Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118

Failure modes in field-tested brass die casting dies
Anders Persson a,∗ , Sture Hogmark b , Jens Bergström a
a

Department of Materials Engineering, Karlstad University, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden b The Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University, SE-751 21 Uppsala, Sweden

Received 30 June 2003; received in revised form 30 June 2003; accepted 15 January 2004

Abstract Tools for die casting of, for example, brass and aluminium alloys are exposed to severe thermal, mechanical, and chemical conditions. The performance and service life of the die components are limited because of reasons such as thermal fatigue cracking, erosion, corrosion, soldering, and gross fracture. To minimise these damages, the dies are normally made of hot work tool steel. This study aims at elucidating the life-limiting failure mechanisms in dies aimed for brass die casting. Two cavity inserts and eight cores of two hot work tool steels, quenched and tempered to different conditions, were examined and evaluated with respect to failure mechanisms after use in actual brass die casting. It was found that the dominating failure mechanism in the investigated tools was thermal fatigue cracking. The thermal fatigue crack initiation is associated to accumulation of the local plastic strain that occurs during each casting cycle, typical of a low-cycle fatigue process. The initial growth of the thermal cracks is facilitated by oxidation of the crack surfaces, and proceeded growth is facilitated by additional oxidation in combination with crack filling of cast material, and by softening of the tool material. The most striking observation was a mechanism of crack growth promotion that involves a local enrichment of Pb from the brass alloy melt at the crack front. Consequently, in addition to increasing the overall tool steel yield strength and/or oxidation resistance, there is a potential to improve the tool life either by removing or substituting the Pb in the brass casting alloy with any non-harmful element, or using a tool material not susceptible to Pb embrittlement. © 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V.
Keywords: Failure mechanisms; Thermal fatigue; Hot work tool steel; Die casting; Field test; Brass

1. Introduction Die casting of brass is an industrially important method of forming near net-shaped components with high mechanical properties and corrosion resistance for heating, ventilation, and sanitary installations, for example valves, pipe couplings, etc. [1–3]. Prior to casting, the die is normally preheated to a temperature within the range of 300–350 ◦ C. During a die casting cycle, molten metal is forced into an internally cooled mould by the application of pressure. The peak metal pressure during the injection can exceed 70 MPa. A distinguishing characteristic of the process is that the liquid metal flows with high velocity during injection and provides rapid filling of the die cavity, typically within milliseconds. The entrance velocity of the melt is of the order of 1–10 m/s. The high velocity is necessary to fill the mould of thin-walled and complex-shaped products. Continuous internal cooling of the die during
∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +46-54-700-1821; fax: +46-54-700-1449. E-mail address: anders.persson@kau.se (A. Persson).

the process makes the solidification of the casting efficient and, as a consequence, high rate manufacturing of typically 100 castings/h is enabled. When the casting has solidified, the die is opened and the casting is ejected. Subsequently, the die may be externally cooled and lubricated by spraying. A die casting mould is composed of several tool components, for example main die, cavity inserts, cores, and ejector pins [1–3]. Wear and failure of die casting dies has a technical and economical significance, since it degrades the surface finish and changes the dimensions of the tool and, therefore, also those of the casting, and it may even cause expensive failures of the tool. To withstand the damages during service the dies for brass die casting are frequently made of hot work tool steels, such as AISI H13, H20, H21, or H22. They are used in quenched and tempered conditions with a hardness range of 360–520 HV, depending on die component and steel grade. High levels of hot yield strength, temper resistance, ductility, and toughness are important mechanical properties of these tool materials.

