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Author Topic: Modern blade technology  (Read 5102 times)

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Offline Woodland Artisan

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2009, 08:33:24 AM »
doing my research on ceramic blades, there's something that confuses me...

How can something almost as hard as diamond be so brittle? It seems to contradict itself...


Hardness and toughness are two different things.   A diamond is hard and tough not only because it has a whole lot of carbon in it (to say the least) but because of the arrangement of the atoms.  The way that I describe it to my traditional crafts students when we are forging tools/blades is this ....   When we go through the heat treating process with our steels, the hardening phase makes the steel "hard" but it is brittle.  Not very useful but at least it is hard.  To actually make that steel useful, we need to "temper" it ... or .... to make it a little less hard but more durable or tough.   We have to rearrange the internal structure of that hardened steel we just made by tempering.  It's not scientific, but easier to understand, maybe.  There is always (at least in most high carbon-based steels) a trade-off between hardness and toughness.  That's where the art of blade or tool making departs from the science of it.  Well, as long as you don't have computerized, automatized, galvanized, etc.  ;D   Getting that right combination of hardness but yet toughness for whatever you're making the tool/blade for is very very tricky and really comes mostly from experience.



Quote
What I think would help me a lot is if someone can refer me to documentation from any research facility or military organization describing the kinds of weapon/armor technologies currently in development...


Ummmm, .... yeah, me too!     :-\       



I just re-read your original post and realized that you were looking for something from todays' tech. and not for the (realistic) future.   Sorry about that.  But, I do think I said in my original post that ceramics weren't quite there but were something with promise within the next decade or so.  Powdered metal is closer than that.  Lots of tools made from that stuff today.  The only problem that they (the ceramics) have is their brittleness (which is far less of a concern than the original kitchen knives since the advent of better manufacturing, additives and the zirconium carbide base).  For an actual sword?  Ceramic blades shouldn't be too much of a problem (again, within a decade).  A military field knive where it's main use is anything other than actually attacking an opponent?  Probably not.

The larger issue is whether a sword or even a knife of any composition or size for a soldier to carry and use in combat is anywhere realistic.  The future of military combat is not personal (ie, within a 3' range).  Nor is it much in the 300' range.  It's 3000' to 3000 mile.  For your story, it's my belief that your soldier wouldn't find any swords or blades (or what we're all thinking of as a sword/blade) to steal in that military compound.  That's just not something they're going to have in preparation of a modern or future combat mission.

Now, as for an autonomous sword ...

Offline TKM

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2009, 12:12:19 PM »
see, the whole "swords for tomorrow's soldiers" thing is totally a work of fiction in my story. The realism comes with the "what if" part. What if resources ran so low, ammunition was a precious commodity, and the military needed a backup plan. If that situation were real, how would the military react?

Offline SirRichardBear

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2009, 09:01:50 PM »
Simon Green used an interesting idea to rational sword use in the future  Energy weapons that would punch through any armour but had a minute or longer to recharge.  Giving them the same rate of fire as flint lock which give a reason for solders to again carry swords.
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Offline TKM

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2009, 10:52:12 PM »
a sword with the rate of a flintlock? that sounds rather inconvenient, actually...
edit: I misread that. I thought at first you said the swords were made of energy. I know what you mean now.

Anyway, I've decided to go the path of either high durability ceramics (technology beyond what's currently available) or toy with the idea of making up my own fictional, but still reasonable material (like X-men did with Adamantium).

EDIT:
Here's a little mockup I did by making the sword roughly as i saw it in Anim8or (3D modeling program. I'm not that great at it.) and editing it onto a screenshot of my character made in the City of Heroes character creator, wearing an approximate example of what his high-tech armor would look like.

