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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jmatprotec

Effects of squeeze casting parameters on the microstructure


of LM13 alloy
A. Maleki, A. Shafyei, B. Niroumand
Department of Materials Engineering, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan 84156-83111, Iran

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:

Effects of applied pressure and melt and die temperatures on the microstructure of squeeze

Received 24 August 2007

cast LM13 alloy were examined. The results showed that application of pressure during

Received in revised form

solidication decreased the grain size and SDAS of the primary phase and modied the

27 July 2008

eutectic silicon particles. With application of an external pressure of about 100 MPa, the

Accepted 30 August 2008

average SDAS and the average aspect ratio of eutectic silicon particles were reduced from
47 m and 5 to about 34 m and 1.5, respectively. SDAS of the primary phase and the
average aspect ratio of eutectic silicon particles decreased slightly with a drop in the melt

Keywords:

or die temperatures, reaching to 32 m and 1.25, respectively, for the best conditions.

Squeeze casting

2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Solidication
Pressure
Microstructure
Modication

1.

Introduction

Use of aluminum components has increased during the last


decade partly due to the light weight requirements of transportation systems. This would in turn lead to reduced energy
consumption and better environmental protection. Alloys of
AlSiMgNiCu family are particularly found to give good
results for such purposes due to their excellent casting characteristics and mechanical properties (Abou El-Khair, 2005).
Solidication rate (Tiryakioglu et al., 2000), micro as well
as macrostructure, morphology of eutectic silicon particles
(Pedersen and Arnberg, 2001), structural integrity and porosity content (Vijian and Arunachalam, 2006) are some of the
parameters which have been found to affect the mechanical properties and performance of the castings made of these
alloys.
Squeeze casting is a modern casting process which has
been shown to improve all the aforementioned parameters

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: behzn@cc.iut.ac.ir (B. Niroumand).
0924-0136/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2008.08.035

if utilized conscientiously. In this process, which can be


regarded as a combination of casting and forging processes
(Ghomashchi and Vikhrov, 2000), a high pressure is applied
and held on the melt during solidication (Franklin and Das,
1984). The inuences of solidication under pressure on the
properties of the castings have been subject of research during
last four decades (Chattopadhyay, 2007). Different investigations like those of Vijian and Arunachalam (2005, 2006) and
Yu et al. (2007) on a number of alloy systems have shown that
application of pressure during solidication of molten metals
changes the melting point of the alloys, increases the solidication rate, renes the micro as well as the macrostructure
and reduces the gas and shrinkage porosities of the castings.
High integrity of the squeeze cast components after their heat
treatment further improves their mechanical properties (Yue
and Chadwick, 1989).
These attributes have made squeeze casting a process capable of producing high-quality components for

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weight-critical applications such as those in automobile manufacturing industries.


The applied pressure intensity, the melt temperature and
the die preheating temperature have been shown to be among
the most important squeeze casting parameters affecting the
macro as well as the microstructure and mechanical properties of the squeeze cast components (Vijian and Arunachalam,
2007). Effects of these parameters on density, macrostructure
and hardness of LM13 alloy have been reported elsewhere
(Maleki et al., 2006). However, this paper focuses on the
microstructure of squeeze cast LM13 alloy and investigates the
effects of these casting parameters on the cast structure of the
alloy in a limited scale.

2.

LM13 alloy is an aluminium alloy widely used in production of


automotive pistons and other automobile parts. The standard
range of chemical composition of LM13 alloy (The association
of light alloys reners, 1983) and the actual chemical composition of the alloy employed in this study is shown in Table 1.
The melt was prepared in an electric mufe furnace and
poured into a preheated cylindrical die of inner diameter of
50 mm and height of 100 mm. Pressure was applied by means
of a 100 tonnes hydraulic press and held until the end of solidication. Table 2 shows the experimental conditions used for
squeeze casting of the samples.
Microstructural investigations were carried out following
standard metallography procedures and using image analysis
techniques on a transverse section cut 3 cm from the bottom of
the samples. Microstructural measurements included average
secondary dendrite arm spacing (SDAS) and average aspect
ratio of eutectic silicon particles. The SDAS was measured
according to ASTM Standard E112 (2004).

