Heat treatment of Al-Si-Cu-Mg casting alloys

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: Environmental savings can be made by increasing the use of aluminium alloys in the automotive industry as the vehicles can be made lighter. Increasing the knowledge about the heat treatment process is one task in the direction towards this goal. The aim of this work is to investigate and model the heat treatment process for Al-Si casting alloys. Three alloys containing Mg and/or Cu were cast using the gradient solidification technique to achieve three different coarsenesses of the microstructure and a low amount of defects.
Solution treatment was studied by measuring the concentration of Mg, Cu and Si in the α-Al matrix using wavelength dispersive spectroscopy (WDS) after various times at a solution treatment temperature. A diffusion based model was developed which estimates the time needed to obtain a high and homogenous concentration of alloying elements for different alloys, temperatures and coarsenesses of the microstructure. It was shown that the yield strength after artificial ageing is weakly dependent on the coarseness of the microstructure when the solution treatment time is adjusted to achieve complete dissolution and homogenisation.
The shape and position of ageing curves (yield strength versus ageing time) was investigated empirically in this work and by studying the literature in order to differentiate the mechanisms involved. A diffusion based model for prediction of the yield strength after different ageing times was developed for Al-Si-Mg alloys. The model was validated using data available in the literature. For Al-Si-Cu-Mg alloys further studies regarding the mechanisms involved need to be performed.
Changes in the microstructure during a heat treatment process influence the plastic deformation behaviour. The Hollomon equation describes the plastic deformation of alloys containing shearable precipitates well, while the Ludwigson equation is needed when a supersaturated solid solution is present. When non-coherent precipitates are present, none of the equations describe the plastic deformation well. The evolution of the storage rate and recovery rate of dislocations was studied and coupled to the evolution of the microstructure using the Kocks-Mecking strain hardening theory.

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