0924-0136/$ – see front matter © 2004 Published by Elsevier B.V. doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2004.01.052

This treatment was performed to remove deposits of Zn compounds on the tool surface and to decrease the tendency of soldering.%) of 0.%) of Hotvar is 0. with the nominal chemical composition (wt. 2. 2. 1. The tool lifetime of the studied cavity inserts Table 1 Nominal heat treatment and hardness of the field-tested cavity inserts and cores Die component Cavity insert Cavity insert Core Core Steel grade QRO 90 QRO 90 QRO 90 Hotvar Austenitising (◦ C/min) 1020/35 1020/34 1020/57 1050/17 Tempering (◦ C/h) 640/2 615/2 625/2 580/2 × × × × 2 2 2 2 Hardness (HV) 430–440 480–500 460–480 600–620 . as obtained on a casting by X-ray spectroscopy of 64. Materials The two cavity inserts were made of a hot work tool steel. Tour and Andersson Designation). ends in higher production costs and/or environmental impacts. 0. The brass alloy. and other failure mechanisms. 0. formed in the low-cycle fatigue range [5.6 Cr. After ejection of each casting.75 Mn.A. which aims at elucidating the life-limiting failure mechanisms in field-tested brass die casting dies. erosion. local adherence of the casting alloy to the tool (soldering). 2.9 V.25 Mo.6]. Experimental 2. The cavity inserts and cores were hardened and tempered.25 Mo. The nominal chemical composition (wt. Another variant of thermal fatigue cracks (stress cracks) may be observed as individual and clearly pronounced cracks in areas exposed to local stress concentrations [5]. Only a few studies on failure mechanisms in field-tested die components used in brass die casting can be found in the literature [6. and gross fracture are other important failure modes. growth and density of cracks. or both. Persson et al. The alloy has a nominal liquidus temperature of 887 ◦ C and a solidus temperature of 844 ◦ C. Erosion is induced by the high velocity of the incoming melt and is partially aggravated by the presence of solid particles in the molten casting alloy. 0. and may also increase the tendency of soldering. 0. and Fe balance. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 109 1.55 C. QRO 90 Supreme (Uddeholm Tooling Designation). The entrance velocity of the melt was 1–2 m/s and the maximum metal pressure during injection was approximately 190 MPa. In addition to thermal fatigue cracking. 0.38 C. and leads often to total failure of the tool.35 Fe.1 kg. The total shot weight of each casting was 2. 0. All modes of tool failure limit the performance and life of die casting tools. The cavity inserts and cores were shot-blasted after each 600 and 200 castings. The temperature cycling may induce stresses high enough to impose an increment of plastic strain in the tool surface during each cycle.9 Pb. 1. 0. 32. Two cavity inserts and eight cores were examined.2. Water at 20–50 ◦ C was continuously circulated through cooling channels in the cavity insert. the surfaces of the tools were lubricated but not intentionally cooled by spraying a commercial lubricant fluid (Klüber Metalstar Fe 143). This motivates the present study. Note that the cavity inserts in this study were not preheated.6 Cr.75 Mn. 2. The cracking results from rapid fluctuations in temperature. The formation of thermal fatigue cracks may lead to loss of surface material in the form of small fragments (splintering). It is reported that creep and oxidation may significantly contribute to the cracking [5–9]. Failure modes in die casting dies Thermal fatigue cracking is the most important life-limiting failure mode in dies for brass die casting.3 Zn. quenched and tempered to different conditions. ultimately.71 Si. with an approximate chemical composition (wt. was used as casting material throughout the field tests. 2. corrosion. the lower entrance velocity of the melt.0 Si. They were made of two hot work tool steels. and evaluated with respect to hardness changes. according to Table 1. CuZn33Pb2Si–C (Ametal C.7]. of the castings exceeded the tolerances. The eight cores were made of two different hot work tool steels. and Fe balance. The significantly higher melt temperature in die casting of brass. The field tests were made in a 2.05 As. Erosion and corrosion may cause significant loss of surface material. or even earlier. stress. The erosive damage is primarily seen where the molten metal jet first hits the die surface. respectively. Gross fracture is primarily caused by excessive thermal shocks or mechanical overloading. since the temperature of the melt is high (about 970 ◦ C) [1–4]. and strain in the die surface because of the cyclic nature of the casting process. QRO 90 Supreme and Hotvar (Uddeholm Tooling Designation).8 MN cold chamber machine.1 Cu. The two studied cavity inserts and two of the cores had been used in production until the surface finish or the dimensional changes. 0. 2. the chemical properties of the melt as well as other process parameters clearly separate the casting conditions of brass and aluminium. while those on aluminium die casting are more frequent [10–12]. Corrosion damage originates from dissolution of the tool material into the liquid metal.1. The geometry of the studied die components is shown in Fig.39 Si. and are. therefore. often named heat checking.1. which. The thermal fatigue cracking is often observed on the tool surface as a network of fine cracks. The temperature of the brass melt was 970 ◦ C and the total cycle time for one casting was 48 s. and also after the tests. Surface cracks appear already after a few thousand castings.85 V.03 Al. Die casting conditions for the investigated tools All cavity inserts and cores have been used for production of brass valves. Soldering results from the interaction between the die material and the casting alloy during injection and solidification and may be observed as residuals of the casting alloy on the die surface after ejection.%). 0. 1.

