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METALS AND MATERIALS, Vol. 6, No. 3 (2000), pp.

275-279

Investment Casting of AZ91HP Magnesium Alloy


Shaekwang Kim, Myounggyun Kim, Taewhan Hong, Heekook Kim and Youngjig Kim
School of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, SungKyunKwan University 300 Chunchun-dong, Changan-ku, Suwon 440-746, Korea This paper describes AZ91HP magnesium alloy investment casting. The aim of this study is to optimize the process for magnesium investment casting. Special attention was given to evaluating the thermal stability of oxides against molten AZ91HP magnesium alloy. The oxides examined included CaO, CaZrO3, and silica bonded A1203 and ZrSiO4. Also, the microstmctural features of the as-cast alloy were investigated, and the effect of the processing parameters on the microstructure and mechanical properties were evaluated describing the grain size, hardness and ultimate tensile strength of the as-cast alloy. Keywords : investment casting, metal/mold reaction, casting and mold temperatures, grain-refining

1. I N T R O D U C T I O N The very low density and excellent castability of magnesium are leading to its increased use in various applications [1-5] with the dramatically increased emphasis on weight reduction for use in next-generation automobiles [5-7], despite its poor galvanic corrosion resistance [8,9] and cost higher than aluminum [3,7]. Apart from adding to the urgency of weight reduction, the search for improvements in environmental protection may stimulate interest in ecomaterials, for which magnesium is also of potential interest. Investment casting is one of the reasonable solutions for magnesium alloys that suffer from difficulties in forming in the solid state due to the hexagonal lattice structure of magnesium [1,10]. It allows near net shape and the degree of freedom in design is larger in contrast to such pressurized casting processes, as die casting and semisolid forming. Investment casting process is also capable of producing castings of tighter tolerances and thin wall sections. However, the high reactivity of molten magnesium requires specific melting and casting processes as well as specific molding materials. Furthermore, the study to determine optimum casting parameters such as casting and mold temperatures is also necessary. The aim of this study is to optimize the magnesium investment casting process. Attempts were made to evaluate the thermal stability of oxides against molten AZ91HP magnesium alloy. Also, the microstructural features of the as-cast alloy and the effect of the processing parameters on the microstructure and mechanical properties were investigated.

2. EXPERIMENTAL 2.1. Investment casting


Commercially available Norsk-Hydro AZ91HP magnesium alloy was selected and the chemical composition of the as-cast alloy, analyzed by the Polyvac 2000 Hilger analytical emission spectrometer, is given in Table 1. A CO2-SF6 mixture (1% SF6) was tightly blown to prevent the excessive oxidation and burning of the magnesium during the melting and investment casting. The wax pattern for evaluating the thermal stability of oxides against molten AZ91HP alloy was made by pouring wax into a simple cylindrical metal mold (180 mm in height and 32 mm in diameter) with an integral pouting basin. The wax pattem for the tensile test was made with an integral gating system, according to the ASTM Standard B557M-84 specimen (45 mm in gauge length and 9 mm in diameter), as shown in Fig. l(a). The wax pattem was then inspected and dressed to eliminate any imperfections resulting from pouring. After that, the pattern was dip coated with a primary slurry coat containing very fine oxide powders (about 45 ~tm). It was then stuccoed with under 0.1 mm oxide powder after draining the excess slurry and given another stuccoing with 0.1~0.5 mm oxide powder with the same slurry. Later the stuccoing was done with coarser oxide powders, and the shell thickness of ~4 mm was built with alternating Table 1. Chemical composition of AZ91HP magnesium alloy (mass%) AI Zn 8.29 0.695 Mn 0.196

Si

Fe

0.011 0.0057

Cu 0.000

Ni 0.0034

Mg
bal.

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Fig. 1. Photographs showing (a) the wax pattern, (b) the ceramic shell mold and (c) the castings. Table 2. Types of oxide and binders examined and the mixing ratio between them