Results and discussion

3.1.

Effect of pressure

Fixed
parameters

Variable
parameter

Pressure, P (MPa)

Tm = 730

P = 0, 20, 53,
106, 171, 211

Melt temperature, Tm ( C)

Td = 200
P = 171

Die temperature, Td ( C)

Td = 200
P = 171

Tm = 630,
680, 730, 780
Td = 150, 200,
250, 300

Tm = 730

Application of pressure during solidication has resulted in


the following changes in the microstructure of the samples:

Experimental procedure

3.

Table 2 Experimental conditions used for squeeze


casting of the samples

Fig. 1 shows the microstructures of samples solidied under 0,


20, 53, 106, 171 and 211 MPa external applied pressures with a
melt and die temperature of 730 and 200 C, respectively. The
main two constituents in the microstructure of each sample
include a primary (Al rich) phase seen as light dendritic areas
and an eutectic matrix of phase and silicon particles seen as
darker areas in the micrographs. Closer looks at the eutectic
regions of the samples are shown in Fig. 2 where the changes
in the morphology of eutectic silicon particles by increasing
the applied pressure can be easily recognized.

3.1.1. Change in the grain size and the secondary dendrite


arm spacing (SDAS)
It is evident from the microstructures presented in Fig. 1
that applied pressure causes a decrease in the grain size and
the secondary dendrite arm spacing (SDAS) of the primary
phase.
A few points need to be considered in this regard. The rst
point is the sudden increase in the cooling rate caused by
the improved contact between the metal and the die surface
(Ghomashchi and Vikhrov, 2000). The second point is that the
melting point (liquidus temperature) of most metals and alloys
increases under pressure according to ClausiusClapeyron
equation (Franklin and Das, 1984). According to this equation the increase in the melting point of LM13 alloy is about
5.1 102 C/MPa. Therefore, under the experimental conditions used in this study, the melting point of the alloy may be
increased by more than 10 C upon application of the external
pressure. This characteristic can be utilized to create a sudden large under cooling in the melt if the melt temperature
and timing of pressure application are accurately controlled.
In fact the largest melt under cooling would be achieved if
the pressure were applied when the melt temperature in the
die was lower than its liquidus temperature and just above
the temperature required for swift exponential increase in the
nucleation rate (for example about 0.98 of the melting point
of the alloy). Higher cooling rate, especially if coupled with a
prompt large under cooling as mentioned above, can cause
signicant renement in the structure of the squeeze cast
samples.
It is noteworthy that the grain size and SDAS of the squeeze
cast samples are comparable with those of conventionally
inoculated and cast microstructures. In fact, thermal grain
renement induced by squeeze casting balances the chemical grain renement due to inoculation treatment. Besides its
economical benet such as no need to add inoculants in the

Table 1 Chemical composition of LM13 alloy


Element
BS 1490LM13 standard (wt%)
Ingot analysis (wt%)

Cu

Mg

0.71.5
1.3

0.81.5
1.2

Si
1013
12.3

Fe

Mn

Ni

Zn

Pb

Sn

Ti

<1
0.4

<0.5
0.02

<1.5
1.4

<0.5
<0.03

<0.1
<0.03

<0.1
<0.05

<0.2
0.01

Al
Reminder
Reminder

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Fig. 1 Effect of external pressure on the microstructure of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a) 0 (atmospheric pressure), (b) 20 MPa,
(c) 53 MPa, (d) 106 MPa, (e) 171 MPa, (f) 211 MPa (Tm = 730 C and Td = 200 C).

melt, it has other technical benets such as no fading action


and its associated change of SDAS with holding time of the
melt (since there is no added inoculants).
Fig. 3 illustrates the variation of SDAS at the center of
the samples with the applied pressure. The corresponding
cooling rate at this point, obtained by substituting SDAS
values into the general coarsening law of aluminum alloys
(Flemings, 1974), increases from 0.6 to 1.5 C/s as the pressure increases from atmospheric pressure to 100 MPa. Of
course, these values are the minimum cooling rates in each
sample since the SDAS are measured at the center of the
samples.

