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Measuring Mold Cavity Filling Time in Low Pressure Permanent Mold

Casting of Aluminum A356 Parts



F. Chiesa , and N. Gigure

Centre de Mtallurgie du Qubec, Trois-Rivires, Qubec

B. Duchesne
Collge de Trois-Rivires, Trois-Rivires, Qubec

J. Baril

Technologie de lAluminium et du Magnsium, Trois-Rivires, Qubec





Copyright 2011 American Foundry Society

ABSTRACT
In the present work, a great number of castings were
poured by the Low Pressure Permanent Mold process
for a wide range of filling times and pouring
temperatures. One casting was a 2mm-wall (0.080 in.)
cover weighing 0.13kg (0.27lb) and the other was a
7kg (15.4lbs) bell housing with walls varying in
thickness from 6 to 25mm (0.25 to 1 in.).

Type K thermocouple wires (0.12mm diameter
[0.0045 in.], with a response time of 0.1s) were
connected to a data logger (20 readings per second) to
detect the passage of the liquid metal front, allowing
an accurate measurement of the filling time (0.05s).
As the filling time is obtained by subtracting the
passage times recorded by two identical
thermocouples, the time lags cancels out with no
detrimental effect on the accuracy.

This allowed to determine a slowing factor (SF)
defined as the ratio of the actual measured filling time
to the filling time calculated based on the static
equilibrium level. Slowing factor was found to vary
from 1, for very slow rates of filling, to values greater
than 2 for extremely steep pressure ramps. For typical
industrial production conditions, SF is in the range 1.3
to 1.6 and appears to be closer to 1.0 for thin castings.
It was found that the pouring temperature had little
effect on SF except for extremely low pouring
temperatures (below 700C or 1292F).



INTRODUCTION
The Low Pressure Permanent Mold casting (LPPM)
process is used for producing aluminum and
magnesium parts. It is a novel process for pouring
magnesium alloys,
1,2
but a mature one as far as
aluminum alloys are concerned.
3
The principle of the
LPPM process is shown in Figure 1. The liquid metal,
located under the mold, is pushed up a transfer tube by
applying a gas pressure on the surface of the melt.
This process presents a host of advantages over gravity
casting, including:
a) Tranquil and perfectly controlled bottom filling of
the mold cavity as illustrated in Figure 1;
b) Superior feeding without risers. In LPPM, the
typical feeding pressure is 900mB versus 100-
200mB for riser fed gravity castings;
c) Thinner walls may be obtained as compared to
gravity filling (as thin as 2mm);
d) The yield is typically 85%, versus 60% in gravity
casting, leading to less returns in the melt, hence a
cleaner metal with consequent energy savings and
reduced melting furnace capacity (tons/h);
e) The liquid metal is cleaner because it is extracted
from underneath the melt surface; and
f) No metal handling by the operator results in better
ergonomics and a perfectly repeated filling at each
cycle.

Among these advantages, the control of the filling is
the most spectacular: by varying the rate of increase of
the pressure applied on the melt, the filling may be
sped up or slowed down at will with great ease.

Filling in the LPPM process has been previously
studied.
4,5
However, the actual time necessary to fill
the mold cavity is not known because the pressure
applied on the melt cannot be strictly related to the
level of the melt in the mold as discussed in the
following section.
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 1 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA



Fig. 1. Principle of LPPM casting.

RELATING PRESSURE AND MELT LEVEL
The LPPM casting process allows the production of
high integrity light metal parts with a high
productivity. LPPM permits very close control of the
filling process. However, the mold cavity being
closed, it is difficult to accurately know the filling time
of the mold cavity, as easily as it is in the case of an
open cavity typical of the gravity poured permanent
molds. The known pressure rise applied on the surface
of the melt allows a calculation of theoretical filling
time, which is always substantially less than the actual
filling time, particularly at high rates. The knowledge
of this actual filling time is necessary to the modeling
of the process, and more importantly, for the
comprehension of phenomena such as superheat
losses, air entrapment and turbulence, leading to
casting defects such as misruns, cold-shuts and
sagging of the cope surface.
The equilibrium level of the metal (i.e. when the liquid
metal is at rest) in the transfer tube and the mold
cavity depends only on the pressure applied on the
surface of the melt inside the pressure tight crucible:
This level will be called the theoretical level. Each
increase in pressure of 1 mB will result in the liquid
aluminum level rising by 4mm.
Consequently, the equilibrium altitude, or theoretical
level can be mathematically derived using the simple
law stating that the difference in pressure p between
two points with a difference in altitude of h (in m) is
equal to p (in Pa) =.g.h, where is the density of
the fluid (2600 kg.m
-3
for liquid aluminum) and g the
acceleration of gravity (9.81 m.s
-2
)
However, this will not be the case in real life because
of the following reasons:
a) Part of the pressure force is used to accelerate the
liquid metal at the entrance of the transfer tube and
to counter viscous forces, so that the actual metal
level will be lower than the theoretical level.
b) Depending on the filling rate with respect to the
venting of the mold, the difficulty in expelling the
air from the mold cavity will result in a pressure
build up which will prevent the liquid metal level
to rise as fast as it should.