located closest to the gate. For the cavity inserts and cores. were performed at the same location in each die component to minimise any dependence on differences in the casting conditions in the tool. . Of the eight studied cores. (a) Overview of an insert revealing local severe surface cracking (A) and individual cracks at sharp geometrical corners (B). The evaluation of the cavity inserts and cores. whereas one core of each material was taken out of production for examination after 500. Macroscopic failure mechanisms in field-tested brass die casting dies The macroscopic surface damages on the two worn-out cavity inserts and cores. Note Fig. the melt temperature is at its highest level. respectively. and 1500 castings. (a) Cavity insert: the arrow indicates the gate where the melt enters. respectively. Characterisation Identification of the failure mechanisms was performed by macroscopic examinations as well as by detailed studies on the surface of the tools.1. (b) Overview of a core revealing a severe network of surface cracks. and the erosive and corrosive damages resulting from the incoming melt is expected to be most distinguished on that core.110 A. whereas that of the cores was 10 000–15 000 castings. A and B indicate the positions of the detailed evaluation of the cavity inserts and cores. 2. one of each material was investigated after their expired lifetime. Typical macroscopic surface damages observed on worn-out cavity inserts and cores. The diameter of the cavity at A is 33 mm and that of the core at B is 29 mm. 3. Hardness versus depth profiles to reveal any thermal softening were obtained by Vickers indentations on polished cross-sections. individual cracks at sharp radiuses. For example. 2). respectively. Persson et al. 1000.3. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 Fig. scanning electron microscopy (SEM). the detailed evaluations was focused to an area which was expected to be representative of thermal fatigue cracking with a minimum of stress concentrations (see Fig. respectively. and on fractured and polished cross-sections. and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). Results 3. 1. 2. and remnants of solidified brass within the cracks (indicated by the arrow). 1b). were severe and observed as a network of surface cracks and as individual and clearly pronounced cracks at sharp corners (see Fig. The fractured cross-sections were obtained after having cooled the steel in liquid nitrogen. using a load of 25 g. 1). was 45 000–50 000 castings. the time of contact between the casting alloy and the tool is the longest. using light optical microscopy (LOM). The core located closest to the gate was examined since the casting conditions are expected to be most severe where the melt enters the cav- ity (see Fig. (b) The studied core. The field-tested tool components used in brass die casting.