The two swords on the right; the one on top is what the white ceramic blade would look like in sufficient light (it's got my character's hand on it).
The one on the bottom is the one made with the lighting to better fit my character's screenshot. The bottom image shows the handle a little better.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2009, 02:09:53 AM by TKM »

Offline ALS

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2009, 11:05:00 AM »
The problem with powdered metal and ceramics as Woodland stated is that no one has done a sword out of either and the stresses a sword undergoes during use are very different that those of a knife. If you watch a cutting demo with a sword in slow motion ( I think the best i've ever seen is on a watermelon with a mid 19th century ( I think its the 1852 ) Englich heavry cavalry saber ) you will see that it flexes both in the horizontal ( slightly) and in the verticle ( quite radically on the half of the blade on the front end of the cut ). In the verticle it will flex up and down a number of times as the vibration is transmitted out of the blade till it comes to rest ( please note this takes place in the span of no more than a second or so). Knives simply don't undergo this kind of strees because they're not 2.5 to 3 feet long or better in some cases. Temper is how the balance between the tough and hard Woodland mentioned is achieved. The tempering process has several steps the quench in your chosen medium being just one, untlimately looking to combine hard, for edge retention and cutting ability and tough, for strength to withstand the stress of imacts and bends which occure during impact. Temper is an amazing thing when well done. I've seen the guys at Albion Swords put a blade in a vise and bend it WELL past 90 degrees and have that blade return to absolute true ( straight ) because of a good temper. Over the centuries there have been some pretty ingeniuos methods employed to combine really hard edges with really tough cores on swords to be great cutters and take the strees of impact. In Dark age and Viking era Europe a core of twisted iron bars was wrapped with steel and forged out yielding a very hard edge and a tough core ( you cannot temper iron but its really tough ), this process is called pattern welding. Axes were often done in a similar fashion with atough body and steel cutting edge forge welded on. There are smiths doing this today, its a real pain in the weed puller and far more difficult than forge welding to make up a billet of steel for a blade ( much more exacting hammer control ). The Japanese developed a type of differential heat treat which yielded the " hamon " or that ghostly pale line just along the edge of the blade. The edge was coated in clay prior to heating for heat treatment and quenching, when the blade was quenched the edge cooled at a different rate than the body of the blade. This did two things 1) the katana curved as the steel conracts during the quench ( Katana are straight prior to this process) 2) the edge is much, much harder than the body of the blade, thus the blade is hard on the edge but tough in the body.

Ceramics are just hard, very hard, they don't flex ( throw you're dinner plate and the wall and see how it bends ). What I have read and heard about powdered metal is that it makes excellent smaller blades but the hardness that gives excellent edge retention makes it ill suited for longer blades currently as there is more flex stress the longer the blade and the hard, which is brittle , will crack or snap. Take the afore mentioned Japanese katana, the hardness of the edge that was achieved on period katana was such that they were some what brittle, in the Japanses school of fence, parrying with the flat of the blade rather than the edge is highly emphasized as the edge is so hard/bittle that while it cuts amazingly, impacts on it can actually shatter chunks out of it, obviously highly undesirable. A sword has to both have a hard edge to cut but be able to bend under the stress of cutting impact and thus far steels are the only thing that have yeilded that combination, at least in the several thousand years. While nothings impossible, there may be future developements in ceramics or powdered metals to incorperate more flex, I am unaware of any such today. 

Offline Woodland Artisan

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2009, 11:55:44 AM »
see, the whole "swords for tomorrow's soldiers" thing is totally a work of fiction in my story. The realism comes with the "what if" part. What if resources ran so low, ammunition was a precious commodity, and the military needed a backup plan. If that situation were real, how would the military react?


Ahhh, I see now.  OK.


This doesn't help with your story but ...

A military contingency plan?  Very interesting question.   Hmmm.   If ammunition is scarce, I would also think that any sort of body armour would be too.  Although most ammunition today is made up of metal and other things, it takes far fewer resources (materials as well as effort or skill) to produce them than a sword or long-knive, especially in large quantities as a military would need.