For instance, let us assume that the pressure ramp
shown in Figure 2 is applied on the melt surface (0-
500mB in 10s, or 50mB/s), while the top of the mold
is 1500mm above the melt surface. This means that the
theoretical level will rise at a rate of 200 mm/s as
indicated by the blue line in Figure 3. The top of the
mold (at altitude 1500mm) will thus be reached after
7.5s, when the pressure is 375mB as shown by the
white arrow in Figure 2.












Fig. 2. Typical pressure curve in LPPM casting.














Fig. 3. Melt level progression corresponding to the
pressure curve of Fig.2 as a function of venting.
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
time, s
m
e
t
a
l

h
e
i
g
h
t

a
b
o
v
e

p
o
t

l
e
v
e
l
,

c
m
theoretical (4mm/mB) well vented mold poorly vented mold
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 2 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA

However, in a normally vented mold, this relatively
steep pressure rise will result in a lag mainly due to an
air pressure build up in the mold cavity. The actual
melt level progression in the mold will follow the red
curve in Figure 3 while a poorly vented mold will
result in the very slow filling depicted by the yellow
curve in the same figure.

Figure 4 shows typical curves of the pressure build up
in the mold cavity recorded by a manometer during
four consecutive fillings of the LPPM cast bell
housing referred to in the next chapter; in this
particular case, the rate in pressure rise over the
surface of the liquid metal was 15mB/s. The curves in
Figure 4 recorded during these four consecutive cycles
indicate that the backpressure varied between 25 and
40mB under identical pouring conditions; this scatter
is probably due to variations in mold tightness at each
mold closing.

0
10
20
30
40
50
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
time, s
p
r
e
s
s
u
r
e
,

m
B


Fig. 4. Pressure build-up in cavity during filling.


FILLING A 7kg (15.4lbs) A356 BELL HOUSING

The filling times of a 7kg finished casting were
measured for different pressure ramps and the SF
obtained by dividing the measured filling time by the
theoretical filling time corresponding to
metallostatic equilibrium.

The filling times were measured by detecting the
arrival of the flow via two quick response
thermocouples encapsulated in thin copper sheaths;
they were located as indicated in Figure 5 and the
recording rate was 20 readings per second.

The LPPM press used in our filling experiments is
shown in Figure 6 and schematized in Figure 7 where
the correspondence between the pressure applied on
the melt and the altitude is indicated.




Fig. 5. Location of the two thermocouple tips
allowed measuring of the filling times (red dots).




Fig. 6. LPPM press with close-up on mold (at right).


Figure 7 states that when the crucible is full, assuming
a very slow rise in pressure over the melt, the mold
cavity will start filling when the pressure reaches
88mB, and will finish filling when the pressure
reaches 143mB.
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 3 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA


Fig. 7. Relationship between pressure and level.

However, as explained above, the actual pressures will
be greater than 88 and 143mB, all the more since the
filling is fast and the venting of the mold is poor.


The measurement of the filling times was done in the
course of a campaign where the 40 bell housings
shown in Figure 8 were produced. Nine initial pours
were necessary to run in the mold and reach a dynamic
thermal equilibrium.

Figure 9 shows the recorded temperature cycling in the
mold during the whole campaign (49 pours); the
positions of the thermocouples inserted in the mold are
represented by a red dot on the models shown at two
different view angles in Figure 9.















Fig. 8. Production of the casting campaign when
filling times were measured (40 castings).


Fig. 9. Recorded mold temperature cycling at locations indicated by the two red dots on the casting models.
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 4 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA

300
320
340
360
380
400
420
440
10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
time (s)
t
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
C
)



EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS (BELL HOUSING)

A typical response from the two thermocouples used
to measure the filling time is shown in Figure 10. It
pertains to pour #34 with a melt temperature of 745C
(1373F), a pressure ramp of 0-300mB in 25s (12mB/s)
corresponding to a theoretical filling time of 4.7s. The
detailed analysis of the curve shows that the filling
time is 21.3-14.9= 6.4s. The slowing factor is thus
equal to SF=6.4s/4.7s=1.36 in this particular instance.

