Casting Routes for Production of Metallic Based Composite Parts

R Palanivel, Shaqra University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I Dinaharan, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
RF Laubscher, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

금속 기반 복합 부품 생산을 위한 주조 경로

Introduction

A composite material is a material system consisting of a mixture or combination of two or more nano-micro- or macro-based elements with a separating interface where the constituents differ in shape and in the chemical make-up and is essentially insoluble (Smith and Hashemi, 2008; Kala et al., 2014). The dispersed phase of the mixture (combination) is typically referred to as the reinforcement whereas the continuous phase is known as the matrix (Kala et al., 2014). Composites are categorized as metal matrix (MMC), polymer matrix (PMC), or ceramic matrix (CMC) composites depending on the chemical nature of the matrix phase. A metal matrix composite (MMCs) therefore consists of at least two components of which the matrix is a metal and the dispersed or reinforcement phase being either another metal, a ceramic or an organic compound. MMCs are of significant interest due the fact that various material properties may be modified and or designed for a specific purpose. These include physical characteristics such as density, thermal expansion and thermal diffusivity and mechanical characteristics such as tensile and compressive strength, tribological behavior, etc. The increasing demand for advanced materials especially in the aerospace and automotive industries is driving the growth in use of MMCs. Ideally metal matrix composites aim to provide both improved static and dynamic material properties by the introduction of a tough yet rigid material that is resistant to crack formation and propagation. MMCs containing various types of ceramic particles have been produced by either solid state or liquid state methods (David Raja Selvam et al., 2013). These include solid state methods such as mechanical alloying (Srinivasarao et al., 2009) and powder metallurgy (Rahimian et al., 2009), whereas the liquid state methods include stir casting (Kalaiselvan et al., 2011), compocasting (Amirkhanlou et al., 2011), squeeze casting (Xiu et al., 2012), and spray deposition (Srivastava and Ojha, 2005). The solid state methods may be subject to certain disadvantages that include reduced strength, high tooling cost, high material cost, limitations on size and shape, dimensional changes while sintering, changes in density and safety and health risks. The liquid state techniques typically involve mixing of ceramic particles into melts with certain significant benefits when compared to the solid state techniques. These include improved matrix to particle binding, easier matrix-structure control, ease of processing, and a closer to final geometry result (Hanumanth and Irons, 1993; Seo and Kang, 1995; Sahin et al., 2002; Taha and El-Mahallawy, 1998). The casting routes are preferred mainly because they may have a significant effect on the MMCs mechanical and tribological behavior. Improved MMC properties require that the ceramic particles are efficiently incorporated and successfully bonded into the metal matrix (David Raja Selvam et al., 2013). MMC components are mainly used in the transport industries. These include aerospace and automotive components such as pistons, automotive disc brakes, connecting rods, cylinder heads, blades, cylinder liners, vane shafts, aircraft landing gear, bolts, valves, and structural shapes such as rods, beams, and tubes. Electrical contacts and brushes are also manufactured. The current chapter introduces the different casting methods with special emphasis on aluminum matrix composites (Rosso, 2006).

