In a statement released yesterday, Delphi Automotive Systems, Troy, Mich., and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have successfully implemented nickel aluminide heat-treat fixtures developed jointly under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). Researchers at the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) invented the nickel aluminide alloy in an effort to develop heat resistant materials leading to more energy efficient processes. The alloy has a highly ordered structure, which contributes to a property where the alloy gets stronger as it is heated to around 900ÝC. Delphi engineers worked with ORNL to apply the material in Delphi's heat treat facilities, replacing steel rack assemblies that over time were less tolerant of high heat and resulted in production delays. The assemblies hold automotive parts to be heat treated and consist of trays, support posts and fixtures. Together, Delphi and ORNL developed a nickel aluminide fixture casting process, modified the alloy to optimize its manufacturability and performance under typical heat treating furnace operations conditions, and tested and evaluated prototype parts.