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2nd International Conference on Production and Industrial Engineering CPIE-2010



Abhishek1, Hari Singh1, Sudhir Kumar2
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, Haryana, INDIA ( 2 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Noida Institute of Engineering and Technology Greater Noida, UP, India
Abstract:The widespread adoption of particulate metal matrix composites (MMCs) for engineering applications has been hindered by the high cost of producing components of complex shape. Casting technology may be the key to overcoming this problem with stir casting. But the problem arises with stir casting is wettability and porosity. To overcome the problem of porosity a hybrid casting process is needed. So, hybrid stir casting process was developed to produce a silicon carbide particulate aluminum alloy composite. In this paper, author has discussed the various parts like Muffle Furnace, Thermocouple, Electric motor Impeller & Stirrer, Crucible, Vacuum pump, Nitrogen gas, and Lifting mechanism of the Hybrid Stir casting process.

1. Introduction:Metal matrix composites have received much research interests over several years due to their excellent mechanical and thermal properties compared with the conventional materials. By suitable arrangement of metal matrix and ceramic addition, it is possible to obtain desired properties for a particular application. The aim involved in designing metal a matrix composite material is to combine the desirable attributes of metal and ceramics. The addition of high strength, high modulus refractory particles to a ductile metal matrix produce a material whose mechanical properties are intermediate between the matrix alloy and ceramic reinforcement. Metals have a useful combination of properties such as high strength, ductility and high temperature resistance but sometimes have low stiffness, whereas ceramics are stiff and strong though brittle. SiC particle reinforced aluminum composites have received more commercial attention than other kinds of MMCs due to their high performance viz. high mechanical properties, wear resistance, low coefficient of thermal expansion and high thermal conductivity. They are remeltable and that can be produced by large quantities by the process analogue to that used for commercial aluminium alloys at cheap cost. Therefore, they are more competitive on the MMC market and find wider application in industries [1 3] such as aerospace, automotive and electronics industries. The reinforcing ceramic can be continuous or discontinuous fibers in metal matrix materials. The latter is usually termed as particulate metal matrix composite (PMMC). 2. Literature Survey :There have been numerous studies in the literature investigating various aspects of the AA6063 metal matrix composites. The studies generally concentrated on how the ceramic particles (SiC) affect the mechanical and thermal properties of the PMMCs which are usually aluminum based (especially AA6063). Experiments conducted with Al and Mg alloys showed that addition of ceramic particles considerably increases the tensile strength of the alloy [4 6]. Yang et al. [7], Doel and Bowen [8] and McDanels [1] showed that fine SiC particles with 10 m particle diameter yield higher fracture toughness and strength than those with coarse particles. The uniform distribution of particles in the final product is essential in the PMMCs to obtain desired mechanical and thermal properties. However, investigations showed that there is usually particle clustering or agglomeration occurs in such composites. This clustering significantly decreases the local property of the PMMC. Llyod et al. [9] indicated that damage in the composite initiates at the particle-clustered regions. Clyne and Withers [10] proposed that the behavior of a single particle in the clustered region depends on the cluster size, volume fraction of particles and arrangement of particles in the cluster. Prangnell et al. [11] experimentally and theoretically showed that during compressive deformation of aluminum alloy reinforced with SiC particles, damage formation is concentrated at particle-clustered regions. The particle fracture and void form at particle interface depending on the particle size. The particle with larger size may crack under stresses leading to higher void fraction in the system. The distribution of reinforcement materials (SiC), one of the problems encountered in metal matrix composite processing is the settling of the reinforcement particles during melt holding or during casting. This arises as a result of density differences between the reinforcement particles and the matrix alloy melt. The reinforcement distribution is influenced during several stages including (a) distribution in the liquid as a result of mixing, (b) distribution in the liquid after mixing, but before solidification, and (c) redistribution as a result of solidification.

2nd International Conference on Production and Industrial Engineering CPIE-2010


The vortex method is one of the better known approaches used to create and maintain a good distribution of the reinforcement material in the matrix alloy. In this method, after the matrix material is melted, it is stirred vigorously to form a vortex at the surface of the melt, and the reinforcement material is then introduced at the side of the vortex. Harnby et al. [12] studied different designs of mechanical stirrers. Among them, the turbine stirrer is quite popular. During stir casting for the synthesis of composites, stirring helps in two ways: (a) transferring particles into the liquid metal, and (b) maintaining the particles in a state of suspension. A vigorously stirred melt will entrap gas which Proves to be extremely difficult to remove as the viscosity. In preparing metal matrix composite by stir casting method, porosity is a major problem. It plays an important role in controlling the materials mechanical properties. Porosity level must be kept minimize to avoid or minimize the porosity. In recent years many processing techniques have been developed to process particulate reinforced metal matrix composites. According to the type of reinforcement, the fabrication techniques can vary considerably. These techniques are stirred casting, liquid metal infiltration, squeeze casting spray decomposition and powder metallurgy. Among the variety of processing techniques available for particulate or discontinuous reinforced metal matrix composites, stir casting is one of the methods accepted for the production of large quantity commercially practiced. It is attractive because of simplicity, flexibility and most economical for large sized components to be fabricated [13].
Table1: Comparative evaluation of the fabrication techniques used for MMCs [13]. Method of fabrication Liquid metallurgy (stir casting) Squeeze casting limited by pre form shape; up to 2 cm height low up to 0.45 severe damage moderately expensive Range of shape and size Metal yield Range of vol. fraction up to 0.3 Damage to reinforcement no damage Cost

