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May 2006 edition

Corrosion-resistant steel heralds new landing gear era

By Rod Smith

Field tests are scheduled this summer in the US on a high-strength corrosion-resistant steel that could make landing gear stronger, safer and lower-maintenance.

Ferrium S53, made of 10 per cent chromium, is being tested as a potential replacement for high-strength steel in current use. Current steel requires chromium or cadmium surface treatments to protect it from corrosion. Scientists say that this coating process itself introduces hydrogen that contributes to metal cracking.

Development testing of Ferrium S53 started more than three years ago. The US Department of Defence’s Environmental Security technology programme authorised funding for the development and certification of the Illinois-based QuesTek’s S53 for use in landing gear.

Dr Herb Ward, chair of the DoD’s Strategic Environmental Research Development Programme’s Scientific Advisory Board said then that QuesTek’s “computational design methodology reduced the development time from over a decade to just a few years at roughly five per cent of the normal development costs.”

S53 was developed with only five prototypes over two years reportedly providing development cost savings of about $50 million. These ‘materials’ prototypes are bars of the alloy being developed for the landing gear. The first prototype of the landing gear is now under refinement.

Researchers are said to have developed one ‘materials’ prototype within 12 months, using only $100,000 of DoD funding provided through the Strategic Environmental Research....

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