2b). 3. Polished cross-sections Studies of polished cross-sections further elucidate the morphology of the crack pattern (see Fig. A severe network of wide and narrow cracks and remnants of brass within the cracks are revealed. Fractured cross-sections It proved possible to reveal the geometrical details of the cracks by making fractured cross-sections. Macroscopic damages observed on cores. . No brass is adhered to the areas separated by the cracks. where a protuberance in the tool has been contacted by the melt from several directions. The vertical scratches on both the surface of the tool (A) and on the solidified brass (B) were made after tool disassemblement. Macroscopic inspections revealed local filling of solidified brass in the cracks on the worn-out cores. evident by the missing tip in Fig. A dimple pattern is revealed along the crack tip with bright contrast (see Fig. the cracks are semi-circular (see Fig. At the crack front of Fig. 3. 5. Note that wide cracks form the network. individual and clearly developed cracks as well as local filling of solidified brass in the cracks were detected on the cores already after 500 castings (see Fig. The tendency of brass filling the cracks seems to be larger for the wide than for the narrow cracks.2. The original fatigue crack front is indicated by the arrow. 4). 6a. 3a). In general. since the surface of a thermal fatigue crack was easily distinguished from the imposed fracture. while more narrow cracks seem to grow into or within the areas separated by the wide cracks (also seen in Fig. 7). Fig. the locally severe surface cracking on the worn-out insert. locally filled with solidified brass (see Fig. Gross fracture was observed on one of the worn-out cores. 6a.A.2. 3b. in addition to a relatively coarse crack network (see Fig. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 111 Fig. 5). (b) Overview of a worn-out core revealing a network of surface cracks. Lead also shows up brighter in the micrographs due to atomic number contrast (see Fig. (a) Overview after 500 castings revealing individual and clearly pronounced cracks at sharp edge (indicated by the arrow). 3b). Thermal fatigue cracks 3.2. Typical surface damages observed on worn-out cores (SEM). Typically. The position of the crack front prior to the imposed fracture coincides with a strong concentration of Pb as detected by EDS. Later on. 6b). and a gross fracture (indicated by the arrow).1. The two worn-out cores showed these defects in a further pronounced stage. 6c). At an early stage. 8). a small semi-elliptic sub-crack was detected (see Fig. and also extend in the lateral direction (see Fig. it was observed that some cracks had grown together and caused loss of small steel fragments. 4. the crack networks on the worn-out inserts are not as rough as those on the worn-out cores. On one of the worn-out cavity inserts. 6a and b). 3.2. The network of cracks on the two worn-out cores consisted of both wide and narrow cracks. Fractured cross-section of a core after 500 castings revealing a large semi-circular crack (SEM). The cracks tend to grow perpendicular to the tool surface and reach several Fig. see Fig. the crack may grow to a considerable depth. Persson et al.

The only element detected at the very crack tip was Pb (see Fig.5–5. In general. 10). The frame indicate EDS-mapped area. and 0. Fractured cross-section of worn-out core revealing a major fatigue crack with the crack front (indicated by the arrow) extending parallel to the surface of the tool (SEM). 9b). The appearance of a typical crack tip and the material filling it is seen in Fig. (b) Close-up of the front of the sub-crack of (a).5 mm. and a more inhomogeneous structure in the centre where it contains voids and cracks (see Fig. (c) A further increase in magnification reveals. 11 and 12 reveal that their surfaces mainly consist of iron oxides and that the interior is filled with residuals from solidified brass. 3. whereas the crack density is higher in the harder tool Fig. Fig. . 8b). and density of the thermal fatigue cracks extracted from polished cross-sections of the tools are of the order of 0. were also frequently observed.2 mm. millimetres in depth (see Fig. All of them are filled with a material that has a layered structure next to the steel walls. (a) Overview revealing a major crack and a small sub-crack initiated at the front of the major crack (indicated by the arrow). 7. 13). the maximum and mean crack length in the cores is shorter in the harder than in the softer tool. mean length. Fractured cross-sections of worn-out cores (SEM). filled with a mixture of iron and zinc oxides. Fig.and O-rich layer in between the oxides filling the crack and the tool steel. and especially after further development (see Fig. Most of the material filling the crack also contains O. 0.03–1.3. Neither Cu nor Pb was detected in these cracks. 9a due to its high atomic number contrast.2. Pb was not detected in the tip area of this crack. 6. (d) EDS map of Pb of the sub-crack of (a). the presence of a ductile material at the crack tip. for all die components at all number of castings produced (see Fig. 9d). High concentration is represented by bright areas.5 mm−1 . the appearance of polished cross-sections of the cavity inserts resembles those of the cores.4–3. 8a). respectively. After the initial 500 castings. Lead also reveals itself in Fig. and a diffuse Cr. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 Fig. 9. Relatively short cracks (cf. see below. Crack length and density The maximum length. The cracks are typically filled already at an early stage of development.112 A. 14). Persson et al. through the characteristic dimples. Figs. indicating a strong element of oxidation (cf.

