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Intermetallics 16 (2008) 130e138

Centrifugal casting of TiAl exhaust valves

P.X. Fu, X.H. Kang, Y.C. Ma, K. Liu, D.Z. Li*, Y.Y. Li
Institute of Metal Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 72 Wenhua Road, Shenyang 110016, China
Received 16 April 2007; received in revised form 3 August 2007; accepted 21 August 2007
Available online 17 October 2007


The mould filling process and solidification of TiAl exhaust valves by centrifugal investment casting have been simulated. Two types of run-
ner and gating systems are designed and analysed. In the preliminary design, a ‘‘tree-type’’ set up system is used and a significant amount of
porosity is found in many valves of the simulation result. The fluid field simulations indicate that moulds are not filled well in the preliminary
design, leading to the last hot spots deviating from the center line of castings. Casting defects deviated from the center line of the part, and the
degree of deviation is affected by the mould filling process and temperature fields. Simulation results reveal that castings do not experience
sequential solidification, so the design is not proper for the exhaust valve. Comparing the experimental and simulation results, the range of
Niyama criterion in the centrifugal TiAl casting is defined, which is 0.14e0.20. Several key factors such as pouring temperature, mould tem-
perature and rotation speed are studied in detail. An optimized design is developed in which valves are rearranged to reduce the neighboring heat
radiation effect, and the gate size is enlarged to keep the feeding path open. Sound exhaust valves have been produced successfully using the
optimized technique.
2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: A. Titanium aluminides, based on TiAl; C. Casting; C. Near-net-shape manufacturing; G. Automotive uses

1. Introduction powder [8,9]. In contrast, the works by Jones [10], Liu [6]
and Sheng et al. [11] indicated that centrifugal casting process
One of the most important problems in the modern car had significant advantages.
industry is the pollution of the environment by exhaust fumes. The conventional trial and error method of designing cast-
Among automotive engine parts, the exhaust valve has been ing process based on experience or manual craft often results
a particular focus of the drive for increasing efficiency. The in higher cost and longer cycle of preproduction. One typical
substitution of light weight materials for steel [1e4] is an case is the researches about the centrifugal casting. The cen-
effective approach to reduce pollutant emissions. At present, trifugal casting of investment moulds for the production of TiAl
TiAl alloy appears to be an ideal candidate material of the exhaust valves is restricted in use, because the quality of
exhaust valve due to its low density, high specific strength, products is highly sensitive to damage as a result of in-
high stiffness and fatigue resistance at increased temperatures appropriate processing conditions and mould design. So the
[5,6]. There are three traditional methods to shape TiAl alloy: design based on computer simulation and real-time radiogra-
forging, powder metallurgy (PM) and casting. It is difficult for phy technology is needed because it can improve quality, reduce
the TiAl alloy to take shape by forging due to its inherent poor- cost and shorten preproduction time obviously [12e14]. Great
deformability and high machining losses [7,8]. The powder promise and potential have been shown by using numer- ical
metallurgy route has been limited by the processing of TiAl simulation.
In this paper, computer simulation and X-ray inspection
technologies are adopted to investigate the centrifugal invest-
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ86 24 23971281; fax: þ86 24 23971429. ment casting process for the production of TiAl exhaust
E-mail address: (D.Z. Li). valves.

0966-9795/$ - see front matter 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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2. Design 1: a preliminary design Table 2

Thermophysical properties of TiAl alloy varied with temperature

2.1. Numerical simulation Temperature Density Specific Thermal

( C) (kg/m3) heat conductivity
(J/kg K) (W/m K)
The mould filling and solidification processes of TiAl cast

exhaust valves have been simulated using the ProCAST pack- 25 3857 598 13.2
200 630 16.7
age. The finite element method (FEM) code which employs 400 667 20.2
CarreaueYasuda viscosity model to describe the behavior of 600 703 23.1
shear fluids in centrifugal casting has been chosen. The tran- 800 740 25.3
sient NaviereStokes equations for a Newtonian fluid are the 1600 3676 786 31
basis of the ProCAST model. An enthalpy method is used to 1800 3612 794 37
solve the phase transition problem during solidification. The
thermophysical material properties of the casting and mould
materials are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. cooling rate ‘‘L’’ and the temperature gradients ‘‘G’’. The def-
The initial processing parameters used in the simulation are inition of G is as follows:
pouring temperature 1690 C, filling time 6 s, pre-heated
2 2 2 1=2
mould temperature 900 C and rotation speed 450 rpm. vT vT vT
G¼ ð1Þ
þ þ
vx vy vz

