The Metal Inlay Process
Some of the more complex design applications of metal cladding involve metal inlay techniques. This approach of joining dissimilar metals provides greater flexibility of component design, allowing the diverse properties of those metals to be incorporated into the end product.
Clad metal inlays are created when a strip of one metal is bonded into a groove in another different metal or substrate.
In this way, materials such as bronze, nickel, copper, carbon steel, precious metals and stainless steel inlay strips can be located precisely where they are needed in a base metal. These inlay banding patterns allow the critical characteristics of these metals to be engineered into the end product, adding properties like thermal conductivity, elasticity, strength and hardness.
As opposed to overlay clad products, where the different materials overlap each other, inlay clad products are formed when the additional strips of metal are seated in a channel within the base material.
Metal inlay strips can be of varying sizes, cross sections and positions within the substrate. Please see below for examples of different inlay configurations produced by Vincent Metals Corporation.
Cladding vs Welding
The actual inlay process is carried out by pressing or rolling the metal inlay strips into the substrate using pressure and sometimes heat to bond them together. No fillers or adhesives are required. Inlay cladding has multiple benefits over other processes such as welding, plating and brazing, including the ability to use wrought alloys to make up composite designs.
Examples of Metal Inlays
Inlayed Clad metal is widely used in various demanding industrial applications such as automotive hybrid electronics, industrial switching and power conversion. A denser, harder, and more wear resistant surface can be achieved by metal cladding than with a plated surface, making metal inlays the best choice to be used in critical high-reliability applications and harsh environments.
- Aluminum inlay into copper for weld joints: allows welding of like materials to take place, for example on electrical items and Li-ion batteries. This means that aluminum can be welded to aluminum, or copper to copper, avoiding the issues brought about by trying to weld or braze two different materials together.
- Silver inlay into copper for electrical contacts: silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity properties of any metal; the copper adds strength and a higher melting point.
- Stainless steel inlay strips in copper for spring contacts: stainless steel is a good material for contacts, but it is expensive, so the copper reduces the cost, while adding strength and durability.
Benefits of Inlay Clads
|Ag into Cu||Conductivity/Thermal Transfer||Electrical contacts, Lead frame|
|Al into Cu||Al to Al; Cu to Cu Weld Joints||Various electrical, Li-ion battery|
|Stainless in Copper||Strength; BeCu alternative; Cost benefit||Spring contacts|
Graphical Representations of Inlay Cladding
Metal inlay strips can be positioned in different locations within a base material, according to the application requirements:
Let Vincent Metals Corporation help you to design the right metal inlay for your specific application.