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Tiny particles may make huge difference at Eck Industries

MANITOWOC An iPod Nano easily fits in one’s hand and has helped dramatically transform how one listens to music.

The silicon carbide particles put into nanocomposite castings at Eck Industries are far smaller impossible to see with the naked eye and may be just as revolutionary.

“We’re putting 30-nanometer particles in aluminum,” said David Weiss, vice-president of sales and engineering at the foundry, 1602 N. Eighth St., founded in 1948.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (39 inches) so these particles are incredibly small tinier than a cold virus particle, Weiss said.

But when part of different aluminum alloys, the silicon carbide nanoparticles may help create castings with the potential of twice the strength at half the weight.

That can translate into huge cost savings if the casted part is, for example, part of a diesel engine that may be in a mass transit bus or a military tank or other vehicle.

“To get a gallon of fuel into the back country of Afghanistan may cost $400,” Weiss said. The more fuel-efficient the vehicle with lighter weight a major contributing factor the lower “delivered fuel cost in war theater.”

Eck Industries is part of a federally funded project team titled, “Transformational Casting Technology for Fabrication of Ultra-High Performance Lightweight Aluminum and Magnesium Nanocomposites.”

In a university news release, Madison professor Xiaochun Li, said, “If successful, the commercial-scale production of these metal nanocomposites will enable transformative changes in multiple industries.

“(Nanocomposite technology) will directly address the critical national needs of reducing oil dependency, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining U.S. leadership in manufacturing,” Li said.

‘Think outside of the box’

Tyler Eck, is the fourth-generation in the privately owned family business begun by G.E. William, then run by Robert W., with Phil, 59, the current president.

“It has been exciting times, especially to see the transition of the company over the past 35 years,” Phil Eck said. “Future challenges will be even greater.”

Tiny particles may make huge difference at Eck Industries