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A Numerical Investigation of Gas Flow Effects on HighPressure Gas Atomization Due to Melt Tip Geometry Variation

J. MI, R.S. FIGLIOLA, and I.E. ANDERSON A parametric numerical study is presented on how melt feed tube geometry inuences the gas ow eld of a high-pressure gas atomizer (HPGA). The axisymmetric, turbulent, compressible Navier Stokes equations are solved for the gas-only ow in the vicinity of the melt tip for a conned-feed, annular-slit atomizer. The numerical results indicate that a fully retracted melt tip can develop a high overambient base pressure over a wide range of operating pressures, while an extended melt tip can develop a subambient pressure, called an aspirating effect, which encourages melt to ow. Adding a taper angle to an extended melt tip decreases the aspirating effect. However, a melt tip can develop a radial pressure gradient along its base that forces the melt to move radially outward into a highshear region of the ow, thus encouraging droplet formation. A fully retracted melt tip develops the highest such radial force, but this tends to decrease in magnitude with tip extension. Hence, a compromise must be established whereby the good aspiration character of a longer tip is balanced against the good pressure-driving force along the base of a shorter tip. The results provide details of the ow eld and the effects due to variation of melt tip taper and extension.

I.

INTRODUCTION

High-pressure gas atomization (HPGA) can be an efcient method for producing high yields of ultrane metal and alloy powders.[1,2] Currently, many commercial metal and alloy powders are being produced using HPGA, including high-alloy tool steels, nickel-based superalloys, and aluminum alloys.[39] Earlier studies[913] have shown evidence that both the systems gas operating pressure and the melt feed tube tip geometry effectively control the gas dynamics within the atomization zone of the HPGA process. The design of the HPGA melt tip has been proven to be an essential feature of the process efciency. Some melt tip geometric parameters can be altered, such as the melt tip extension length, s, and melt tip taper angle, , shown in Figure 1. It is expected that the gas ow characteristics and melt aspiration will change with different melt tip designs. Operation of an HPGA system within the aspiration regime results in a stable atomization condition and has been associated with a ne powder production.[39] Under this favorable condition, the subambient melt tip base pressure permits the liquid metal to accelerate into contact with the gas stream. As was illustrated in the previous publications,[1014] the liquid metal exiting the pour tube is seen to ow from the melt tip base center area to the tip edge along the melt tip base. Therefore, the pressure gradient from the melt tip base center to the melt tip base edge plays an essential role in driving this radial movement.
J. MI, formerly Research Assistant, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University, is Research Associate, Metals and Ceramics Division, Ames Laboratory, Ames, IA 50011. R.S. FIGLIOLA, Professor and Chair, is with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0921. I.E. ANDERSON, Senior Metallurgist, is with the Metals and Ceramics Division, Ames Laboratory, Ames, IA 50011. Manuscript submitted April 30, 1996.
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Anderson and Rath[3] reported that efforts to use a fully retracted melt tip design at high operating pressures resulted in unstable atomization with subsequent melt ow freezeup. Extending the melt tip into the ow was found to stabilize the melt ow, and adding taper to the tip improved powder renement. Meanwhile, the extended tip was found to develop a subambient pressure over its base for a wide range of operating pressures.[11] In an experimental study by Anderson and Figliola,[10] three different melt tip taper angles63, 45, and 0 degwere used to measure pressure at a single point on the melt tip base. Schlieren imaging documented very different ow elds. For a wide range of operating pressures, the 63 deg tip failed to provide an aspirating effect, whereas the 45 deg tip and the extended straight 0 deg tip did. These results suggested that taper angle can control the aspiration capability of a melt feed tip. Indeed, commercial operators often point out that a straight tip extension will stabilize the atomizer melt ow, preventing freeze-up caused by gas owing back up the tube. However, a straight extended tip design is also known to be rather inefcient for producing very ne powders, especially at high operating pressures.[10] The straight tip is also prone to erosion owing to the high impact energy dissipated by the gas jet at the tube wall.[7,8,10] The effects of gas atomizing pressure on the HPGA gas ow eld were examined numerically by Mi et al.[14] The study effectively documented for one melt tip extension and taper geometry that both a subambient pressure and a radial pressure gradient were developed along the melt tip base. These act to force the melt to ow radially outward from the tip orice, thereby directing the melt to make contact with the high velocity gas found along the edge of the atomization zone. This mechanistic explanation is consistent with observations.[6,10] This article reports on a numerical investigation of the inuence of the melt tip extension length and melt tip taper angle on the gas ow eld during HPGA operation. Such
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( ui h) p h uj (K ) xi xj xi eff xi

[3]

Fig. 1The cross-sectional view of the HPGA melt feed tube tip geometry.