essary to subject the as-cast specimens to a heat treatment (T6), which dissolves the [~ phase and reveals the grain boundaries. To prevent excessive grain growth, an anti-germination the T6 schedule (solution treatment at 413~ for 16 hours, quenching in water and aging at 189~ for 2 hours) was employed. The grain size determination was done on the heat-treated specimens according to the ASTM Standard E112-88 and confirmed by, the Image-Pro PLUS image analyzer. At least five fields were randomly chosen for each specimen to ensure that uncertainty was less than 5%. Also, the microstructure of the regions below the surface of the alloy rods was also examined to evaluate the thermal stability of the oxides. Hardness tests were conducted by utilizing a Rockwell hardness tester (E scale). The tensile testing was carried out with an initial strain rate of 3.7x104/s using an Instron machine. The ultimate tensile strength (UTS) is based on the average of 12 tests by using the specimen as shown in Fig. l(c). 3. R E S U L T S A N D D I S C U S S I O N
3.1. Metal/mold reaction Two different approaches were made to evaluate the thermal stability of the oxides. From practical and economic points of view, one approach is to discover applicable processing conditions using commercially and generally used molding materials, colloidal silica bonded A1203and ZrSiO4 [11,12]. The other approach is to develop silica-free stable molding materials. Based, therefore, on the free energy change for the formation of oxides [11], CaO has been investigated. And CaZrO3 which has been developed for investment casting of titanium alloys, was also evaluated for comparison [ 13]. Fig. 2 illustrates the as-cast microstructure of the regions below the surface of the castings with different molding materials and mold temperatures. When the mold temperature was below 400~ no reactions occurred between the melt and the A1203, ZrSiO4 and CaZrO3 molds as shown in Figs. 2(a), (b) and (c) respectively, except for the CaO mold as shown in Fig. 2(d). Despite the potential reactivity of the melt with the conventional silica bonded A1203 and ZrSiO4 molds based on the free energy change for the formation of oxides, it is worth noting that the temperature at which the melt is cast does not lead to extensive breakdown of the chemical constituents of the Al:O3 and ZrSiO, molding materials. If, however, the mold requires higher preheats, CaZ_JO3 and the silica-free binder may be required. When the mold temperature was 600~ significant reactions occurred between the melt and the conventional silica-bonded A1:O3 and ZrSiO4 molds as shown in Figs. 2(e) and (f) respectively, except for the CaZrO~ mold as shown in Fig. 2(g). Interestingly, the reaction of the melt with the CaO mold occurs even at room temperature as shown in Fig. 2(h). The reactions might occur

Oxide A1203 ZrSiO4 CaZrO3 CaO

Binder Colloidal silica Colloidal silica ZrC1209 8H20 lmol+(CH3COO)2 CaH20 1 mol Ethanol 100g+CaC124g

Oxide vs. Binder 12'dipping 3 vs, 1 After 2"ddipping 2.5 vs. 1

dipping and stuccoing, as shown in Fig. 1(b). The oxides and binders used are shown in Table 2. The shells were then dried under a controlled temperature (22~ with relative humidity of 50-x-_l0% for 5 hours. This was followed by dewaxing in an autoclave at about 167~ under a pressure of about 0.7 MPa and then by firing at about 1000~ To study the effect of the solidification parameters on the microstmcture and mechanical properties of the as-cast alloy, experiments were carried out for different melt and mold temperatures, as shown in Table 3. 2.2. Microstructure and mechanical properties The as-cast alloy was sectioned, polished and examined using an Olympus PME3 optical microscope to characterize the microstructure. Since the as-cast structure of the alloy generally exhibits grain boundaries that are indistinct and heavily masked by the eutectic [3 phase (Mg,TAI,:), it was necTable 3. Experimental conditions and the related hardness value of the alloy rods cast in the A1203mold with differentmelt and mold temperatures

Melt temperature(~ Mold temperature(~ Measured hardness Value(HRE)

650

650

650

650

680

710

R.T. 200 63.6 60

400 600 5 0 . 3 47.8

R . T . R.T. 63.7 63.3

Investment Casting of AZ91HP Magnesium Alloy


..400,

2 77

,_ -600 "8 -800

-1000

~~12,x.,.~,._ ,'% i t
-1200
I
'

!000 1500 2000 Temperature (K) Fig. 3. Standard free energy change of the formationof oxides.

500

stage of the mold filling. The relative stability of the examined oxides can be graded in the order of increasing stability in the following sequence; CaO--)ZrSiO4--)AI203--)CaZrO3. The grading follows the free energy data for the formation of these oxides as shown in Fig. 3, except for the case of the CaO mold. A better understanding of the experimental observations can be achieved if the mold size and the melting/casting environments are taken into account. 3.2. Microstructure and mechanical behaviors The effect of such processing parameters as casting and mold temperature on the hardness of the as-cast alloy is given in Table 3. It may be see that the hardness decreases as the mold temperature increases above room temperature to 600~ but the increase in the melt temperature from 650~ to 710~ does not significantly change the hardness. On the other hand, the viscosity of the melt, the reciprocal of the fluidity of the melt, decreases with increased casting and mold temperatures [15]. It is generally acknowledged that anything that increases solidification time will increase fluidity [14]. The results seem to suggest that optimum investment casting can be accessed in the case of low mold temperature and high casting temperature. Fig. 4 shows the grain structure of the as-cast alloy clearly showing the gain-refining effect of the mold temperature. Table 4 summarizes the grain size measurements of the alloy. This table shows that the grain size is reduced by a factor of approximately 2.5 as the mold temperature decreases from 400~ to room temperature. The values of hardness and ultimate tensile strength of ascast alloy measured at various mold temperatures are given in Table 4 with the related grain sizes. The microstructures of the as-cast alloy are characterized by Mg grains and by grain boundary eutectic phase Mg,TA1,2. During deformation, the