2.2. Experiments
where T is the temperature.
The TiAl alloy exhaust valve casting consists of the head The cooling rate is calculated using a linear interpolation
with the dimension Ø 39 5.2 mm, and the stem with Ø between two temperatures, and L is defined as follows:
8.2 100 mm as shown in Fig. 1. In order to achieve a high Tupper Tlower

metal yield and production efficiency, a ‘‘tree-type’’ wax as- L¼ ð2Þ

tupper tlower
sembly set up is used, as shown in Fig. 2. Due to heat transfer
and solidification, 24 parts with some angles upward are where t is the time when the temperature reaches T.
placed on the tree in a regular formation to reduce part conges- If the following parameters, i.e. a ¼ 1.0; b ¼ 0; c ¼ 1.0;
tion. The three-dimensional (3D) model of exhaust valve d ¼ 0.5 are used in the equation M ¼ aRb Gc Ld , we can get
based on the first design is shown in Fig. 2. the Niyama criterion (Nc) [15]:
The alloy used in this study has a nominal composition of p ffiffiffi
Ti45Al8Nb1B (at.%). Cast parameters used in the experiments M ¼ G= T_ > constant ð3Þ
are the same as those in the simulation. The one-step melting
and centrifugal casting process is adopted to reduce the cost of where the constant is dependent on the alloy being cast.
castings. It means that when the temperature of the molten al- The criterion function of Niyama is size-independent while
loy and rotation speed of the ceramic mould are adjusted to the it is alloy-dependent. Fig. 3(a) shows the experimental results,
pre-determined parameters, the liquid is directly poured into the and Fig. 3(b) shows the simulation results. All the cast para-
turning Al2O3 mould. A sophisticated 3D X-ray inspection meters used in the simulation are the same as those of the
system is used to inspect defects in exhaust valves. experiment. Seven Niyama criteria (0.12, 0.14, 0.16, 0.18,
0.20, 0.22, 0.24) are shown in the simulation results, as shown
in Fig. 3(b). The results indicate that when the Niyama crite-
2.3. Results and discussion rion is chosen from 0.14 to 0.20, the simulation results match
well with the experimental results. When the Niyama criterion
The mould filling process and solidification are calculated. is chosen as 0.12 or 0.22, the simulation results deviate from
Casting defect examination function RGL and ISOCHRONS the experimental results. It is concluded that the value of
in the ProCAST software are better than others. Function Niyama criterion has a great influence on simulation results.
RGL is able to calculate the solidification rate ‘‘R’’, the

D t /m3) 3857
Table 1 e y 3970
n ( Specific heat (J/kg K)
Thermophysical properties of casting and mould materials (constant) s k 598 777
Thermophysical properties TiAl alloy Mould material (Al2O3) i g
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Thermal conductivity (W/m K) 13.2 39 5.2

Liquidus temperature ( C) 1554 2323
Solidus temperature ( C) 1478
Latent heat (J/kg K) 435 100



Environment temperature ( C) 22 22
Fig. 1. Schematic illustration of the cast valve.

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Fig. 2. 3D model of cast valves in the preliminary design.