Table I.

Different HPGA Melt Tip Geometry Designs Tip 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Tip length, s (mm) 0 1.93 2.34 3.86 1.93 1.93 1.93 Tip taper angle, (deg) 45 45 45 45 0 30 63 Tip base diameter, db (mm) 10.03 8.43 8.09 6.83 10.03 9.00 8.43
Melt tip orice diameter, do 4.76 mm; gas jet diameter, dj 0.813 mm; and gas jet apex angle, 45 deg.

information is valuable for the design of an efcient atomizer and its operation, for an understanding of the process dynamics, as well as for the intelligent control of HPGA through real-time modication of the geometric parameters.

II.

NUMERICAL MODEL

Based on the assumptions of steady state, axisymmetric, compressible, and turbulent ow, the conservation equations for the present problem are dened by the continuity momentum, and energy equations. Mi et al.[14] have outlined these equations, which are written subsequently using standard index notation with subscripts i and j referring to the axial and radial components of the variable, as appropriate. Continuity equation: ( u i) 0 xi Momentum equation: ( ui uj) uj p (eff ) xi xi xi xi Energy equation: [2] [1]

In these equations, xi is the spatial coordinate, ui is the time-averaged velocity component, p is the time-averaged pressure, n is the time-averaged static enthalpy, is the time-averaged density, and is the viscous dissipation function. The terms eff and Keff are the effective viscosity and conductivity, which include laminar and turbulent effects, respectively. The thermodynamic properties of the gas are related through the equation of state for a perfect gas. The previous equations can be transformed to the form of a generalized transport equation, which includes diffusion term, convection term, and source term. Then, a general solution procedure based on the SIMPLEST algorithm[15] is applied to solve all the governing equations. The differential equations are formulated using the control volume approximation. A structured grid was created using high renement in regions containing large pressure gradients. The turbulence model closure, computational domain, grid mesh, code validation, boundary conditions, and their specic handling were discussed in detail previously.[14] The effect of the melt tip geometry on the HPGA gas ow eld and melt aspiration condition was studied for four extension lengths and four tip taper angles, as shown in Table I. The values selected bracket a range found in the literature.[1,3,5,6,814] The general melt tip design remains similar to the generic design of previous studies[1014] and replicated by others.[5,9] References[5,9,1014] cite using the Tip2 design. In the geometry used here, the melt tip frustum surface coincides with the innermost edge of the gas jet ring. The total apex angle of the gas jet is 45 deg. The gas properties used are those of argon. Referring to Table I, the melt tip extension length s represents the tip length extending beyond the gas jet orice plane. In particular, a fully retracted melt tip, common to several gas atomizer processes, has a tip length of s 0.0 mm. The tip taper angle is dened as twice the angle between the tip frustum surface and the nozzle axis. Here, an 45 deg tip exactly matches the 45 deg gas jet apex angle. An 63 deg tip turns the extended tip frustum surface and the gas ow toward the nozzle axis, while an 30 deg tip turns the gas ow away from the nozzle axis. An 0 deg tip (Tip5) is simply an extended straight tip, and forms a limit for taper angle. An example of a nozzle having an extended straight melt tip was presented nal.[6] by U

III.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Results are expressed in terms of Mach number contours in the gas ow eld and static pressures along the melt tip base. Pressures external to the ow domain are held at pa 1 atm. Each geometry is studied over a range of stagnation pressures. The stagnation pressure po is set at the gas manifold just upstream of the onset of the straight gas jet passage. This pressure differs from the operating (stagnation) pressure measured well upstream, usually at an atomizer regulator. The relation between operating stagnation pressure and gas jet stagnation pressure depends on the par-