Slowing factor was calculated in a similar fashion for
19 normal pours, i.e. pours at a temperature between
745C and 755C(1373F and 1391F) and pressure
ramps of 15mB/s and 12mB/s, or 0-300mB pressure
rise in 20s and 25s respectively. The results are shown
in Figure 11 for 12 pours at 15mB/s and 7 pours at
12mB/s.

It shows that under normal conditions, the SF is
about 1.5 with a higher dispersion when the filling is
faster. This would entail that a more reproducible
filling is achieved when the filling is slower.




























Fig. 10. Typical response from the thermocouples
measuring the filling time. (pour#34)(See Fig.5)
















Fig.11.Slowing factor for normal filling times (Bell
housings).

The SF was also calculated for extreme values of
filling time, namely for pressure ramps of 0-300mB in
5, 10, 15, 35, 60, 75 and 90s and pouring temperatures
of 720C, 695C, 685C, 681C and 664C(1328F, 1283F,
1265F, 1258F, and 1227F respectively). This is shown
in Figures 12 and 13.

Fig. 12. Slowing factor over a wide range of filling
times (1:18 ratio.)(Bell housings)

The leftmost bar in the graph of Figure 12 indicates
that for 0-300mB pressure ramp duration of 5s, the
theoretical filling time is 0.9s and the slowing factor is
equal to 2.27; hence the measured filling time has been
2.1s.

Likewise, the rightmost bar in the same graph
corresponds to a 0-300mB pressure ramp duration of
90s, i.e. a very slow rate of filling; in this case, the
theoretical filling time is 16.5s, the SF is 1.10,
calculated from the measured filling time of 18.1s. The
graph shows, quite expectedly, that SF is close to 1 for
very slow filling times; it increases up to 2.3 for
extremely steep pressure ramps; this results from the
growing difficulty in expelling the air entrapped in the
mold cavity. For normal ramp durations of 5 to 10s,
the value of SF lies around 1.5. The graph on Figure
13 lumps the results obtained for normal 0-300mB
pressure ramp durations of 15s, 20s, and 25s and for a
range of pouring temperatures comprised between
300
350
400
450
500
550
0 10 20 30 40 50
time (s)
t
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
C
)
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 5 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA

664C and 750C (1227F and 1382F). It shows that the
SF increases slightly as the pouring temperature drops,
probably due to the increased viscosity of the melt.

0
0.5
1
1.5
2
660 680 700 720 740 760
pouring temperature (C)
s
l
o
w
i
n
g

f
a
c
t
o
r
,

S
F

Fig. 13. Slowing factor over a wide range of
pouring temperatures for a normal range of
filling times.(Bell housings)

EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS (THIN CASTING)

Similar filling times were measured when pouring thin
wall castings, one of which is shown in place in the
mold and after ejection in Figure 14. The cluster
comprises two mirror-copy covers used to encase an
airplane seat adjustment device. The massive feeding
and gating system represents 70% of the total weight
of the cluster.

Fig. 14. Cover castings (1kg two-part cluster).

Figure 15 shows the 72 clusters which were poured in
one campaign for a range of 0-300mB pressure ramp
durations of 2s (150mB/s), 4s, 6s, 8s, 12s, 16s, and 20s
(15mB/s).









Fig. 15. Clusters poured in the present study.
Three thermocouples represented in red in Figure 16
were inserted in the mold to record the thermal
history; their responses are shown in Figure 18. The
filling time was measured by fast response
thermocouples in green on the same figure separated
by a vertical distance of 211mm or 8.3 in. (Figure 17).
In the same manner as was done for the bell housings,
dividing the actual measured filling times by the
theoretical filling times allowed to determine the SF
for pouring temperatures of 720C, 740C and
760C(1328F, 1364F, and 1400F) . The results are
plotted in Figure 19 for these 3 pouring temperatures.
Looking at the three leftmost bars indicates that, for a
very steep pressure ramp of 0-300mB lasting 2s, the
theoretical filling time is 0.45s and the slowing factors
are 4.7, 2.8 and 2.3 for pouring temperatures of 720,
740 and 760C. This translates to actual filling time of
2.1, 1.2 and 1.0s respectively. However, for slower
(and more reasonable) filling rates, SF is always less
than 1.5 and did not depend much on the pouring
temperature between 720C and 760C(1328F and
1400F).
Similarly to what was observed in the bell housing
experiments, and for the same reason, SF decreases as
the filling is slower. The actual filling time is
generally closer to the theoretical filling time than for
the bell housing experiments; this may be explained
by the fact that a much lesser amount of air must be
expelled from the cavity, especially in the final stage
of the filling process.


