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Finding New Strength in Aluminum

Fuel efciency-driven weight reduction issues in heavy-duty transportation have made high-strength aluminum alloys, such as A206, desirable alternatives to A356.
Winston Sequeira, Magma Foundry Technologies Inc., Schaumburg, Illinois Vadim Pikhovich, Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wisconsin David Weiss, Eck Industries Inc., Manitowoc, Wisconsin

he constant drive to reduce part weight for automotive applications makes aluminum alloys attractive candidates for producing structural components because they are lighter than ferrous metals while featuring the necessary properties to meet the structural requirements. The highly castable A356 alloy has emerged as the most popular aluminum alloy for automotive chassis and suspension components, but its limitations in yield strength, fracture toughness and fatigue strength has kept high-strength low alloy steel fabrications the norm in heavy-duty transportation applications.

Because the demand for better fuel efciency in heavy-duty vehicles increasingly calls for lighter parts, the demand for castings made of highstrength aluminum alloys, such as A206, is increasing.
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Table 1. Comparison of Steel Fabrication with Cast Aluminum Alloy A206 Although 20% more expensive than Material Weight comparison Fabrication issues Comment on fatigue life A356, A206 has superior fracture toughHSLA steel 1.00 Assembled from Function of ness and fatigue properties. But A206, wrought shapes weld integrity which typically consists of 4.2-5% copA206 0.45 (55% Near net Function of per, is a long feeding range alloy prone weight savings) shape component casting integrity to shrinkage defects with a reputation for hot cracking (though a modied version with a lower propensity for assumption the casting would begin catastrophic failure when compared hot cracking has been developed). To solidication with a constant temwith A356-T7. work through these potential defects, perature throughout the casting. Steps to a Final Design casting optimization technology be3. The solidication results were anacomes important. lyzed for solidication patterns, hot The initial prototype design of the Casting optimizaspots and temperature gradients, A206 aluminum tion technology is a and a gating design was developed casting closely powerful tool that can The yield strength of to cast the LSC. A lling time was resembled the provide the upfront determined. geometry of the A206 is twice that of engineering necessary 4. Based on solidication modeling steel component to produce high quality A356, which means results, the rigging system was design that, at the A206 castings. designed with chills in critical locatime, performed A206 can withstand This article tions. Full-lling, solidication and with a high degree i l l u s - twice the load of A356 stress analysis modeling then was of reliability. The t r a t e s without experiencing carried out, and the results were following general the efanalyzed and reviewed for subsemethodology was permanent deformation. used to arrive at forts expended quent design changes. on the substi5. Prototype castings were produced a nal optimized tution of a large incorporating chills and risers. design: structural steel welded fabrication Chill and riser placements were 1. General wall thickness of the steel fabwith an A206 alloy casting for a heavy optimized using casting process rication was in the range of 0.25-0.75 specialty truck. modeling results. in. (0.64-1.9 cm). The sand casting 6. Prototype castings were tested to process, with adequate placement of Material Selection evaluate their fatigue performance chills, was believed to be capable of Field loading conditions for a large using a test rig specically designed producing high-integrity castings. structural casting (LSC) used in the susand assembled for the casting. 2. Initial solidication modeling was pension system of a heavy-duty truck 7. Fatigue test results were reviewed performed on the casting under the warranted a material that could withstand severe loading and fatigue conditions (Fig. 1). Only two materials qualied on a cost basis: austempered ductile iron (ADI) and aluminum alloy A206 with T4 and T7 heat treatment. Because ADI did not provide any weight reduction over the currently used steel component, A206 was the chosen material. During the material selection process, several important factors affecting fatigue life, such as stress range, residual stress, notches, material properties and corrosive environment, were considered. Table 1 shows a general comparison of the steel fabricated component with the A206 component. When comparing the mechanical properties of A206 and A356 (Table 2), it can be determined that the yield strength of A206 is twice that of A356, which means A206 can withstand twice the load of A356 without experiencing permanent deformation. In situations where the yielding is exceeded, A206-T6 has Fig. 1. Shown here is the large structural casting (LSC) assembled on a fatigue-testing the ability to accommodate a much rig. The red arrow indicates the strut that connects to the spring seat area (highlighted in green) of the LSC. higher stress concentration prior to

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Table 2. Comparison of Typical Mechanical Property Data for A356 and A206 Alloys (unless otherwise specied in the table, all values for A356 and A206 are for T6 and T7 conditions)
Material Yield Strength Elongation Ultimate Tensile Strength 41 ksi (283 MPa) 65 ksi (455 MPa) Fracture Toughness (KQ) MPAm 17 28 Fatigue Endurance Limit at 5 x 108 Cycles (T71 Temper Condition 8.5 ksi (59 MPa) 23 ksi (159 MPa)

A356 A206

30 ksi (207 MPa) 59 ksi (405 MPa)