Stir Casting

During stir casting the particle reinforcement is typically distributed into the melted metal by rotational mechanical stirring. The key feature of this process is the mechanical stirring. A typical stir casting setup is presented in Fig. 1 . A graphite crucible is contained in the center of the furnace within an induction heating coil arrangement. Melting occurs within the graphite crucible. The mixing method is performed by a graphite mixer mounted on a steel mandrel powered by a variable speed AC motor. The mechanical stirrer is orientated along the main crucible axis. Its vertical position is continuously adjustable. A feeding hopper arrangement is used to add the ceramic powder and alloy components in the appropriate amount and time. To prevent contact with the molten metal, the steel mandrel is enclosed in a graphite sleeve. Glass fiber roving is used as heat insulation on the inside of the production unit. Argon gas is used both to insulate the molten metal from interacting with the atmosphere and to facilitate and regulate controlled addition of the reinforcement particles. Temperature control of the melt is facilitated by thermostat via internally and externally (crucible) mounted thermocouples (Kok, 2005; Mahadevana et al., 2008; Deshmanya and Purohit, 2012). Stir casting is typically a cost-effective method of producing MMCs and suitable for mass production. It is also relatively simple and may produce components close to net shape. Stir casting is useful for the manufacture of products with numerous features and irregular contours (Chadwich and Heath, 1990). The process parameters that may affect the mechanical and metallurgical characteristics of stir casts include the following; mold material, mold design, reinforcing particle feed rate, preheat temperature, temperature of the furnace, pouring method, properties of the matrix alloy, composition of matrix alloys, freezing range of matrix material, stirring speed, material of the stirrer, stirring time, impellor blade angle, and number of blades in the stirrer (Jebeen Moses et al., 2016; Nai and Gupta, 2002; Naher et al., 2003; Akhlaghi et al., 2004; Prabu et al., 2006; Ravi et al., 2007; Amirkhanlou and Niroumand, 2010; Zhang et al., 2010; Guan et al., 2011; Sajjadi et al ., 2012a; Du et al., 2012; Akbari et al., 2013; Khosravi et al., 2014). Typical problems that my manifest during stir casting include; non uniform distribution of reinforcing particles in the matrix, poor wettability between the matrix alloy and reinforcing particles, porosity and chemical reactions between the reinforcement and the matrix alloy. Stir casting is the most common technique for the manufacture of specifically aluminum matrix composites (AMCs). The aluminum matrix is typically fully melted and ceramic particles are added and mixed into the matrix by mechanical stirrer. Diverse techniques of improving wettability, including the addition of weighting agents and pre-heating and/or coating of the ceramic particles were attempted with varying success by researchers (Hashim et al., 2001; Kerti and Toptan, 2008; Sahin, 2003; Ramesha et al., 2009). Sahin (2003) used stir casting to prepare AA2024/SiC AMCs. As reinforcement material, SiC particles with an average size of 110, 45 or 29 µm were used. In total, 10 and 20 wt% SiC particles were added. Before the melting process was initiated, SiC particles were oxidized at a temperature of 1100°C for 2 h. Between 5 and 8 g of SiC particulates, wrapped in aluminum foil packets, were selectively added into the molten metal upon formation of the molten pool vortex every 15–25 s. Upon insertion of the mixture packet it commences to melt thereby introducing the particulates into the melt. Stirring occurs after which the melt is poured into a pre-heated mold. This technique facilitates complete and homogeneous distribution of the particulates into the matrix. Optical micrographs of 10 wt% SiC strengthened AA2024 aluminum alloy are presented in Fig. 2(a)–(c). The SiC distribution in these composites is uniform. The microstructure in Fig. 1(a) does not display the presence of any pores. This is due to the adequate wettability of the SiC and AA 2014 alloy combination. Fig. 2(b) displays a composite with a particle size of 45 µm. It once again displays no porosity or other cavities indicating effective bonding between the matrix and ceramic particulates. The same is true for the 110 µm particulate size (Fig. 2(c)). The particles do however display an angular shape and the presence of finer particles (also SiC) of less than 25 µm size. Fig. 2(d)–(f) display composites manufactured with a 20 wt% of SiC particles with sizes of 29 µm, 45 µm, and 110 µm, respectively. These micrographs indicate once again that these composites are free from porosity. A homogeneous distribution of the particles was achieved only for the 110 µm particle size. Limited agglomeration was visible for the other two sizes (29 µm, 45 µm).