It is noticed that the slop of the curve is very steep at low


applied pressures. It becomes less steep at higher applied pressures until the pressure reaches to about 100 MPa after which
it becomes almost zero. It is postulated that 100 MPa is the
external pressure at which a complete contact between the
metal and the die surface is realized.

3.1.2.

Modication of eutectic silicon particles

Microstructure of the eutectic region of the sample cast under


atmospheric pressure is shown in Fig. 2a. Although the relatively high solidication rate imposed by the metallic die has
partially modied some of the eutectic silicon particles, many

Fig. 2 Effect of external pressure on the morphology of eutectic silicon particles of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a) 0
(atmospheric pressure), (b) 20 MPa, (c) 53 MPa, (d) 106 MPa, (e) 171 MPa, (f) 211 MPa (Tm = 730 C and Td = 200 C).

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Fig. 3 Effect of external pressure on the SDAS of primary


phase of squeeze cast LM13 alloy (Tm = 730 C and
Td = 200 C).

relatively long particles are still present. These are expected


to reduce the mechanical properties of the castings. A comparison between Fig. 2af reveals that application of pressure
and its consequent increase in the cooling rate causes further modication of the eutectic silicon particles. At applied
pressures of more than about 100 MPa hardly any long particle
is observed in the microstructures. Here again the economical and technical benets of thermal modication of eutectic
silicon particles by squeeze casting rather than chemical modication, by addition of Sr bearing master alloys to the melt,
are evident.
Fig. 4 displays the effect of applied pressure on the average
aspect ratio (ratio of length, a, to width, b) of the eutectic sil-

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Fig. 4 Effect of applied pressure on the average aspect ratio


of the eutectic silicon particles (Tm = 730 C and Td = 200 C).

icon particles. The aspect ratio becomes unity for a perfectly


modied particle (a sphere) and increases for less spherical
shapes. It is observed that with increasing the applied pressure, the aspect ratio decreases noticeably at rst and becomes
almost constant at pressures higher than about 100 MPa. The
aspect ratio has decreased from 5 for atmospheric pressure
to about 1.5 for pressures more than 100 MPa which corresponds to nearly spherical particles. The variation range of
aspect ratios, taken from at least 40 measurements for each
applied pressure, is also shown in Fig. 4. As seen the variation
range decreases with increasing the applied pressure. It indicates that increasing the applied pressure results in formation
of eutectic silicon particles with a more uniform morphology.
Enhanced thermal modication of eutectic silicon particles as

Fig. 5 Effect of melt temperature on the microstructure of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a) 630 C, (b) 680 C, (c) 730 C, (d) 780 C
(P = 171 MPa and Td = 200 C).

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Fig. 6 Effect of melt temperature on the morphology of eutectic silicon particles of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a) 630 C, (b)
680 C, (c) 730 C, (d) 780 C (P = 171 MPa and Td = 200 C).

a result of improved cooling rate and higher under cooling of


the melt renders better mechanical properties of the squeeze
cast samples.

3.2.

Effect of melt temperature

The results discussed in the previous section revealed that


for LM13 alloy and the experimental conditions employed in
this study, the full effect of pressure on the microstructure
was realized at an external pressure of about 100 MPa or more.
Therefore, considering a safety margin, an external pressure of
171 MPa was selected to study the effects of melt temperature
on the microstructure.
Fig. 8 Effect of melt temperature on the average aspect
ratio of the eutectic silicon particles of squeeze cast LM13
alloy (P = 171 MPa and Td = 200 C).

Fig. 7 Effect of melt temperature on the SDAS of primary


phase of squeeze cast LM13 alloy (P = 171 MPa and
Td = 200 C).

Figs. 5 and 6 represents the microstructures of the samples


cast at four different melt temperatures ranging from 630 to
780 C. The external pressure and die preheating temperature
were 171 MPa and 200 C, respectively, for all the samples.
The microstructural observation of the samples reveals no
signicant change in the morphology of primary phase with
melt temperature. However, the eutectic silicon particles are
less modied as the melt temperature rises. At melt temperature of 780 C some relatively long silicon particles are also
detectable.