the hardness reduction of the cores is limited to a surface layer of about 2 mm. (b) Close-up of the crack indicated by the arrow in (a). Polished cross-section of a worn-out core (SEM). The element concentration is proportional to the brightness. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 113 Fig. for all die components the surface hardness is decreasing with the number of castings produced (see Fig. the crack density in the worn-out die components is higher in the cavity inserts than that in the cores. (b–d) EDS maps. Persson et al. it is clearly seen that the maximum as well as the mean crack length is significantly shorter in the worn-out cavity inserts than those in the worn-out cores. and the loss of hardness is larger for the harder than for the softer tool (see Fig. the difference in maximum and mean crack length and crack density in the cores averages with number of castings.A. 3. whereas the mean crack length shows the inverse correlation with hardness. 15). . Hardness profiles As expected. 8. and reach approximately the same level when they are worn-out.3. (a) Compositional SEM image illustrating the layered filling. 9. Evidently. Finally. the difference in surface hardness between the cores is reduced and the Fig. 14). independent of steel grade and initial condition. (a) Overview revealing typical thermal fatigue cracks filled with material. steel (see Fig. Evidently. Evidently. the maximum crack length is somewhat shorter and the crack density is significantly lower in the harder than in the softer tool. 15a and b). For the worn-out cavity inserts. Polished cross-section through a typical crack tip in high magnification. After the first 500 castings.

When the cores are worn-out. 4. Thermal cracking 4. The element concentration is proportional to the brightness. [6. It was found that it takes less than 500 brass die casting cycles to nucleate and propagate the first thermal fatigue cracks in the cores (cf. Their structure in between the steel walls are layered or inhomogeneous and contain cracks Fig. 10. the softened surface layer extends beyond 10 mm depth. which results in crack growth. . 3a and 14). 6a. 4. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 (cf. 10. EDS maps of the area indicated by frame B in Fig. Obviously. Persson et al. The initial growth of the thermal fatigue cracks is facilitated by an oxidation attack on the crack surfaces to form a Cr. Figs. The tensile stresses are. as shown in Figs. Discussion It was observed that the dominating failure mechanism in the investigated brass die casting cavity inserts and cores was thermal fatigue cracking (cf. 9–13. 12. Crack nucleation and growth Thermal cracks are nucleated when the local tensile stress in the surface exceeds a critical level. For the worn-out cavity inserts. Fig.1. and residuals from the brass alloy [7] (cf.7]).5 mm. EDS maps of the area indicated by frame A in Fig. whereas it is pinned in areas without Pb Fig. softened surface layer increases in thickness with number of castings. Fig. a result of plastic yield of the tool material during the hot phase of the casting cycles. Polished cross-section of a worn-out core revealing typical long and short cracks (LOM). and d). The frames indicate EDS-mapped areas.and O-rich layer in between oxides filling the crack and the visually unaffected tool steel (cf. The element concentration is proportional to the brightness. Presence of oxides and brass materials in the cracks increases the compressive stresses and plastic yield during the hot phase of the thermal cycle. 10–12). but also of zinc oxides and lead oxides [6]. 2). Consequently. 11. in turn. b. further consideration on this mechanism is given below. see below.1. 10. The softened surface layer of the two cavity inserts is limited to a depth of less than 1. 15c). it is observed that the hardness in the superficial surface layer is reduced to approximately the same level. 13 and Refs. Fig. Fig.114 A. the temperature alternations in the tool surface layer are severe enough to impose compressive stresses high enough to cause local accumulation of plastic strains to nucleate and propagate thermal cracks in the tool surface by a low-cycle fatigue process.1. Figs. One of the most striking results from this investigation was that the thermal fatigue crack front advancement is associated with a local enrichment in Pb. whereas an approximately constant difference in hardness between the two tools is maintained deeper below the surface (see Fig. The thermal cracks advance considerably in length while they are typically filled with a mixture of oxides [6]. The oxides filling the cracks consist mainly of iron oxides [7]. Pb from the brass casting alloy concentrates at the crack front during casting and due to interaction with the tool steel it is able to locally assist the crack growth. Since the thermal cracking failure dominates. The result is a further increase in tensile stress during the cold phase.

