Mechanical properties of semi-solid Al castings : Role of stirring

Abstract: Aluminum castings have been widely used in the automotive industry to reduce the vehicle's weight. However, the existence of casting defects significantly limits its application. The most common and detrimental defects in aluminum castings are porosity and oxides. The formation of the pores comes from the solute hydrogen and volumetric reduction during the solidification process, resulting in the gas and shrinkage pores, respectively. The oxides can be introduced by either the operation during the process or the originally existing oxides in the melt. To reduce these defects, optimizing the casting process and controlling the melt quality is essential.In this work, the Semisolid Metal (SSM) process was used as it can significantly reduce the formation of shrinkage pores. The main focuses were on the influence of stirring intensity on the formation of casting defects and, thus, the resultant mechanical properties. In addition, to control the original melt quality, particularly the amount of oxides, efforts were made to develop proper methods for the melt quality assessment.The results show that the slurry-making process, mainly through stirring intensity, can affect the casting defects significantly. On the one hand, the increasing stirring intensity can distribute the primary Al particles more homogeneously, reducing the pores in terms of size and number by increasing the permeability during the solidification process. On the other hand, the increasing stirring intensity can affect the size of oxides differently, depending on the composition, for instance, the Mg content.For the alloys with sufficient Mg, the oxides would be MgAl2O4, which are small films with numerous cracks. Under intensive stirring, the oxides can break down into small oxide particles. As a result, intensive stirring can improve ductility by reducing the formation of big pores. However, the oxides would mainly be Al2O3 films for alloys with low Mg content. In this case, the current stirring intensity is insufficient to break the oxide films. Instead, the increased stirring has introduced more oxide films into the melt. Consequently, in the casting with intensive stirring, the increasing oxide films dominated the ductility rather than the reduced porosity.The SSM castings exhibit better bending fatigue properties than the casting using the traditional high-pressure die casting (HPDC) process. This improvement is mainly due to the formation of the harder surface liquid segregation (SLS) layer on the SSM casting surface. Furthermore, compared with the standard SSM process, the castings using intensive stirring (hereinafter referred to as the modified SSM process) show similar but more reliable fatigue properties. This reliable fatigue property can be attributed to eliminating the big internal pores through intensive stirring, which results in local stress concentration and significantly reduces fatigue performance. Besides, due to the gradient stress distribution in the bending loading, the surface defects play a significant role in the fatigue properties. With the increase of the specimens’ thickness, the failure mechanisms changed.The shrinkage pores in the reduced pressure test (RPT) test play a significant role in the accuracy of melt quality assessment. A good correlation between the bifilm index (BI)/ density index (DI) and hydrogen content is observed for the RPT samples without significant shrinkage pores. In addition, the correlation between the BI and elongation is also strongly affected by the clusters of shrinkage pores due to the conflict between the definition of the BI and the influence of clusters of shrinkage pores on the ductility. Based on this, we proposed an optimized BI where the clusters of shrinkage pores were treated as single pores, increasing the reliability of the correlation between the BI and elongation.