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Battaglia, Eleonora (2018) Correlations between defect content, microstructure and casting quality in HPDC AlSi alloys. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Two are the key players of this doctoral thesis: secondary AlSi alloys and the High Pressure Die Casting (HPDC) process.
As the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses increase, the industry sector is called to reduce the emissions produced and to contain the energy consumptions. Therefore, secondary Al ingot production shows a 6% annual rate growth, mainly drawn by the transport sector.
In particular, automotive industry and, in general, transportation one increasingly needs light components in order to reduce total weights and therefore limit harmful emissions and fuel consumption. To this end, HPDC process is getting more and more crucial. It is, on one hand, versatile and highly productive but, on the other, the elevated amount of defects found in the castings sometimes compromises the characteristics of the final product.
The research activities performed during the Ph.D. years focused on the High Pressure Die Casting (HPDC) process and the assessment of the correlations between process parameters, casting quality and mechanical response improvement. The research work comprises three interconnected topics: (i) the effect of the process on the casting quality in terms of defect generation and eutectic Si morphology, (ii) how defects and microstructure influence the mechanical response of the components and (iii) how the mechanical properties can be improved through specific heat treatments.
The thesis starts dealing with the work developed within the EU MUSIC project aimed at transforming a production-rate-dominated manufacturing process into a quality/efficiency-driven and integration-oriented one. In the frame of the EU MUSIC project, an investigation procedure was developed which led to the definition of preliminary correlations between process parameters, defect content and static mechanical properties obtained analyzing both reference castings and commercialized industrial demonstrators.
A specific focus was always devoted to the possible industrial application in order to narrow down the gap between academic research and industry.
The second section deals with the definition of a so-called Penalty Index based on FE simulation model and fractographic investigations. It gave satisfactory predictions of both static strength and fatigue life of castings based on defect locations on the fracture surfaces and their projected areas. The elaborated criterion gives good results even though it does not take into account the real morphology of defects (which can be a very complex 3D morphology in the case of irregular flaws); its main drawback is that it is a "post-mortem" application. However, this limit can be overcome thanks to the wider diffusion of industrial high-resolution Computed Tomography (CT).
The third section is mainly dedicated to the study of HPDC microstructure. Two secondary Al-Si alloys, an AlSi12(b) and an AlSi12Cu1(Fe), were used to produce HPDCs. In both cases, there was an evident non-homogeneity of the microstructure, in particular of the eutectic Si morphology which could be correlated, to some extent, to the different as-cast mechanical response of the castings. Heat treatments at 350°C and soaking times ranging from1 to 8 hours were performed
Mechanical testing, hardness and metallographic investigations were carried out in order to understand the effect of the heat treatments. Microstructural observations using OM, SEM, TEM and EBSD investigations were also performed.
Based on the obtained results, the heat treating procedure was effective since it did not cause surface blistering (a real issue in the heat treatment of die castings) or component distortion.
The visible mechanical improvement in terms of both static and fatigue response was determined by Si crystals’ size and morphology. Thanks to heat treatment, the Si particle morphology changed from an interconnected ‘network’ to a more fragmented and smooth one. In terms of mechanical behavior, from a rapid crack propagation which led to a drastic reduction of the load-bearing area during the component use, the heat treatment caused a less instantaneous failure since the crack had to propagate through the ductile Al matrix.
The best solution was assessed and proposed to obtain significant mechanical properties and low costs.
Preliminary lab tests aimed at verifying the effect on the eutectic Si of common alloying elements such as Cu and Fe were finally conducted. A small mold was designed and manufactured in order to produce castings with solidification velocities comparable with those typical of the HPDC process. The base alloy was an AlSi12(b) ingot which was melt and several elements (i.e. Cu, Fe, Mn) were added to reach the AlSi12Cu1(Fe) alloy ranges. A refining effect of Cu was observed, however further investigations are necessary in order to better understand its joined effect with Fe.
This doctoral thesis deals with a complex topic; a high number of sequential actions are involved in the process. This is the reason why the developed work brought interesting and useful results, but it can also be considered a starting point for further investigations. Further analyses can be conducted to understand the causes of the non-uniform eutectic Si morphology and the nature of the Si precipitates within the α-Al phase as well as an enhancement of the elaborated Penalty Index can be obtained.

Abstract (italian)