wide range of shapes; larger size; up to 500Kg

very high, >90%

least expensive

Powder metallurgy

wide range; restricted size



reinforcement fracture


Spray casting

limited shape, large size





The widespread adoption of particulate metal matrix composites for engineering applications has been hindered by high cost of producing components of even minimally complex shapes. Casting technology may be the key to overcoming this problem, although several technical challenges currently exist with this method. From the table1 it was finding that the stir casting is the most economical method to produce larger castings. But to produce silicon carbide particulate aluminium alloy composite is difficult task because of the complications arises in the literature gaps such as porosity. Due to these problems we need an improved process to overcome the difficulties. 3. Gaps Observed in Literature Review:The above literature finds some technical challenges [1415] that need considerable attention are:1. The difficulty of achieving a uniform distribution of particles, 2. Wettability between the particles and matrix, 3. Porosity in the cast metal matrix composites, 4. Chemical reactions between the reinforcement materials and the matrix alloy. In order to achieve the optimum mechanical properties, it is essential to achieve these four above conditions. But out of these mainly porosity affects the mechanical properties. Porosity formation is caused by the following reasons:i. ii. Air bubble entering the slurry either independently or as an air envelope to the reinforcement particle. Gas entrapment during vigorous stirring.

2nd International Conference on Production and Industrial Engineering CPIE-2010


iii. Water vapour on the surface of the particles. In preparing metal matrix composite by stir casting method, porosity is a major problem. It plays an important role in controlling the materials mechanical properties. Porosity level must be kept minimize to avoid or minimize the porosity. 4. Experimental Setup of Hybrid Stir Casting Process:-

4.1. Hybrid stir caster detailed design:In this study, a new quick quenched hybrid stir caster was designed to fabricate MMC ingot. The schematic drawing, of the hybrid stir caster is shown in Fig. 1.


N2 Gas Thermocouple

Impeller Muffle Furnace

Vacuum Pump

Vacuum meter

Figure 1 Experimental Setup of Hybrid Stir Casting Process

4.1.1 Muffle Furnace: The furnaces are usually heated to desired temperatures by conduction, convection from electrical resistance heating elements. Therefore, there is (usually) no combustion involved in the temperature control of the system, which allows for much greater control of temperature uniformity and assures isolation of the material being heated from the byproducts of fuel combustion. The size of the furnace is 181212 inches. The furnace was mounted on four legs. This in turn was attached to a welded steel table. The working temperature of furnace is up to 1200 0C. 4.1.2 Thermocouple: The temperature within the stir-caster had to be precisely measured and accurately controlled (1 0C), in order to control the fraction solid of the semi-solid alloy. Two calibrated K type mineral insulated thermocouple provided the control input to a temperature controller. This thermocouple was placed 80 mm above the surface of the melt. 4.1.3 Electric motor: The stirrer was connected to a DC motor which was used to stir the molten matrix material. A 0.5 HP 220V kirloskar made motor with 1500 RPM used.

2nd International Conference on Production and Industrial Engineering CPIE-2010

4.1.4 Impeller & Stirrer: -


Stainless steel material was chosen for the stirrer rod and impeller material. This material was chosen because of it corrosion resistance. For experimental work, a four flat bladed 45 0 angled stirrer was chosen. The diameter, height and width of stirrer impeller were 80 mm, 20 mm and 12 mm respectively. 4.1.5 Crucible: Stainless steel material was chosen for the crucible. The crucible material also allowed the melt to be quickly quenched. The diameter of the crucible was 105 mm. 4.1.6 Vacuum pump: Oil cooled, 220 V and 120 W Single Step Rotary Vane Compact Vacuum Pump with a capacity of 226L/min was used. Two vacuum valves are installed on flanges for gas inlet and outlet. One mechanical vacuum gauge installed on the flange for accurate pressure display. 4.1.7 Nitrogen gas: Nitrogen gas is used for its inertness, lack of moisture or oxidation resistant property. 4.1.8 Lifting mechanism: Lifting Mechanism for the rotational drive unit and stirrer assembly was used to extract the stirrer from the melt before quenching of the melt and to facilitate the stirrer positioning, cleaning and replacement. 4.2. Hybrid Stir-caster operation:When setting up the stir-caster before an experiment, the crucible was charged with aluminium 6063 alloy and SiC particles. Then, it was attached to the ceramic spacer on top of the actuator. A locking mechanism was engaged to ensure the height and lateral position of the crucible remained constant throughout the tests. The temperature was then raised to 6300C to melt the charge. A continuous purge of nitrogen gas was used in order to minimize high temperature oxidation problems. When the metal was fully melted, the stirrer was lowered into the crucible and pushed into contact with a bearing pin at the base of the crucible. This ensured that the height of the stirrer off the base (12 mm) was consistent throughout the tests and that it was held concentrically. The stir caster operation was conducted according to the following sequence of events: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Collection and preparation of the raw materials (Al 6063 + SiC particles) for making MMC. Placing raw materials in the crucible and then supply on the under nitrogen gas into a furnace. Heating the crucible above the liquids of Al6063 and allowing for a time to become completely liquid. During cooling stirring is started at the semi-solid Condition then when the temperature was stabilized at the appropriate level the stirring was recommenced for the specified period and shear rate. The charge in the crucible was then poured in steel mould which is connected to a vacuum pump.

5. Conclusion: A hybrid stir caster was developed to produce a silicon carbide particulate aluminium alloy composite. The composite produced by hybrid caster will give uniform distribution of silicon-carbide particulate with a good wettability. The most important feature of hybrid stir caster is to produce a zero porosity defect composite. Also, it will reduce the entrapment of gases in casting evolved during the process. Due to these qualities the composite prepared will give increased strength, higher elastic modulus, higher service temperature, improve wear resistance, decreased part weight, low thermal shock, high electrical and thermal conductivity, and low coefficient of thermal expansion compared to conventional metals and alloys.

2nd International Conference on Production and Industrial Engineering CPIE-2010

6. References:1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.


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