Effect of cooling circuit duration on formation of solidification shrinkage in A356 casting automative wheels
Low Pressure Die Casting (LPDC) process is one the most common casting process to produce structural automotive components, such as alloy wheels and suspension components. It has been identified that cavity filling and solidification process are two most critical aspects to produce premium quality casting components.During the solidification process of casting alloy, it is a well known phenomenon that metal experiences volumetric shrinkage due to its density difference between liquid and solid phase. When this volumetric shrinkage is not properly compensated, then a casting defect commonly known as solidification shrinkage occurs. The solidification shrinkage has very detrimental effects on structural integrity required for premium quality casting such as aluminium alloy wheels.Literature and practical experiences of foundry men show that it is critical to achieve unidirectional solidification pattern by avoiding an isolated hot spot in order to minimise the solidification shrinkage. However, it is found that the geometry of industrial casting applications is often constrained by other design factors that would not naturally avoid these isolated hot spots. The subject of this research, aluminium alloy wheels, is not excluded from this constraint.In aluminium alloy wheels, an isolated hot spot is commonly observed in an area known as rim and spoke junction due to its geometry constraints. Consequently, the solidification shrinkage is commonly experienced, which is undesirable due to its detrimental effects for the structural integrity of alloy wheels. In order to minimise the solidification shrinkage, forced cooling method is applied to avoid an isolated hot spot. The control of this forced cooling is achieved by cooling media, flow rate of cooling media and duration cooling circuit. Foundry experiments in industrial environment were conducted producing aluminium alloy wheels using commercially treated A356 (Al-Si) alloy, where different durations of cooling circuit were used to understand the sensitivity of solidification shrinkage formation to the duration of cooling circuit. This was followed by metallurgical structure analysis and numerical modelling to suggest the sensitivity of cooling circuit duration in controlling solidification shrinkage.The major finding conclusion of this research is that control of the shrinkage formation is not very sensitive to the duration cooling circuit. It is suggested that as casting solidifies initially from the mould wall, it retracts away from the cast-mould interface due to thermal contraction. Consequently, air gap is formed between casting and mould interface, creating an effective thermal resistance layer. Thereafter, heat transfer across the cast-mould interface is not sensitive to the change in the cooling channel which is a distance to the cast-mould interface.Some limitations of numerical modelling and metallurgical analysis were also identified during this research and recommendations were made to improve the accuracy of local hot spot prediction in production of aluminium alloy wheels. More specifically, numerical modelling of the effect of grain refinement and use of non homogeneous material property (particularly fraction of solid) for rapidly chilled area. Fraction of eutectic rather than secondary dendrites arm spacing is a proper microstructure parameter that can be used to locate the hot spot.