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Silicon Aluminums and Metal Matrix Composites combine high strength and light weight for many applications. “Aluminum” engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission cases, etc, are made of aluminum alloys that include silicon for strength. The silicon makes the material very abrasive and the only practical way to machine these parts is with diamond tools. The issue is compounded with Metal Matrix Composites (MMCs). These are generally aluminum alloys combined with a high content of silicon carbide whiskers for reinforcement. Machining such materials has been likened to machining a grinding wheel. (MMC photos courtesy of Swan Metal Composites)