5). but the severity of the embrittlement increases considerably at the melting point of the embrittling metal. Figs. Crack growth promoted by Pb embrittlement Steel exposed to liquid lead may form solid Fe–liquid Pb systems that causes liquid metal embrittlement [13]. 9b and d). in al- ternating melting of Pb in the brass alloy filling the cracks (cf. In this study. 8b and 13). 4. Thus. Fig. the chemical interaction with Pb from the brass alloy and the tool steel is able to locally assist the crack growth. temperature recordings in a 5 mm surface layer of a cavity insert during actual die casting of brass revealed that the maximum tool temperature was about 828–450 ◦ C. the opening of the cracks in the filling material gives an indication of the maximum amount of brass that can fill the crack during the next casting cycle (cf. 6a). In addition. 4. and voids [6] (cf. the temperature on the tool surface layer exceeds the melting point of Pb (327 ◦ C) during each casting cycle and results. Subsequently. consequently. Polished cross-section through a typical crack of a worn-out core in high magnification: (a) LOM image. 8 and 9).3. 8b). Obviously. The enrichment in Pb at the very crack tip is supported by the absence of O in this area (cf.1. most probably by liquid metal embrittlement. 6 and 9b). The element concentration is proportional to the brightness. 6a.1. Figs. 14a and b). Thereafter. The alternating melting of Pb during each casting cycle cause the liquid Pb from the brass alloy to penetrate through the crack down to the very crack tip. and d). . Fig. 13. as evidenced by the shorter maximum and mean crack lengths in the initially harder Hotvar core than in the softer QRO 90 core (see Fig. Crack growth promoted by thermal softening of the tool steel The crack evaluations after the initial 500 castings revealed that the growth of thermal cracks are suppressed by higher tool hardness levels. Persson et al. decreasing from the tool surface and inwards. independent of tool steel and initial condition. where it is enriched (cf. the crack front expands in the areas where the imposed stresses are high enough to enable propagation (cf. Fig.A. the thermal fatigue cracks have generated a semi-circular shape (see Fig. 8–12). it was observed that in a relatively early stage. and that the minimum temperature through the surface layer was about 300 ◦ C [14]. whereas it is pinned in areas without Pb (see Fig. Fig. These cracks in the filling material act as channels for more brass materials to fill the cracks and for oxygen to penetrate down to the crack tip area and oxidise the steel and also the filling material (cf. b. 6c). Embrittlement may also occur when the temperature is below the melting point of the embrittling metal (solid metal-induced embrittlement). any differences in the crack characteristics among the cores averages with the number of castings to approximately equal levels at their expired tool life of 10 000–15 000 castings. Figs. The mechanism of liquid metal embrittlement is probably associated with a reduction of the atomic bond strength of the solid metal.2. The tensile stresses imposed on the tool material surface layer during the cooling phase effectively cause local rupture of filled material and open the thermal cracks (cf. It is obvious that the crack front advances locally where there is an enrichment in Pb. (b–f) EDS maps. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 115 Fig. 10). The layered structure of the filling material indicates that the crack filling aggravates gradually during the casting process. Previously. and also by the observation of a ductile material (Pb) at the crack front (see Fig. Figs.