In questa tesi di dottorato vengono presi in considerazione due principali aspetti: le leghe AlSi secondarie e il processo di pressocolata (HPDC).
Poiché i livelli di CO2 e gas serra sono in continuo aumento, il settore industriale è chiamato a ridurre le emissioni prodotte e contenere i consumi energetici. Perciò la produzione di Alluminio secondario mostra un aumento annuale del 6%, trainato principalmente dal settore dei trasporti.
In particolare, l'industria automotive e, in generale, quella dei trasporti necessitano sempre più di componenti leggeri al fine di ridurre i pesi totali e di conseguenza limitare le emissioni dannose ed il consumo di carburante. A questo fine, il processo di pressocolata sta diventando sempre più cruciale. Esso, da un lato, è versatile e altamente produttivo, ma dall'altro l'elevata quantità di difetti che si possono trovare nei getti talvolta compromette le caratteristiche finali dei getti.
L'attività di ricerca condotta durante gli anni di dottorato si è focalizzata sul processo di pressocolata e la valutazione delle correlazioni tra parametri di processo, qualità dei getti e miglioramento della risposta meccanica. Il lavoro di ricerca comprende tre argomenti interconnessi: (i) l'effetto del processo sulla qualità dei getti in termini di generazione di difetti e morfologia del Silicio, (ii) come difetti e microstruttura influenzano la risposta meccanica dei componenti e (iii) come le proprietà meccaniche possono essere migliorate attraverso specifici trattamenti termici.
La tesi inizia riportando il lavoro svolto nell'ambito del progetto ricerca Europeo MUSIC finalizzato a trasformare un processo dominato dal livello produttivo in uno guidato da qualità, efficienza ed integrazione. Nel contesto del progetto MUSIC, è stata sviluppata una procedura di indagine in grado di portare alla definizione di alcune correlazioni preliminari tra parametri di processo, contenuto difettologico e proprietà meccaniche statiche ottenute analizzando sia getti di riferimento sia dimostratori industriali già in produzione.
E' stato dedicato un focus particolare alle possibili applicazioni industriali al fine di restringere il divario tra ricerca accademica e industria.
Nella seconda sezioni si procede alla definizione di un così detto Indice di Penalità basato sulla simulazione FEM e l'analisi frattografica. Esso ha dato correlazioni significative sia con le proprietà meccaniche statiche che a fatica dei getti basandosi sulla posizione dei difetti sulla superficie di frattura e le relative aree proiettate. Il criterio elaborato fornisce buoni risultati anche se non consente di prendere in considerazione la reale morfologia dei difetti (che può essere molto complessa nel caso di difetti irregolari); il principale svantaggio del criterio è il fatto che si tratti di un'applicazione "post-mortem". Tuttavia, il limite potrà essere superato grazie alla vasta diffusione della Tomografia Computerizzata industriale.
La terza sezione della tesi è dedicata principalmente allo studio della microstruttura di getti pressocolati. Sono state utilizzate due leghe secondarie, AlSi12(b) e AlSi12Cu1(Fe), per la produzione dei getti. In entrambi i casi si è riscontrata una notevole disomogeneità della microstruttura, in particolare della morfologia del Si correlabile, in parte, alle differenti risposte meccaniche dei getti allo stato as-cast.
Sono stati quindi condotti trattamenti termici a 350°C per tempi variabili dall'1 alle 8 ore. Sono state quindi condotte prove meccaniche, di durezza e analisi metallografiche al fine di capire l'effetto dei trattamenti termici. Si sono svolte analisi microstrutturali tramite microscopio ottico, SEM, TEM e EBSD.
Sulla base dei risultati ottenuti, la procedura di trattamento termico è stata valutata efficace dal momento che, in primo luogo, non si sono causati blister sulla superficie dei getti o distorsione dei getti. L'evidente miglioramento meccanico sia statico che a fatica è stato determinato dalla dimensione e morfologia dei cristalli di Silicio. A seguito del trattamento termico, si è verificata una modifica del delle particelle di Si e il passaggio da una morfologia interconnessa ad una più frammentata e arrotondata. In termini di risposta meccanica, da una propagazione rapida che porta ad un cedimento drastico dell'area resistente del componente, si è passati ad una rottura meno istantanea per effetto della propagazione della cricca attraverso la matrice duttile di Alluminio.
E' stata valutata e proposta la soluzione migliore in grado di fornire un buon compromesso tra risposta meccanica e costi contenuti.
Sono stati quindi condotti esperimenti preliminari in laboratorio al fine di verificare l'effetto sul Si eutettico di alliganti comuni quali Cu e Fe. Tramite la costruzione di un piccolo stampo in grado di fornire velocità di raffreddamento comparabili a quelle della pressocolata si sono condotti studi sulle due leghe sopracitate. Si è osservato un effetto affinante dovuto al Cu, tuttavia ulteriori analisi sono necessarie per approfondire l'effetto del Fe.
La tesi riguarda perciò una tematica complessa; nel processo di pressocolata sono richieste un numero elevato di azioni consecutive. Questo è il motivo per cui la ricerca condotta ha portato risultati interessati e utili, ma deve allo stesso tempo essere considerata un punto di partenza per ulteriori approfondimenti. Saranno necessarie nel futuro ulteriori analisi ed indagini.

EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Bonollo, Franco
Data di deposito della tesi:11 January 2018
Anno di Pubblicazione:11 January 2018
Key Words:High pressure die casting; secondary Aluminum alloys; process parameters; defects; mechanical testing; FE analysis; penalization criterion
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 09 - Ingegneria industriale e dell'informazione > ING-IND/21 Metallurgia
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Tecnica e Gestione dei Sistemi Industriali
Codice ID:10644
Depositato il:08 Nov 2018 11:09
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