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ticular system used, and the two will differ considerably due to internal shocks and losses in the transmission lines. A. Tip Extension Length Variation Figure 2 illustrates the calculated HPGA gas ow Mach number contours at the stagnation pressure Po 4 MPa for the four melt tip lengths. Please note that the rough or stepwise solid surfaces seen in Figure 2 are a manifestation of the plotting program and not of the grid used. For presentation purposes, the ow chart is rotated 90 deg, such that the gas ow is from left to right, and because of the imposed axisymmetric assumption, the ow is cut at the centerline. Subsonic areas are dark and supersonic areas are gray to bright in these gures. Shock structures are exhibited by bright or gray to dark transitions. For all tip lengths used, the presence of a subsonic recirculating ow (dark area) attached to the tip base and shock structures downstream of this recirculation region can be discerned. On exciting a gas jet orice, the gas expands through a large expansion wave (bright areas). With increased tip length, this expansion wave becomes larger and moves downstream. The maximum Mach number observed in the bulk gas ow eld always occurs at the center of the expansion wave pattern (brightest area). For s 0.0 mm and s 1.93 mm, a normal shock is seen to form perpendicular to the nozzle centerline downstream of the melt tip, approximately halfway down the ow domain. Because of the axisymmetric condition, the shock is a disk with a radius that increases with tip extension. For s 2.34 mm and s 3.86 mm, the shock along the nozzle centerline becomes concave. The computed values for pressure at the melt tip base centerline are presented as Pb/Po for four melt tip lengths in Figure 3. Over a wide range of low operating pressures, the base centerline pressure Pb remains approximately equal to the ambient pressure Pa independent of tip extension. At higher pressures, as indicated by small values of Pa/Po, the melt tip base pressure ratio, Pb/Po, becomes independent of stagnation pressure. As noted in earlier studies of HPGA,[1014] this behavior is associated with the open or closed character of the recirculation region. In an open wake, the recirculation region is not surrounded by shock structures and the melt tip has a pressure remains sensitive to ambient ow conditions. At some critical pressures, the internal shock structures elongate to enclose the recirculation zone, leading to a closed wake, and the Pb/Po value that is essentially independent of changes in ambient ow conditions. For the extended tips tested, the wake closes near Pa/Po 0.025 (Po 4 MPa), while for the fully retracted melt tip, the wake closes near Pa/Po 0.06 (1.7 MPa). Within the closed wake operation, the Pb/Po values are lower for a longer tip than those for a shorter tip. In Figure 4, it is clear that an extended melt tip with 45 deg taper angle develops a subambient to slightly overambient centerline pressure at all operating pressures cited, with base pressure decreasing with tip length. The fully retracted tip shows overambient pressures. Morton[13] studied the effect of the melt tip length on the HPGA melt tip centerline base pressure using the hydraulic analogy. The results are shown in Figure 5. Although the hydraulic analogy is not exact, its results provide a good