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Fig. 9 Effect of die preheating temperature on the microstructure of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a) 150 C, (b) 200 C, (c) 250 C,
(d) 300 C (P = 171 MPa and Tm = 730 C).

Fig. 10 Effect of die preheating temperature on the morphology of eutectic silicon particles of squeeze cast LM13 alloy: (a)
150 C, (b) 200 C, (c) 250 C, (d) 300 C (P = 171 MPa and Tm = 730 C).

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Fig. 11 Effect of die preheating temperature on the SDAS


of primary phase of squeeze cast LM13 alloy (P = 171 MPa
and Tm = 730 C).

Figs. 7 and 8 show the effect of melt temperature on the


SDAS of primary phase and the average aspect ratio of
eutectic silicon particles, respectively. Both of these features
decrease slightly with a drop in melt temperature due to the
resulting larger solidication or cooling rate of the melt rendering more desirable microstructures.

3.3.

Effect of die temperature

Effect of die temperature on the microstructure was investigated using die preheating temperatures of 150, 200, 250 and
300 C, where the melt temperature and the external pressure were 730 C and 171 MPa, respectively. Figs. 9 and 10
demonstrate the microstructure of these samples. Effects
of mold temperature on the SDAS of primary phase and
the average aspect ratio of eutectic silicon particles are represented in Figs. 11 and 12 respectively. The effects are
similar but more pronounced than those of the melt temperature in the range examined. The average SDAS of primary
phase has increased from 32 to 40 m and the average
aspect ratio of eutectic silicon particles has increased from
about 1.45 to 2.2 with increasing the mold temperature from
150 to 300 C. More elongated silicon particles are visible in
Fig. 10d where the die temperature was 300 C. The effect

of die temperature is again through its effect of the cooling


rate.
According to the results presented, and within the range
of the experimental conditions used in this investigation, the
most rened microstructure in squeeze casting of LM13 alloy
is achieved under an applied pressure of more than 100 MPa,
melt temperature of 630 C and die temperature of 150 C.
However low melt or die temperature has an adverse effect
on the uidity of the melt and may result in casting defects
such as misruns or cold shuts. In such cases increasing the
melt temperature to 680 or 730 C would have only a small
undesirable effect on the microstructure. On the other hand a
higher die preheating temperature of 200 C can be used if die
life is not taken into consideration.

4.

Conclusion

The following conclusions may be drawn from the results of


the present investigation on squeeze casting of LM13 alloy:

1. Applied pressure decreases the grain size and SDAS of primary phase. SDAS was dropped from about 47 m for
atmospheric pressure to about 34 m for an external pressure of about 100 MPa.
2. Applied pressure modies and reduces the average aspect
ratio of the eutectic silicon particles. The average aspect
ratio of the eutectic silicon particles was dropped from 5 for
atmospheric pressure to about 1.5 for an external pressure
of about 100 MPa. It has also made the morphology of the
eutectic silicon particles more uniform.
3. Effects of applied pressure on the SDAS of primary
phase and the aspect ratio of eutectic silicon particles
become negligible for external pressures of more than
about 100 MPa. It is postulated that 100 MPa is the external
pressure at which a complete contact between the metal
and die surface is realized.
4. No signicant change in the morphology of primary
phase was observed with melt temperature. However the
SDAS of primary phase and the average aspect ratio of
eutectic silicon particles decreased slightly with a drop
in melt temperature rendering more desirable microstructures.
5. The effect of die preheating temperature is similar but
more pronounced than those of melt temperature in the
range examined.
6. The effects of casting parameters on the microstructure of
LM13 alloy can be justied based on the effects of applied
pressure on the thermal grain renement or modication
of the microstructure. These include change in the melting point of the alloy, possibility of occurrence of a prompt
large under cooling in the melt and improved heat transfer
across the die-metal interface.

Acknowledgment
Fig. 12 Effect of die preheating temperature on the
average aspect ratio of the eutectic silicon particles of
squeeze cast LM13 alloy (P = 171 MPa and Tm = 730 C).

The authors would like to acknowledge the nancial support


from the ofce of deputy research of Isfahan University of
Technology (IUT)/Iran.

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