Fig. 2. Photographs showing the thermal stability of the oxides. (a) A1203, 350~ (b) ZrSiO,, 350~ (c) CaZrO3, 350~ (d) CaO, 350~ (e) A1203,600~ (f) ZrSiO4, 600~ (g) CaZrO3, 600~ and (h) CaO, room temperature.

not only with the molding materials but also with the atmosphere formed in the mold during filling [14]. Although it is still uncertain, the reaction of the melt with the CaO mold seems to occur through the reaction of the CaO with MgO that is generated on the surface of the castings at an early

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cast alloy is 170 MPa with an average grain size of 109 ~tm. 4. C O N C L U S I O N 1. The processing conditions applicable to colloidal silica

bonded A1203, and zircon flour and the development of a


chemically stable CaZrO3 mold system are established. The optimum casting parameters are also evaluated. 2. The relative stability of the oxides examined can be graded in the order of increasing stability in the following sequence; CaO ZrSiO4 A120~ CaZrO3. This grading does not fully follow the free energy data for the formation of these oxides. 3. The reaction of the melt with the CaO mold that is a thermodynamically stable oxide does occur even at room temperature. Although it is still uncertain, the reaction of the melt with the CaO mold seems to occur through the reaction of the CaO with MgO generated on the surface of the castings at an early stage of the mold filling. 4. In the investment casting of magnesium alloys, it is important to optimize the processing parameters to avoid deterioration in the mechanical properties and to achieve fluidity. The optimum investment casting can be accessed in the case of low mold temperature and high casting temperature. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This study is supported by the BK21 program of the Ministry of Education, Korea.

REFERENCES
Fig. 4. Optical micrographsshowingthe grain structures of the as-cast alloy with respect to mold temperature. (a) Room temperature, (b) 200~ and (c) 400"C. Table 4. Mechanical properties with respect to mold temperature Mold TemperatureCC) R.T. 200 400 Hardness (HRE) 63.6 60 50.3 UTS (MPa) 170 166 155 Grain size (~tm) 109 162 250 1. E. E Emley, Principles of Magnesium Technology, Pergamon Press, London (1966). 2. E H. Froes, D. Eliezer and E. Aghion, JOM50, 30 (1998). 3. I. J. Polmear, Mater. Trans. JIM37, 12 (1996). 4. D. P. Poirier, S. Gamesan, M. Andrews and P. Ocansey, Mater. Sci. Eng. A 148, 289 (1991). 5. I. J. Polmear, Mater. Sci. Tech. 10, 1 (1994). 6. K. Hirose, T. Suzuki and S. Koike, Kobe Steel Eng. Report 36, 85(1986). 7. J. Davies, Magnesium in Automobiles, Report SP-932, p. 71, SAE, Warrendale, PA (1992). 8. L. Whitby, Corrosion Resistance of Metals and Alloys, Reinhold, NY (1963). 9. S. K. Kim, MS Thesis, SKK Univ., Suwon, Korea (1997). 10. M. M. Avedesian and H. Baker, Magnesium and Magnesium Alloys, ASM, Materials Park, OH (1999). 11. K. A. Gschneidner Jr., N. Kippenhan and O. D. Mcmasters, Thermochemistry of the Rare Earth, Ames, Rare Earth Information Center, IA (1973). 12. P. R. Beeley and R. F. Smart, Investment Casting, The Univ.

slip behavior of each Mg grain is highly constrained by 13the low plasticity phases, which resist slip to increase the work hardening rate and the UTS. It should also be noted that the significant grain refinement achieved contributes to the strengthening of the alloy, based on the well-known grain boundary strengthening mechanism. When the mold temperature is at room temperature, for example, the UTS of the as-

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Press of Cambridge, Cambridge, MA (1995). 13. S. K. Kim, T. W. Hong, S. H. Lee and Y. J. Kim, J. Korean Foundrymens Soc. 19, 210 (1999).

14. J. Campbell, Casting, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann ( 1991). 15. S. K. Kim and J. Y. Kdm, Mater. Sci. Tech., MST4562 Accepted (2OOO).