Furthermore, according to the experimental results and simu-

lation results, the critical value of the Nyiama criterion for
this study is 0.18, as shown in Fig. 3(b).
All the cast exhaust valves have porosities with different
degrees, as shown in Fig. 3. The results indicate that casting
defects are concentrated near the center of cast exhaust valves,
and the porosity is serious. Casting defects are affected by the
mould filling process and the solidification of the cast valve.
Because of the centrifugal effects, mould filling is different
from static mould filling. The filling process is divided into
forward filling and backward filling regimes. Cast exhaust
valves are filled along the inside of the shell surface, on the
side dragging behind the direction of the rotation. At first
the melt is filled along the shell surface, leaving the other
part unfilled, as shown in Fig. 4. In the forward filling process,
when cast exhaust valves are filled and the melt does not reach
the casting shell bottom, the shell is half-filled and the solidi-
fication occurs in the interface between the forward filled field
and the shell inner surface, as shown in Fig. 4. The thickness
of the solidified material is affected by the length of the cavity Fig. 3. Experimental and calculated porosities of cast valves in the preliminary
and the filling velocity. The longer length of the cavity leads to design. (a) X-ray scanning image, (b) predicted porosity. A: Nc ¼ 0.12, B:
a longer time when the backward filling returns, and resulting Nc ¼ 0.14, C: Nc ¼ 0.16, D: Nc ¼ 0.18, E: Nc ¼ 0.20, F: Nc ¼ 0.22, G:
in a larger thickness of the solidified layer. When the backward Nc ¼ 0.24 (green areas represent porosity, dark areas represent the casting in
the viewing direction). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this
wave finally reaches this section, the shell cavity will be filled figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
completely. So the preliminary design of runner system results
in surface turbulence. Splash and folding-over of the melt are The research results [16] indicated that the mechanical proper-
observed when the liquid melt enters the mould cavity. Fur- ties of the TiAl alloy casting were mainly related to cast fea-
thermore, the mould filling process has great influence on tures. The mechanical properties could not be easily optimized
the temperature field of exhaust valves. The temperature of by any additional post-HIP heat treatment. Therefore, increas-
the parts that are filled by forward filling process is low, and ing the input molten metal and increasing filling velocity can
the temperature of the parts filled by backward filling is decrease the deviation.
high. So the temperature of exhaust valves does not experience The simulation results indicate that the cast valve does not
sequential solidification, as shown in Fig. 5. The rapid return experience sequential solidification, and temperature field has
of the back wave ensures that any porosity is not greatly great influence on the potential porosity location, as shown in
shifted from the center line. If the porosity in cast exhaust Fig. 5. The A areas in Fig. 5(b) and the B areas in Fig. 5(d) of
valves deviates significantly from the center line, cast exhaust cast exhaust valves tend to hold heat much longer than the rest
valves unfortunately bend during hot isostatic pressing (HIP). of the part. Therefore, feeding paths back to the gate are cut
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Fig. 4. Mould filling simulation results of the cast exhaust valve in the preliminary design at different times. (a) t ¼ 3.37 s, (b) t ¼ 3.43 s, (c) t ¼ 3.48 s,
(d) t ¼ 3.54 s.

off prematurely and then produce shrink defects. The experi- by the back wave. In addition, the feeding paths tend to be cut
mental and simulation results indicate that porosities near off prematurely because the distance required to be fed is long,
the center of the stem are serious, as shown in Fig. 3. For as shown in Figs. 5 and 6. It is easy to produce defects in the
the simulation results, the temperature field of cast exhaust poorly fed regime in the center of the long valve stems. It is
valves is also affected by neighboring heat radiation effect be- concluded that enlarging the feeder to keep the feeding path
sides the mould filling process. In the preliminary design, 24 open and increasing the temperature gradient are useful for re-
parts with some angles upward are placed on the tree in a reg- ducing porosity.
ular formation. As the distance of each part is limited, the From simulation results, cast parameters are seen to be im-
neighboring heat radiation effect does have much influence portant. Accordingly, six sets of simulations are carried out in
on the temperature field of the exhaust valves. The neighbor- an effort to optimize the cast parameters. The cast parameters
ing radiation effects keep some exhaust valves with high tem- used in the simulation are shown in Table 3. Although it will
perature, so the solidification time of those exhaust valves is be noted that the range of each of the parameters is not as large
long and castings do not solidify well. Castings near the mid- as would be desirable for an experiment targeted at optimizing
dle of the mould are influenced greatly in the preliminary de- parameters, the casting of TiAl is particularly constrained by
sign. Because of both the filling order and radiation effects, experimental difficulties, so that the range of conditions listed
castings have not benefited from sequential solidification here is probably as wide as can be achieved with current melt-
(i.e. directional solidification) towards a source of feed metal. ing and casting technology.
The temperature of parts of the cast valve first filled by for- Potential porosity locations of casting simulation results of
ward filling are lower than that of parts filled by the return six projects used in the first design are shown in Fig. 7. The
wave. A higher temperature can be found from the parts filled results indicate that all the exhaust valves have defects, and
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Fig. 5. Temperature field simulation results of the cast valve in the preliminary design at different times. (a) t ¼ 5.35 s, (b) t ¼ 5.50 s, (c) t ¼ 11.87 s, (d) t ¼ 19.45 s.