I would think that the first reaction, in such a scenario, is for the military/government to make ammunition (or resources to make that item) scarce for anyone other than the military.  Preserving resources (ammunition in this case) for themselves first.  Assuming that, then non-military (or other smaller militaries) will have a shortage far quicker and will have to (I guess) come up with alternatives first.  What would that be?  Well, can we assume that the reason for the ammunition shortage is because of a lack of metals?  Propellant?  Manufacturing shops?  Electricity to make them?  Lubrication for the machines in the ammunition plant?  and so on ....   It really depends on what is actually in short supply as to what the non-military would come up with as an alternative.  Continuing on with this ... whatever the non-military (or even other military establishments ... other countries) comes up with as an alternative will have to be countered by the military which may or may not be satisfied with ammunition that they have stock-piled.  Quite the mess, eh?  hehe

My inclination is that the premise is wrong.  A shortage of ammunition for the military, for whatever reason, would not result in Kevlar body armour and swords to be stockpiled and relied upon by the military.  Even with a terrible breakdown in all sectors of society, I can not conceive of an advantage to using swords.  Rather, I see a more likely response for the military is to simply change the composition of the ammunition or how it is made.

But, again, that's not along the lines of your story and doesn't do much good other than just "hmmmm".

Offline TKM

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2009, 07:05:22 PM »
I guess "ammo is scarce" isn't exactly the right phrasing. In this setting, government and society are hanging by very thin threads, and big corporations (including the company that's making these military weapons) have more money than the government, and therefor have more political power. Company presidents and CEOs hold political offices. There may or may not really be a high demand for combat blade development, but whatever the reason, it was being worked on, and my character stole what they had.

The armor is relevant regardless, as it's mostly bulletproof as well as tear resistant. Remember in the new Batman movies, when Morgan Freeman's character was showing Bruce Wayne that body armor and describing how top of the line it was? Saying it was about $100,000 per unit which is why it wasn't in mass production yet? Well, that's what sparked my idea. This research facility was developing something just like that, and my hero got his hands on it.

Offline escherblacksmith

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2009, 08:49:08 AM »
I think then, research for such a thing (beyond high-tech bowie knives) would probably be along a special forces sort of weaponary.  Limited scope, used for clandestine missions, etc.  So, then a sword would not necessarily be a sword for sword on sword combat, but more of an assassination tool.  Or very quiet combat tool. 

Which would tend to push it into the breakdownable, non-metallic item.  Maybe a gravo-magnetic oriented microfilament 'blade'.  I think someone did that in one of the Ringworld books . . . maybe a Kzin.

Anyhoo, unless you are giving it some sort of drive or reason to exist, a tradition history (e.g. Katana), a honor history (modern duels or gladiators), or some specific thing they are good for (fighting the fae, killing zombies, pancreas sticking, etc).  Then it is pretty much a crap-shoot to decide the evolution to whatever blade might be being worked on in a secret government/corporate lab.

As someone who reads an awful lot of this sort of book, I can tell you it is terribly annoying to see something jarring in the milieu.

But, as always, YMMV.
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Offline Woodland Artisan

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2009, 12:57:00 PM »
Ceramics are just hard, very hard, they don't flex ( throw you're dinner plate and the wall and see how it bends ).


While that statement makes an interesting visual, it's quite an overstatement in relation to ceramic blades.  Take a look at the videos on the web showing people throwing and dropping their ceramic kitchen knives (usually from Boker or Kyocera) onto tile floors or brick walls without breakage.  Some videos do show some breakage, tips chipping, etc. but show me comparable steel knives that will suffer no damage from that abuse either.  It is completely true that current-technology ceramic blades are *more prone* to some breakage/brittleness than quality steel blades are.  No big deal in the long run because it's just one aspect that has to be overcome ... just like steel blades are *more prone* to corrosion.  That's just something that's been overcome (mostly) with additives to the steel.

Take a look at the LEO and military ceramic knives out there to see just how tough ceramic blades can be.  Kevins' Mirage X line is a good example.  During lunch I just called a buddy in South Carolina that I figured knew of these types of knives and, indeed, he has the Mirage X Operator.  He's used it in hunting , camping, diving and his job for 5 years now without problems.  And he uses it just like he does his other (steel) knives.  He even said that he has used it sometimes to chop wood for the campfire and punch out holes in sheet steal.  He's impressed by it and still has yet to sharpen it.  I asked him to compare that knife and the kitchen knives.  He said "No comparison.  They're really generations apart, completely differently ground and the blade thickness is so much thicker."  If it weren't for the cost, I'd be tempted to get one myself.