indication of the relative trend in pressure in high-speed gas ows. The measured pressure results of Figure 5 are quite consistent with the numerical results of Figure 4: the fully retracted tip develops a much higher base centerline pressure at all operating pressures relative to the extended tips; a longer tip exhibits a lower base pressure, especially within the high pressure regime; and the extended tips all display a minimum base centerline pressure for the operating pressures tested. This minimum value is found to occur at a higher operating pressure with a longer extension for a given taper angle. Figure 6 illustrates the HPGA melt tip base pressure distributions for the four tip lengths at Po 4 MPa. The nondimensional radial distance from the centerline is based on melt tip radius, db/2. As seen in the gure, a very large portion of the base for a fully retracted tip experiences a high overambient pressure. Among the three extended tips tested, the s 3.86 mm tip experiences the lowest base pressure. Base pressure decreases systematically with increasing tip length. Still consistently, the base pressure shows a maximum at the base centerline and a minimum near the base corner, this minimum due to ow expansion around the corner. It was suggested[10] that the driving-pressure force along the melt tip base is important in the HPGA process, as this pressure gradient would tend to drive the melt radially outward from the base centerline to the base corner. Because of the high kinetic energy in the high-shear layer between the recirculation region and the expansion region, an efcient atomization would take place there. As shown in Figure 6, a longer tip, with its more uniform base pressure, develops a smaller pressure gradient along the base between the centerline and the corner, relative to a shorter tip. However, as manifested in Figure 4, a longer tip encourages a lower base centerline pressure. This provides a design trade-off between the pressure driving force available to transport melt to the shear layer and aspiration for a stable melt ow. B. Tip Taper Angle Variation Figure 7 illustrates the calculated HPGA gas ow Mach number contours for the four taper angles at Po 4 MPa. All tips are found to demonstrate a large expansion wave pattern downstream of the melt tip, with the straight tip having the largest expansion and correspondingly the highest maximum Mach number observed. The shock structures are well dened for all tips studied. For the three tapered tips, normal shocks are seen to form perpendicular to the centerline about midway down the ow domain, with the 63 deg tip developing the smallest radius. The recirculating ow region found in the tip taper angle study remains subsonic for all tips tested. The HPGA melt tip centerline base pressure ratios for the four tip taper angles are shown in Figure 8. The results reveal open wake and closed wake behavior similar to the tip extension studies. However, the actual Pb/Po values increase with taper angle. Similar results have been reported for the case of the axisymmetric truncated plug nozzle ow eld. In particular, a smaller plug angle, equivalent to taper angle here, led to a lower Pb/Po value.[16] The melt tip centerline base pressure, Pb, experiences a

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Fig. 2The calculated HPGA gas ow Mach number contours at Po 4 MPa for the four melt tip lengths.

minimum with stagnation pressure (Figure 9). The 0 deg straight tip experiences the lowest value of Pb, while the 63 deg tip experiences an overambient condition for all Po applied. Figure 10 presents the experimental results based on the hydraulic analogy of HPGA melt tip base centerline pressure measurements for three model tips.[13] The measured results are consistent with the calculated results shown in Figure 9: the 63 deg tip experiences the highest pressure, and the straight 0 deg tip experiences the lowest
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pressure. Centerline pressure measurement curves also display a minimum for all three model tips, with a smaller taper angle at a higher stagnation pressure. With a similar geometric melt tip, Veistinen et al.[8] reported that an overambient base pressure developed and increased as the melt feed tube taper angle was increased. Figure 11 shows the calculated HPGA melt tip base pressure distributions at Po 4 MPa for the four tip taper angles used. The 63 deg tip experiences an overambient pressure over half of the tip radius. With a decrease
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Fig. 3The calculated HPGA melt tip base centerline pressure ratios due to different melt tip lengths.

Fig. 5HPGA melt tip base center pressure measurement results for four melt tip lengths using the hydraulic analogy.[13]

Fig. 4The calculated HPGA melt tip base centerline pressures due to different melt tip lengths.

Fig. 6The calculated HPGA melt tip base pressure at Po 4 MPa for the four melt tip lengths.

in taper angle, the base region experiencing this overambient pressure decreases in area. The straight 0 deg tip exhibits the lowest base pressure and, as such, develops the best aspiration effect of all taper angles tested. On the other hand, it is noticed that the straight tip develops a more uniform pressure distribution over its tip base compared with the other three tapered angle tips. This demonstrates that a tip with a larger taper angle develops a higher driving pressure gradient along its base. But a smaller taper angle tip develops a lower melt tip base centerline pressure. Therefore, this trade-off clearly suggests that when considering both atomization stability and atomization effectiveness, the HPGA melt tip taper angle needs to be chosen carefully to balance the driving force and aspiration needed. Both the numerical results presented herein and supporting experimental observations demonstrate that the gas ow characteristics and melt tip aspiration in the HPGA process are strongly affected by the melt tip extension length and tip taper angle. Increasing extension length or decreasing taper angle tend to increase aspiration, while the opposite geometry changes are favorable for a radial melt ow.
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Hence, these geometric variables are important design parameters and can be expected to inuence the gas atomization process.

IV.