that the defects are caused by the filling order and temperature The pouring rate and pouring temperature of the molten
effects. Compared to other projects, project 4 has less potential metal have apparent influences on the defects of exhaust
porosity as shown in Fig. 7(d). The liquid superheat has a great valves. For a given pouring temperature, the faster the pouring
effect on the complete filling time for the head of the valve, as rate is, the longer is the time interval between pouring the mol-
shown in Fig. 8. The simulation results indicate that the higher ten metal into the mould and completing the solidification and
the liquid superheat is, the longer is the solidification time. In greater is the possibility of cast defect formation. In the case of
project 6, the solidification time is about 43 s, while the solid- the lower pouring temperature and pouring rate, the molten
ification time of project 1 is 28 s, as shown in Fig. 8(a). When metal spreads forward under the action of centrifugal force.
the pouring temperature is from 1650 C to 1740 C, the tem- Because of the contact with the mould, the front-flowing mol-
perature gradient of exhaust valves has increased little, as ten metal loses a large amount of heat, which causes the tem-
shown in Fig. 8. When castings have large temperature gradi- perature to drop suddenly. So it may no longer flow to the cold
ent, exhaust valves will experience sequential solidification, end of the mould. Therefore, control of the pouring tempera-
and castings will be defect-free. From the results, it is no use ture and pouring rate is clearly beneficial to the prevention
for exhaust valves just to increase the metal superheat while of the formation of cast defects.
the temperature gradient is small. So the higher pouring tem- Furthermore, the previous research results [6] demonstrated
perature induces longer solidification time of casting in the pre- that the O increase vertically came from the interaction of the
liminary design. higher superheated liquid with CaO crucible. The research
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Fig. 6. Fraction of solid simulation results of the cast valve in the preliminary design at different times. (a) t ¼ 11.87 s, (b) t ¼ 14.52 s, (c) t ¼ 18.65 s (gray areas
represent solid, red areas represent liquid).

results [17] indicated that superheating temperature and holding It is concluded that the preliminary design is not proper for
time played an important role in the interaction between melting exhaust valves.
crucibles with Y2O3 and the molten TiAl. With increase in the
superheating temperature and holding time, the O contents were 3. Design 2: an optimized design
higher. From Fig. 7(d) and (e), project 5 with pouring tem-
perature of 1730 C is not better than project 4 with pouring tem- 3.1. Design of gating system
perature of 1710 C. Thus, a pouring temperature range from
1690 C to 1720 C is adopted. Fig. 7(b) and (c) indicates From simulation results of the preliminary design, there are
that on increasing the centrifugal rotation speed from 400 to two primary solutions to improve the part quality. One is to re-
450 rpm, at the same pouring temperature (1690 C) and mould duce the number of parts on the tree, thereby eliminating radia-
temperature (900 C), the filling rate does not improve and the tion effects that kept some of the parts hotter than others
higher rotation speed has no significant effect on porosity. Addi- depending on their positions on the tree. The other is to increase
tional practical considerations indicate that if the filling time is the gate size, thereby keeping the feeding path open longer. Ob-
too long, the heat loss during filling will be too high. Of course, if viously, reducing the number of parts in the set up drastically de-
the filling time is too short, the large filling system will allow creases the efficiency of metallic yield. Therefore, it is chosen to
room for turbulence under the centrifugal force. It is concluded increase the gate size moderately, and not reduce the number of
that 5e7 s is better for the filling time. parts on the wax assembly but change positions of parts into
The simulated and experimental results show that there are a staggered arrangement, as shown in Fig. 9.
porosity defects in many exhaust valves due to both mould fill- Cast parameters used for the new design of the centrifugal
ing and temperature field. Due to the thermal effect of neigh- investment casting mould are pouring temperature 1710 C,
boring valves, those parts kept hot by neighboring parts suffer mould temperature 900 C and rotation speed 400 rpm. The
larger defects near the center stems, as shown in Figs. 4 and 5. 3D model of the new design is shown in Fig. 9.

