Siavashi, Kiavash (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The Lost Foam Casting process has been firmly established for Aluminium and ferrous alloys. This process offers many advantages over conventional casting processes but its full potential has yet to be reached due to the many defects introduced to the casting associated with decomposition of the foam pattern during mould filling. The foam pattern commonly used in this process is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) which degrades to liquid and vapour byproducts. The liquid decomposition byproducts travel to the metal/mould interface, where the globules of liquid foam can become trapped against the coating and their molecular weight is reduced due to the heat from the molten metal. At the same time, they release bubbles of gas into the castings. These globules can wick into the refractory coating only if their molecular weight is sufficiently reduced to below a critical molecular weight.
In this study, to improve the quality of Aluminium alloys made by Lost Foam Casting, easier removal of the decomposition byproducts was obtained by using low molecular weight foam patterns. The molecular weight of expanded Polystyrene was not reduced when it was exposed to γ-rays because of cross-linking while the molecular weight of Poly Methyl Methacrylate (PMMA) was significantly due to chain session. Therefore, plates of Probead-70™ (a copolymer of Polystyrene 30 wt %-Poly Methyl Methacrylate 70 wt %) were exposed to γ-rays and reduced their molecular weight by up to about 85% below the critical molecular weight value. With low molecular weight foam patterns the decomposition byproducts require less reduction to reach the critical molecular weight to become absorbed by the coating, and consequently less defects are introduced into the casting. γ-radiation was employed to reduce the molecular weight of the foam. The porosity content of the castings was significantly reduced leading to an improvement of their mechanical properties such as their fatigue life which was increased by 100%.
Lost Foam Casting has also been reported to experience complexities with fluidity. Misrun is likely to occur in Lost Foam Casting due to the formation of a large amount of gas at the metal/foam interface, increasing the back pressure, compared to the conventional castings. This reduces the velocity of the molten metal which might lead to solidification of the molten metal before filling the mould entirely.
In the current work, a reproducible fluidity test was designed and the effects of different casting parameters on fluidity were examined. In some of the castings inserted thermocouples were employed to study the filling behaviour to determine the velocity of molten metal, thickness of the metal/foam interface and the time of freezing. It was concluded that it is not recommended to alter the coating thickness in order to improve fluidity, because the effect of coating thickness depends on the pouring temperature of the castings and permeability of the coating. The metallostatic pressure was found to affect the fluidity insignificantly (within the values in the current work, 2600-2700 Pa). Instead, increasing coating permeability, decreasing the density of the foam pattern and increasing the pouring temperature were found to increase the fluidity in Lost Foam Casting. However the effect of increasing pouring temperature and decreasing foam density may be detrimental to the quality of castings. The molecular weight of the foam pattern and the use of brominated foam patterns did not have a considerable effect on fluidity in Lost Foam Casting.
It was also found that solidification in the Lost Foam Casting occurs at the metal/foam interface. A heat balance between the molten metal and the mould, and the foam pattern, was developed to give a fluidity equation to aid interpretation of the fluidity results.
In summary, this research has provided a better understanding of the effect of casting parameters on the fluidity of Lost Foam Casting and the heat transfer from the molten metal to the foam pattern and to the mould. In addition, the quality of AL alloys castings was improved by reducing the molecular weight of the foam pattern used in the Lost Foam Casting process.
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