mean crack length (b). Maximum crack length (a). 15a and b) indicates that the crack growth is facilitated by the gradual softening of the tool steels. Fig. Influence of tool maintenance on crack characteristics Previously. a network of surface cracks and more individual cracks are formed and the tendency of crack filling aggravates (cf. Figs. 14. it has been reported that the development of thermal fatigue cracks can be characterised by the three consecutive stages: crack nucleation. 2). 14a and b) correlate strongly to the average of the surface layer hardness among them (Fig. number of castings in the cavity inserts and cores. Naturally. 4. or deeply penetrate into the tool and lead to gross fracture (cf. individual and clearly developed cracks and crack filling were clearly detected on the cores by the naked eye (cf. Crack network development and final appearance Already after 500 castings.2. The observation that the worst surface cracking appeared in tool areas that are exposed to the most critical thermal and/or mechanical stress concentrations. 15. and crack density (c) vs. 3b).1. depth profiles after different number of castings: (a) cores of QRO 90 (460–480 HV). such as sharp corners and protuberances. After some initial cycles during which most cracks are formed. Eventually. some surface cracks may grow together and cause local detachment of surface material (splintering). Since areas along each thermal crack are locally stress relieved. (c) worn-out cavity inserts of QRO 90. (b) cores of Hotvar (600–620 HV). 4). the growth of adjacent cracks is retarded as the larger once propagate into the tool material [17]. Fig. 4. is in agreement with previous findings [5. some cracks continue to grow deeper into the tool material [5]. The designations I and II correspond to cores of QRO 90 (460–480 HV) and Hotvar (600–620 HV). respectively. the tendency of crack filling is low when the cracks are narrow and increases as they become wider (see Fig.116 A.16]. III and IV to cavity inserts of QRO 90 at nominal hardness values prior to the field tests of 430–440 and 480–500 HV. The fact that the cores are exposed to more intense thermal conditions than the inserts is supported by their more pronounced hardness reduction demonstrated in Fig. based on cracks larger than ∼5 m. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 Fig. Each pile is based on measurements along a line of about 17 mm. 3a). Further support is given by the observation that the thermal cracks penetrate considerably deeper into the cores than into the inserts (see Fig.7]. 15. respectively.4. 14a and b). rapid crack growth. and retarded crack development [5. Fig.15. 3b and 4). Subsequently. or parts of the tool that had been more or less surrounded by the melt (cf. Hardness vs. The fact that the average of the crack characteristics with the number of castings (Fig. Fig. Persson et al. .