CONCLUSIONS

The effects of melt feed tube tip extension length and melt tip taper angle on the HPGA gas ow eld and melt aspiration are examined numerically. The main gas ow features characterized in the numerical solutions preserve a strong recirculating region, a shear layer, and shock structures in qualitative conformity with experimental results. The calculations indicate that a fully retracted melt tip develops a high overambient pressure along the melt tip base and may experience problems for stable atomization, while a longer melt tip extension develops a better melt aspirating effect, providing for a stable melt ow. However, a strong pressure gradient along the melt tip base that drives melt radially outward toward a strong shear layer responsible for droplet size renement diminishes with melt tip extension. The results also show that a small tip taper angle encourVOLUME 28B, OCTOBER 1997939

Fig. 7The calculated HPGA gas ow Mach number contours at Po 4 MPa for the four melt tip taper angles.

ages a desirable aspirating condition. But a tip with a larger taper angle develops a higher driving-pressure gradient along its base. Therefore, this trade-off clearly suggests that when considering both atomization stability and effectiveness, the HPGA melt tip taper angle and extension length need to be chosen carefully to balance between aspiration and the driving force that provides size renement.

db dj do h Keff p Pa Pb

NOMENCLATURE melt tip base diameter gas jet diameter melt tip orice diameter time-averaged enthalpy effective conductivity time-averaged pressure ambient pressure melt tip base center pressure

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Fig. 8The calculated HPGA melt tip base centerline pressure ratios due to different melt tip taper angles.

Fig. 10HPGA melt tip base center pressure measurement results for three melt tip taper angles using the hydraulic analogy.[13]

Fig. 9The calculated HPGA melt tip base centerline pressures due to different melt tip taper angles.

Fig. 11The calculated HPGA melt tip base pressure at Po 4 MPa for the four melt tip taper angles. 5. S.D. Ridder and F.S. Biancaniello: Mater. Sci. Eng., 1988, vol. 98, pp. 47-51. nal: Metall. Trans. B, 1989, vol. 20B, pp. 833-43. 6. A. U 7. U. Backmark, N. Ba ckstro m, and L. Arnberg: Technical Bulletin No. IM-2051, Swedish Institute for Metals Research, Stockholm, 1985. 8. M.K. Veistinen, E.J. Lavernia, J.C. Baram, and N.J. Grant: Int. J. Powder Metall., 1989, vol. 25, pp. 89-92. 9. P.I. Espina, S.A. Osella, S.D. Ridder, F.S. Biancaniello, and G.E. Mattingly: in P/M in Aerospace, Defense, and Demanding Applications, APMI, Princeton, NJ, 1993, pp. 101-07. 10. I.E. Anderson and R.S. Figliola: in Modern Development in Powder Metallurgy, P.U. Gummeson and D.A. Gustafson, eds., APMI, Princeton, NJ, 1988, pp. 205-17. 11. I.E. Anderson, R.S. Figliola, and H. Morton: Mater. Sci. Eng., 1991, vol. 148, pp. 101-13. 12. I.E. Anderson, H. Morton, and R.S. Figliola: in Physical Chemistry of Powder Metals Production and Processing, W.M. Small and D.G.C. Roberson, eds., TMS, Warrendale, PA, 1989, pp. 229-49. 13. H. Morton: Masters Thesis, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 1990. 14. J. Mi, R.S. Figliola, and I.E. Anderson: Mater. Sci. Eng., 1996, vol. 208, pp. 20-29. 15. S.V. Patankar: Numerical Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, McGrawHill Hemisphere, New York, NY, 1980. 16. C.R. Hall and T.J. Mueller: J. Spacecraft, 1972, vol. 9, pp. 337-42.

Po s ui xi eff

stagnation pressure assumed to exist at the gas manifold melt tip extension length time-averaged velocity component coordinate melt tip taper angle gas jet apex angle effective viscosity time-averaged density viscous dissipation function

REFERENCES
1. J.D. Ayers and I.E. Anderson: J. Met., 1985, vol. 37, pp. 16-21. 2. N.J. Grant: J. Met., 1983, vol. 35, pp. 20-27. 3. I.E. Anderson and B.B. Rath: Proc. Symp. on Rapidly Solidied Crystalline Alloys, S.K. Das, B.H. Kear, and C.M. Adam, eds. TMS-AIME, Warrendale, PA, 1985, pp. 219-45. 4. R.A. Ricks and T.W. Clyne: J. Mater. Sci. Lett., 1985, vol. 4, pp. 814-17.

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