  • Forming technology

    We are constantly fine-tuning existing forming technologies to tailor our products precisely to your requirements. In doing so, we not only alter the dimensions of the primary products, but we also adjust the mechanical properties by adapting the forming processes and heat treatments. This gives our products the necessary degree of high-temperature strength, hardness, and creep resistance, among other things.

    The design of the forming technologies is based on elementary and theoretical knowledge. However, the adaptation of the product properties lies in our hands: to achieve the best properties for different applications, we are working intensively on the further development of our processes.

    We make use of various simulation methods to support even more effective process development and optimization. Read more under Numerical analysis.

  • Joining techniques

    Special joining technologies are required to join molybdenum and tungsten with each other or with other materials. Our decades of experience and development in the field of joining technology mean that we know exactly which process is ideally suited to the respective application.

    We use the following joining technologies for our materials:

    • Soldering:
      This technology allows us to join our materials with each other and with other materials such as metals and ceramic materials. One example would be rotating x-ray anodes consisting of soldered molybdenum and graphite components, or in sputtering targets. 
    • Welding:
      The same materials are often welded together. This enables targeted joining of complex components and does not present us with any thermal limits. Depending on the components to be joined and the requirement for the substance-to-substance bond, different welding procedures are used with and without welding filler materials. In addition to the TIG welding procedure, laser-beam fusion welding is used as a highly automated process.
    • Diffusion bonds:
      If the joint has special requirements, diffusion bonds may be an option. During this process, the components to be joined are pressed together at elevated temperatures well below the melting point. This produces a substance-to-substance bond through diffusion of the metals. This process is suitable for flat connections, for example, where additional materials must not be used. 
    • Back casting:
      For some of our applications, we join molybdenum and tungsten with copper. This is done using back casting technology and offers some significant advantages, such as a perfect thermal, mechanical and seamless connection.
  • Surface technology

    Your applications place a wide range of demands on the surface of our products. The use of different technologies that we master perfectly due to our many years of experience allow us to achieve the optimum surface result for you. These technologies include:

    • Mechanical processing
    • Wet-chemical treatment
    • Coatings
Numerical analysis

Many applications also pose an enormous technical challenge for our products. They must withstand ever increasing process temperatures and extreme loads, and have the longest possible service life. 

Right from the planning phase, numerical calculation methods help in the analysis of the subsequent operating behaviors of our components. An in-house team of calculation experts ensures that our components made of refractory metals reliably meet our customers' requirements over their entire service life. Simulation processes are used in the construction of components in high-temperature furnaces, for example.

An example: One of our customers wants to load a charge carrier with components weighing a total of 20 tons and to heat treat these components at high temperatures of above 1,250 °C. The charge carriers available thus far cannot withstand these conditions. This was clearly a job for us. In our thermomechanical calculations, we examined different design adaptations and ultimately developed a new product together with the customer.

We can also help with power transmission. Using the right combination of materials and geometric design, we can optimize the bounce behavior of tulip contacts and thus noticeably reduce the formation of arcs.

Numerical calculation methods in the area of the finite elements method, finite volume method, and the discrete element method, as well as our know-how in powder metallurgy, forming technology, coating technology, and joining techniques, make the affordable development of highly stressed component groups possible. For example, in the development of rotating X-ray and stationary anodes in X-ray machines, hot runner nozzles for plastic production, heating systems for the manufacture of LEDs, components for sapphire glass manufacture in laser optics or semiconductor technology, or even for your product.

Our numerical analyses therefore make customer applications more affordable or feasible in the first place.

Additive manufacturing

This innovative manufacturing process allows us to create components by building their 3D structure layer by layer. This means that complex 3D components can be monolithically produced with the utmost precision based on CAD data, without the need for multi-part assembly.

We use metal powder as a primary material, either with or without organic printing aids, depending on the process. Different pressing methods are also used depending on the material, the size of the component, and the component requirements:

  • Pure refractory metals can best be printed from the powder bed by direct consolidation. To do so, we use a high-energy laser or electron beam to melt the metal powder directly in a localized manner and thus build the component layer by layer: These processes are known as LPBF (Laser Powder Bed Fusion) or EBM (Electron Beam Melting).
  • Composites such as heavy metal alloys or WCu and MoCu can also be processed using alternative additive manufacturing processes. Appropriately alloyed or mixed metal powder is also used as the primary material here. In contrast to the binder-free LPBF or EBM processes, organic aids such as binders are used to create what is known as a green compact. The range of manufacturing processes based on organic aids is extensive and not every process is suitable for every material and component.

In addition to the pure manufacture of components from our materials, we also use other materials to improve our products or even manufacture them for the first time. By way of example, reusable masking can be printed for coating processes or complex joint connections can be protected against oxidation with protective gas nozzles developed and printed in-house. With our range of technologies in the field of additive manufacturing, we are making a contribution towards the development of increasingly complex assemblies made of our high performance materials.

If you have any questions about our research and development services, please do not hesitate to contact us:
  • Arno Plankensteiner

    Arno Plankensteiner

    Head of Corporate Research and Development

    +43 5672 600 2229