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of a typical stir casting apparatus for the production of MMCs. Reproduced from Kok, M., 2005. Production and mechanical properties of Al2O3 particle-reinforced 2024 aluminium alloy composites. Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161, 381–387.
Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of a typical stir casting apparatus for the production of MMCs. Reproduced from Kok, M., 2005. Production and mechanical properties of Al2O3 particle-reinforced 2024 aluminium alloy composites. Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161, 381–387.
Fig. 2 Optical micrographs of metal matrix composites. (a) 10 wt% SiC with 29 mm particles; (b) 10 wt% SiC with 45 mm size; (c) 10 wt% SiC with 110 mm particles; (d) 20 wt% SiC with 29 mm; (e) 20 wt% SiC with 45 mm; and (f) 20 wt% SiC with 110 mm. Reproduced from Sahin, Y., 2003. Preparation and some properties of SiC particle reinforced aluminum alloy composites. Materials & Design 24, 671–679.
Fig. 2 Optical micrographs of metal matrix composites. (a) 10 wt% SiC with 29 mm particles; (b) 10 wt% SiC with 45 mm size; (c) 10 wt% SiC with 110 mm particles; (d) 20 wt% SiC with 29 mm; (e) 20 wt% SiC with 45 mm; and (f) 20 wt% SiC with 110 mm. Reproduced from Sahin, Y., 2003. Preparation and some properties of SiC particle reinforced aluminum alloy composites. Materials & Design 24, 671–679.
Fig. 3 SEM micrographs of AA6061–AlN composites containing: (a) 5% AlN, (b) 10% AlN, (c) 15% AlN, (d) 20% AlN, (e) 5% AlN, and (f) EDAX analysis of AA6061–AlN composites containing 20% AlN. Reproduced from Ashok Kumar, B., Murugan, N., 2012. Metallurgical and mechanical characterization of stir cast AA6061-T6–AlNp composite. Materials and Design 40, 52–58.
Fig. 3 SEM micrographs of AA6061–AlN composites containing: (a) 5% AlN, (b) 10% AlN, (c) 15% AlN, (d) 20% AlN, (e) 5% AlN, and (f) EDAX analysis of AA6061–AlN composites containing 20% AlN. Reproduced from Ashok Kumar, B., Murugan, N., 2012. Metallurgical and mechanical characterization of stir cast AA6061-T6–AlNp composite. Materials and Design 40, 52–58.
Fig. 4 Microstructures of AA 6061−31%B4C composite: (a) High magnification SEM backscattered electron image; (b) EDS pattern; (c) Low magnification SEM backscattered electron image; (d) Low magnification electron image; (e−h) Al, B, C and Ti elemental mappings, respectively; (i) SEM image of local zone in (a); (j, k) Mg and Si elemental mappings, respectively; (l) XRD pattern showing the presence of TiB2 and Mg2Si in composite. Reproduced from Yu, L., Qiu-lin, L., Dong L., Wei, L., Guo-gang, S., 2016a. Fabrication and characterization of stir casting AA6061−31%B4C composite Transactions of Nonferrous Metals Society of China 26, 2304–2312.
Fig. 4 Microstructures of AA 6061−31%B4C composite: (a) High magnification SEM backscattered electron image; (b) EDS pattern; (c) Low magnification SEM backscattered electron image; (d) Low magnification electron image; (e−h) Al, B, C and Ti elemental mappings, respectively; (i) SEM image of local zone in (a); (j, k) Mg and Si elemental mappings, respectively; (l) XRD pattern showing the presence of TiB2 and Mg2Si in composite. Reproduced from Yu, L., Qiu-lin, L., Dong L., Wei, L., Guo-gang, S., 2016a. Fabrication and characterization of stir casting AA6061−31%B4C composite Transactions of Nonferrous Metals Society of China 26, 2304–2312.

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Further Reading

Bakshi, S.R., Lahiri, D., Agarwal, A., 2010. Carbon nanotube reinforced metal matrix composites – A review. International Materials Reviews 55, 41–64.
Loharkar, P.K., Ingle, A., Jhavar, S., 2019. Parametric review of microwave-based materials processing and its applications. Journal of Materials Research
and Technology 8, 3306–3326.
Manrique, P.H., Lei, X., Xu, R., et al., 2019. Copper/graphene composites: A review. Journal of Materials Science 54, 12236–12289