Fig. 16. Thermocouples inserted in mold.


Fig. 17. Vertical distance separating the two
thermocouples measuring the fill time.
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 6 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA

Temperature at 3 locations in the mold during the casting campaign
300
350
400
450
500
550
600
10:20 10:50 11:20 11:50 12:20 12:51 13:21 13:51 14:21 14:52
time (hrs:min)
t
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
C
)

Fig. 18. Response of the thermocouples represented in red on Figure 16.

0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
s
l
o
w
i
n
g

f
a
c
t
o
r
,

S
F
2/0.45 4/0.9 6/1.3 8/1.75 12/2.6 16/3.5 20/4.5
time to reach 300mB (s) / theoretical filling time ( s)
760C
740C
720C

Fig. 19. Slowing factor over a wide range of filling times (1:10.)(Thin casting)


CONCLUSIONS

By measuring the filling time of a thin and a bulky
casting under a range of process conditions, it was
possible to determine the SF, ratio of the actual filling
time to the theoretical filling time based on the static
level equilibrium of the melt. SF allows a calculation
of the filling time of the mold cavity after the pressure
ramp of the LPPM process is selected. The knowledge
of SF is very useful to input a realistic mold filling
time when modeling the filling of a LPPM mold.


A SF value of 1 indicates that the actual filling time is
equal to the theoretical time; this corresponds to an
extremely slow mold filling, when no back pressure
builds up inside the mold cavity. A value of SF of 2
means that the actual filling time is twice the time
calculated based on the pressure ramp applied on the
melt and the height of the casting.
Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 7 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA

It was determined that;

1) In the case of the bell housing (Casting thickness
ranging from 6mm to 25mm, or 0.25 to 1), at
pouring temperatures between 745C and 755C
(1373C and 1391F), SF varies from 2.26 to 1.07
when the theoretical filling time is increased from
0.9 to 16.5s. For a normal theoretical filling
time of 4s (corresponding to an actual filling time
of about 6s), SF increases from 1.4 to 1.8 when
the pouring temperature decreases from 750C to
664C (1382F to 1227F).

2) In the case of the thin casting (2mm wall cover
housing), SF slowly decreases from 1.49 to 1.14
when the theoretical filling time is increased from
0.9 to 4.5s. Except for extreme pressure rises
where SF can reach 4.69 for a pouring
temperature of 720C (1328F), the value of SF
does not depend much on the pouring temperature
between 720C and 760C (1328F and 1400F).
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution of
Ministre du Dveloppement conomique, de
lInnovation et de lExportation of Qubec and of the
Canadian Foundation for Innovation to the
infrastructure which made this research possible.

Part of the operating expenses for this project was
covered by the Qubec government Programme
dAide la Recherche Technologique. The authors
are also indebted to TMA (Technologie de
lAluminium et du Magnsium) for making their
facilities and personnel available for the casting runs.


REFERENCES

1. Peng, L.M., Wang, Y.X., Fu P.H., Jing, W.J.,
Luo, A.A., Venna, R., "Numerical
Simulation and Process Development for
Low Pressure Die Casting of Magnesium
Alloy Wheel", AFS Transactions, Vol.
118, paper 10-077 (2010)
2. Sheng, Y., Chen, S., Nath, J., Low Pressure
Casting Process Simulation and Tooling
Design for HIMAC's Magnesium
Automotive Control Arm, AFS
Transactions, Vol. 116, paper 08-148 (2008)
3. Chiesa, F., Duchesne, B., Morin. G., Baril, J.,
Comparing Low Pressure Permanent Mold
Casting of Aluminum A356 and Magnesium
AZ91E, AFS Transactions, Vol. 116, paper 08-
028 (2008)
4. Lee, J.R., Singh, D.P.K., Chen, Z.W.,
Improvement of the Low Pressure Permanent
Mould Pressurization Sequence for Wheel
Casting, AFS Transactions, Vol. 111, paper
03-016 (2003)
5. Chiesa, F., Duchesne, B., Morin, G.,
Influence of Artificial Cooling and pressure
application on the metallurgical quality in the
LPPM Casting of Aluminium Al Si7 Mg03,
Conference of Metallurgists, Proceedings of
the symposium Light Metals in Transport
Applications, pp.27-42., Toronto (August
25-30, 2007)




Paper 11-003.pdf, Page 8 of 8
AFS Proceedings 2011 American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, IL USA