Table 3
The parameters used in the simulation project
Simulation project Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Project 4 Project 5 Project 6
Pouring temperature ( C) 1650 1690 1690 1710 1730 1740
Filling time(s) 7 6 7 7 7 7
Mould temperature ( C) 800 900 900 950 950 950
Rotation speed (rpm) 400 450 400 400 400 420
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3.2. Results and discussion

Because of the centrifugal effects and the enlarged filling

gate, mould filling and temperature field are now modified. The
melt flowing along the inner shell surface just leaves the
center unfilled at the initial filling, as shown in Fig. 10. It
indicates that the mould filling process in the optimized

Fig. 8. Temperature variation curves of cast valves during solidification in the

preliminary design. (a) Temperature variation curve of A point, (b) tempera-
ture variation curve of B point.

design is much better than and completely different from

that in the preliminary design. It should be attributed to the en-
larging filling gate. In the preliminary design, the mould filling
process is divided into forward filling and backward filling,

Fig. 7. Potential porosity locations of casting simulation results in the prelim-

inary design. (a) Project 1, (b) project 2, (c) project 3, (d) project 4, (e) project
5, (f) project 6 (green areas represent porosity, dark areas represent the casting
in the viewing direction). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this
figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.) Fig. 9. 3D model of cast valves in the modified design.
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Fig. 10. Mould filling simulation results of the cast exhaust valve in the modified design. (a) t ¼ 2.266 s, (b) t ¼ 2.322 s, (c) t ¼ 2.387 s, (d) t ¼ 2.406 s.

which have great influence on temperature field of valves. The It should be attributed to the random mould filling of cast ex-
castings do not experience sequential solidification for the bad haust valves. Under the centrifugal force, the molten TiAl al-
mould filling. In the optimized design, the melt fills the shell loy in the running and gating systems is also rotary, when the
along the inner surface and leaves exhaust valve’s center un- metals reach the shell. For the bottom layer, the parts on the
filled. All of those are affected by the enlarging filling gate. ‘‘tree-type’’ shell are filled at the same time in initial filling.
The molten TiAl alloy put into the shell is much more at the However, as the mould filling goes on, the parts are filled
initial filling, and only the center is filled later. So the center
field holds heat longer than the rest of the casting, and cast
valves have a good temperature gradient. The castings benefit
from sequential solidification for the feeding paths remain
open longer. The simulation results indicate that only one or
two exhaust valves have a slight defect, as shown in Fig. 11.

Fig. 11. Potential porosity locations in the modified design (green areas repre-
sent porosity, dark areas represent the casting in the viewing direction). (For
interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is Fig. 12. The modified design showing (a) X-ray scanning images, (b) simula-
referred to the web version of this article.) tion results (no porosity).
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randomly in different layers. Some exhaust valves in the lower Acknowledgements

layer are filled later than those in the upper layer. So the random
mould filling results in some bad exhaust valves. The random- The authors are indebted to Professor John Campbell at the
ness in the modified design is higher than that in the preliminary University of Birmingham, UK for valuable discussion and
design, because the filling gate is enlarged and the parts are modification of English.
changed in staggered arrangement. From the simulation results,
only one or two exhaust valves are affected, so the influence is
small. In the modified design the increased filling gate effec- References
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