And, ceramic blade technology is still in its' infancy stage.  Of course, this and the other ceramic blades being made are just what we know about.   ;)

Offline ALS

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2009, 02:38:36 PM »
Quote
While that statement makes an interesting visual, it's quite an overstatement in relation to ceramic blades.  Take a look at the videos on the web showing people throwing and dropping their ceramic kitchen knives (usually from Boker or Kyocera) onto tile floors or brick walls without breakage.  Some videos do show some breakage, tips chipping, etc. but show me comparable steel knives that will suffer no damage from that abuse either.  It is completely true that current-technology ceramic blades are *more prone* to some breakage/brittleness than quality steel blades are.  No big deal in the long run because it's just one aspect that has to be overcome ... just like steel blades are *more prone* to corrosion.  That's just something that's been overcome (mostly) with additives to the steel.

I understand what your point is but droping something 10-12" long on the floor and banging something 2.5-3 feet long off something else just as hard creates completley different stresses, then repeat this action multiple, possibly dozens of times in a minute over the course of sword play. Swords are very specifically build tools, i've sat and listened to Peter Johnson, swords designer for Albion swords and pretty much acknowleged to be the best living expert on the medieval sword talk for hours about how much conscious thought went into making swords to take exactly this into account, caught only a fraction and am still dizzied by how involved design was from the little I picked up. The way the shoudlers of the blade are shaped and how they are set into the quillions is quite specific and done especially because it is the point of maximum force/shock absorbtion in and impact as force travels down the blade. The not uncommon tang failures of the cheaper Pacific rim made swords are exactly because the shouldering of the blade and seating of it in the hilt are not properly designed to absorb and distribute that force transmition ( the quillions act as a stop for the transmition of vibration so lack of proper strength at that point can and does result in tang failure). You also get into things like vibration nodes, the location of which will yield the point of percussion on the blade. Where this point is also factors into stress produced by impact. Starting off with a hard, brittle material as the construct for a sword blade, based on what I know from talkign with makers, using blades in WMA and owning a fair number of period blades as well as handeling some pretty prestigious blades in other collections ( four of the swords that are in Ewart Oakeshott's book Records of the Medieval swords belong to a friend of mine up the road) has taught me that an appreciable level of flex, in the case on steel blades produced by controlled tempering is absolutely neccessary to prevent critical failure during use.

You are writting a work of fiction, the odds that some one, anyone will even investigate the science you put forward, whatever you decide that to be is virtually nil, this leaves you free to do pretty much as you want, you have a theoretical basis for an idea that you seem to like, a ceramic bladed sword, the ceramic is the current technology, the sword is the fiction, thus science fiction, ideas based on fact at some level with the possibilites of what could be given time, is exactly what science fiction is. You have a sound idea inside the sci-fi genre for this particular piece of your puzzel. My area of expirience is in the arms and armour arena, what we know today about swords in that context makes the idea of a ceramic sword blade not workable with current technoligies, but 15-20 years from now who's to say. If you'd told tank designers during WWII that within 15 years expiriements with ceramic armour rather than steel for tanks would be going on ( a fairly common feature on AVFs today) they would have laughed at you. Forget that the body armour of soldiers would use it.

Offline Harbinger

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2009, 03:21:34 PM »
Though I got to the thread a bit late it seems....

for what it's worth Angus Trim make a line of tactical swords for "when the bullets run out"
which are kind of kewl, a modern take on swords http://www.angustrimdirect.com/tacswords.htm
been eying the tactical longsword myself.

also Angel Sword has a good deal of information on the formation of "Techno Wootz", a modern Damascus
steel, its a good read, http://www.angelsword.com/


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Offline ALS

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #26 on: March 03, 2009, 04:06:58 PM »
Techno Wotz is pretty much buring steel to achieve the pattern found in either pattern welded steel or true wotz from Persia. Itn another way to achieve that swirling pattern in the steel. True wotz is a higher quaility steel from the region but the appearence can be created with pattern welding or the technique used for " Techno  Wotz ".