and to Uddeholm Tooling AB and Bodycote Heat Treatment AB. Persson et al. A.E. North American Die Casting Association. 14a) is in good agreement with the maximum crack length (about 1.A. F.4 mm) after 45 000–50 000 castings (Fig. Jan Andersson at this company. Acknowledgements The authors are grateful to Tour and Andersson AB and Mr. • The oxides consist mainly of iron oxides. those modes of tool failure appear to be of secondary importance in the degradation of the investigated tools. Iwanaga.A. D. Initiation and propagation of heat checking and variation of residual stress in aluminium die casting dies.S. Minneapolis. Danzer. M. Danzer. Kennedy. ASM International. in: Transactions of the 21st International Die Casting Congress and 5.M. p. p.Z. References [1] L. D.T.A. R. Surface material removal during tool maintenance is most likely the reason why the crack density in the cores has a tendency to decrease within the whole range of castings produced (see Fig. Venkatesan. and by softening of the tool material. Pressure Diecasting. in: Proceedings of the International Conference on Step into the 90s. p. Advanced materials for die casting and extrusion application—die life in die casting.R. Allsop.). • Proceeded growth is facilitated by filling of cracks with brass. Zleppnig. 9th ed. It is important to realise that if the field tests had been performed without any tool maintenance. The following conclusions can be drawn: • The dominating failure mechanism in brass die casting tools is thermal fatigue cracking. North American Die Casting Association. it had not taken many castings before practical casting operation problems arise. [8] W. Materials Park. Schindler. North American Die Casting Association. ASM International. p. An investigation of the effect of process parameters on the washout in die casting dies. • Since the crack has advanced locally in these regions. as indicated by the scratches on the tool surface in Fig. Part 2: The Technology of the Casting and the Die. 213. in: Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial European Conference on Fracture. F. 251. typical of a low-cycle fatigue process. p. Davis (Ed. Zleppnig. Heat Treat. OH. Maurer. 1997. Yurasov. Amsterdam. 1995. [3] D. Thermal fatigue cracks in pressure die casting dies. Influence of the structure and the temperature field on the formation and propagation of thermal fatigue cracks. p. 1983. Prevention of soldering in high pressure die casting dies using aluminium & iron oxide surface treatment. Metals Handbook. [11] P.D.. vol. Effect of oxidizing processes on crazing of die-casting moulds. S. 1988. p. [7] A. 905. 14c). R.L. . the tool maintenance is probably the reason why no macroscopic evidence of erosive or corrosive damage (including soldering) was identified on the investigated tools. 286. • The initial growth of the thermal fatigue cracks is facilitated by oxidation of the crack surfaces. Fischer. From Fig. 1986. Metals Park. 3. Sturm. nor by the crack density saturation after the initial castings during which almost all cracks are formed. it is obvious that the crack development in the cores neither can be perfectly characterised by the three consecutive stages. • In addition to increasing the overall tool steel yield strength and/or oxidation resistance. October/November (1949) 30. [5] R. Indianapolis. tool steel. Pergamon Press. Reduction of sticking in pressure die casting by surface treatment. [10] S. Richard Westergård at the Ångström Laboratory for performing the EDS mapping. Kovrigin. Metallurgical aspects of heat checking in brass die casting dies. B. Richard. It is therefore concluded that the maintenance has not reduced these maximum crack length values considerably. Danzer. Shivpuri. [6] V.F. 1139. the life-limiting failure mechanisms in field-tested cavity inserts and cores for die casting of brass were examined. [2] J. Tool Materials. [4] K. W.J. 4. OH. and the die casting process parameters during the temperature recordings resemble those of this study. 1997. 307. Minneapolis. Finally. The financial support from the Swedish Knowledge Foundation is also acknowledged. The maximum crack length in the inserts (about 1. Fraser.3–1. by additional oxidation. 14a and b are somewhat shorter than they certainly would have been without maintenance. brass alloy. 22 (1980) 688. in: Transactions of the 19th International Die Casting Congress and Exposition. Queensland. Starokozhev. R. However. 1986. Hairy. Another effect from this maintenance is that the crack length values of Figs. in: Transactions of the 18th International Die Casting Congress and Exposition. in: Transactions of the 19th International Die Casting Congress and Exposition. 1995. Die Cast. 361. 14. Met. but also of zinc and lead oxides. K. Jahedi. Conclusions In this study. • The crack nucleation is associated to accumulation of the local plastic strain in the surface. Schindler. Nehrenberg. Special thanks to Dr. Gisserei-Praxis 19/20 (1983) 287. Sci. Oxford. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 117 The tool maintenance applied during the die casting service conditions includes lubrication after each casting and intermittent cleaning by shot-blasting as well as other mechanical procedures.D. ASM Speciality Handbook. [12] M. • The most striking observation is a local enrichment of Pb at the crack front. vol. or using a tool material not susceptible to Pb embrittlement.B.5 mm) estimated from temperature recordings in a cavity insert during actual die casting of brass [14]. Sully. this Pb enrichment is suggested as an important mechanism of crack growth promotion in brass die casting. [9] A. The cavity insert. 15. there is a potential to improve the tool life either by removing or substituting the Pb in the brass casting alloy with any non-harmful element.

343. High Temp. [16] H. [14] A. B. p. Persson et al. [15] P. Lieurade. Metals Park. 1987. 379. 197 (1961) 223. [17] H. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 148 (2004) 108–118 Transactions of the 18th International Die Casting Congress and Exposition. ASM International. J. J. The effect of microstructure on the thermal fatigue resistance of investment cast and wrought AISI H-13 hot work die steel. Technol. 8 (1990) 137. [13] B. M. p. Giusti. On tool Failure in Die Casting.S. Baldwin. Doctoral dissertation. 1995.. 2001. Wisniewski. Resistance to thermal stress fatigue of some steels. A. 13. M. Baron. G.P. A. Dias. Uppsala University. Craig. Iron Steel Inst.118 A.R. ASM Handbook. Maguire. 2003. heat-resisting alloys. 9th ed. OH. Persson. North American Die Casting Association.W. Bloomfield.D. and cast irons.C. Exposition. vol. Experimental simulation and theoretical modelling of crack initiation and propagation due to thermal cycling. Hockanadel. p. Edwards. Cincinnati.G. in: . 145. Indianapolis.

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