10% 6%

(section thickness issues). greater than that of steel is required Alloy/Castings Measured Gradient Required Analyzing Modeling Results to avoid porosity to Avoid Shrinkage Porosity (C/m) A preliminary design of the spring seat (Table 3). Steel: 5-cm plates 40 of the casting is shown in Fig. 2 next to More importantly, Steel: 10-cm bars 40 a solidication result le. Structurally, the thermal gradithe spring seat area of the casting bears ents to produce high Al-7Mg: 5-cm plates (A356) 110-375 the brunt of the dynamic load from the quality A206 castAl-7Mg: 10-cm bars (A 356) 110-490 main strut and therefore was designated ings must be much Al-4.5%Cu: 5-cm plates (A206) 400 as a design-critical area. The seat region steeper than those Al-4.5%Cu: 10-cm bars (A206) 650 contained several sharp corners, which for A356. Therefore, can be problem areas for hot tears. a rigging system that Hot tearing is a phenomenon in is used for A356 is along with stress analysis results. which an area of the microstructure may inadequate to cast A206, and many Design changes were made based on become devoid of liquid metal during more chills are required to produce modeling results. Design changes also the nal stages of the solidication high-quality A206 castings. were made to the rigging system, but due to local strainRiser design for the gating and lling times were left A206 is extremely A206 requires more chills ing of the material. unchanged. The design was nalized can lead to the important. Because with several chills and risers. than A356 to produce high This deformation of lothe material is a 8. Fatigue tests were conducted on sevcal microstructure. wide freezing-range quality castings. eral castings. After rigorous testing, If this area is not alloy, chills and adthe parts were released for installation compensated and equate risers must on vehicles. is decient in liquid metal, it will result be used for driving solidication and Tackling Solidication in a hot tear. Hot tears can manifest feeding thick sections, and the feeder internally and cause structural weakness necks must be wide enough to facilitate Understanding the solidication of within a component. adequate feeding. A206 before developing a rigging sysAs the design was being reviewed, it Additionally, the feeding efciency tem was essential because the LSC had was decided to move forward with the of A206 during the critical stages of to conform to the AMS 4236 standard. production of a few cast prototypes by solidication is much lower compared Typically, thermal gradients in large placing large chills in the thick sections to that of A356, which must be confreezing-range alloys are manipulated that showed local hot spots. A gating sidered during feeding by the risers to avoid shrinkage porosity. For A206 system and riser placement also were as well as when designing the casting alloy, a thermal gradient ten times nalized for the production of prototype castings. The maximum principal strain rate results showed the corner areas of the spring seat experienced higher strain rates than the rest of the casting during solidication (Fig. 3). Fatigue tests on prototype castings showed excellent correlation with the simulation results. External inspection of the casting showed cracks initiating in areas of high principal strain rates. The crack propagation path during fatigue testing and nal failure of the castings showed that failure occurred in high hot tear areas predicted by the simulation (Fig. 4). (a) Microscopic characterization of the fracture surfaces using scanning elecFig. 2. Shown here is a view of the spring seat (l) and the design that was used for the manufacture tron microscopy (SEM) revealed strong of prototype castings, which showed local hot spots in the casting after solidication. evidence of hot cracking in the micro40 MODERN CASTING / February 2006

Table 3. Comparison of Measured Thermal Gradients Needed to Avoid Shrinkage Porosity

Figs. 3-4. An intermittent examination on the casting during fatigue testing showed cracks initiating in the areas of high principal strain rate predicted by the casting process modeling (above). The hot tear values within the circled area (r) in the casting are in the range of 4-8 arbitrary units. The crack in the casting can be seen clearly propagating through areas of high hot tear values.

structure adjacent to the corners in the spring seat region of the casting. Reaching a Successful Design Final design modication to the spring seat (Fig. 5) showed several key advantages: casting and solidication characteristics of the component were improved; the design incorporated large wellrounded corners to reduce/eliminate hot tearing; the addition of anges allowed for ef-

cient placing of ingates and risers; modied geometry allowed for more efcient placement of risers; casting integrity was superior to the original design. The general rigging system (without the gating system) is shown in Fig. 5. Placement of chills in the vicinity of the spring seat and the use of large risers to feed the spring seat area resulted in the casting integrity conforming to AMS 4236 standards. Minor changes were necessary to the chills and feeder neck, and the riser diameter before the rigging system

was approved for the manufacture of parts used for fatigue testing. The casting optimization process also involved performing a residual stress analysis on the nal design with the full rigging system. The design changes to the spring seat with well-contoured smooth corners resulted in a decrease in maximum principal strain rate values and hot tear criteria. The inner corners of the spring seat did not show any areas of maximum principal strain rate that were considered to be of concern. The hot tear criteria values showed a dramatic drop for the new design. These results demonstrated the capability of casting process modeling tools for the prediction of aws in the design. Improvements in the design were tracked easily with respect to the original design as iterative design changes were made. It was this design that eventually passed the fatigue test and was released for production. MC
About the Author
Winston Sequeira is an applications manager at Magma Foundry Technologies Inc., Schaumburg, Ill. Vadim Pikhovich is a senior metals/process engineer for Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wis. David Weiss is the vice president of engineering for Eck Industries Inc., Manitowoc, Wis.

(a) (b) Figs. 5. Shown here is a view of the improved nal design for the spring seat region (l) and the rigging of the casting incorporating the nal design with chills and risers.

For More Information

Recent Developments in the High Strength Aluminum-Copper Casting, G. K. Sigworth and F. DeHart, 2003 AFS Transactions (03-135), p. 341-354.

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