Offline Harbinger

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2009, 04:21:08 PM »
The AngelSword doc indicates the "Techno Wootz" its a bit more than buring the steel, seems to
involve the carbon content, as well as crystallization, but I'm not a metallurgist,
so no clue, just like I said a good read, esp the stuff from the UT engineering
department.

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Offline Woodland Artisan

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2009, 04:31:51 PM »
You are writting a work of fiction, the odds that some one, anyone will even investigate the science you put forward, whatever you decide that to be is virtually nil, this leaves you free to do pretty much as you want, you have a theoretical basis for an idea that you seem to like, a ceramic bladed sword, the ceramic is the current technology, the sword is the fiction, thus science fiction, ideas based on fact at some level with the possibilites of what could be given time, is exactly what science fiction is. You have a sound idea inside the sci-fi genre for this particular piece of your puzzel. My area of expirience is in the arms and armour arena, what we know today about swords in that context makes the idea of a ceramic sword blade not workable with current technoligies, but 15-20 years from now who's to say. If you'd told tank designers during WWII that within 15 years expiriements with ceramic armour rather than steel for tanks would be going on ( a fairly common feature on AVFs today) they would have laughed at you. Forget that the body armour of soldiers would use it.


*I* am not the one writing.  TKM is.   He asked for modern blade technology.  The tired steel/alloys technology has very little future for military use.  A great past?  Certainly.  Solid contemporary use?  Limited to auxillary items.

Given his particular story and graphic needs, it appears to me that he's needing these characteristics for a modern military "sword" ...

- A different look.  How different and exciting is the same, boring steel blade look we see in movies, pictures and books?  Sure, give it some texturing, etching, bluing, or other effect but, still, it's basically the same look as in hundreds of other pictures.  Powdered metal can be made with a slightly different look but not enough to see unless closeup.

- Mass production.  No way, no how are forged blades (especially an actual full sword!) realistically going to be made in mass quantities.  Ceramic blades?  Basically "poured", pressed, fired and finished in mass quantities today in automated assembly line fashion.  Same goes with Powdered metal technology.

- Something that will cut something like the Kevlar body armour he mentioned and keep cutting with little sharpening needed.  Ceramics, even today, are perfect for that.  Steel doesn't even come close to either of those requirements when compared to ceramic blades.  I use purpose-made ceramic scissors to cut Kevlar wrapped fiber optic cables, for example.

- General military use:  chemically inert, electrically safe, non-corrosive, light-weight, non-magnetic.  Ceramics hands-down.

- Size:  A full, long, sword length is something that TKM will have to decide upon himself.  Doesn't seem realistic to me for his story.  Why on Earth would someone (actually, a somewhat futuristic corporate/military establishment in his story) today or near future even consider such a thing?  I would think that a shorter sword or long knife is far more realistic.  More of a long battle knife (10" long max?) is what I could see being advantageous given his scenario.  But, that's up to TKM to decide for his story.  If TKM must have a long sword within a 5 year time-frame, I'd say he needs to look into some sort of old laminated steel technology.  Otherwise, there are other realistic, modern alternatives.  Given just a short time and a real need for it (which is a huge stretch, I believe), TKMs' corporate/military complex would be using the powdered metal or (more likely) some sort of ceramic blade technology.  There's just far too many advantages for them to not exploit that.  Of course, that's technology just up to about 30 years from now.  Beyond that, there are other things that might have developed to challenge all of that.


If we're snapping back into reality of actual modern combat, I'll say what I said before .... knives and "swords" have no use in near-to-far future military combat.  It won't be personal (3' range) and "swords" have no place.  I'll say it again, steel and most alloy steel blade technology isn't modern.  Great for the tools and knives that I make, though.

Offline ALS

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Re: Modern blade technology
« Reply #29 on: March 03, 2009, 06:03:47 PM »
Quote
The AngelSword doc indicates the "Techno Wootz" its a bit more than buring the steel, seems to
involve the carbon content, as well as crystallization, but I'm not a metallurgist,
so no clue, just like I said a good read, esp the stuff from the UT engineering
department.

I've simplified what Danny Watson, the owner explained to me when I did a few shows with him a coupla years back.

 

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