Optimization of Liquid Metal Casting Using Mathematical Models: A Research Insight


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Scientists at Aston University have initiated a project aimed at constructing a mathematical model to enhance the liquid metal casting process.

The strategy is anticipated to prevent lightweight aluminum alloys from swiftly oxidizing upon their initial encounter with air. Researchers in the UK assert that a better understanding of this aspect could facilitate the process of 3D printing utilizing light metals.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding this research with a grant of £80,000. The research is overseen by Dr. Paul Griffiths, a Senior Lecturer of applied mathematics situated in the university’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Embarking in April 2024, this 12-month project is named ‘Developing an accurate non-Newtonian surface rheology model,’ and will be performed in collaboration with the Grenoble Institute of Technology (INP) based in France.

“The aim of this investigation is to develop a mathematical model that accurately captures the two-way coupling between a liquid metal flow and the oxide layer above, with the latter behaving as a non- Newtonian liquid/gas interface,” explained Dr Griffiths.

Improving liquid metal casting with mathematics

The transportation industry is currently seeing traditional metals such as steel be replaced by lighter alloys.

Shifting away from steel offers the notable advantage of utilizing alloys that do not deteriorate through rust. Nonetheless, light alloys begin to oxidize rapidly as soon as they come into contact with the surrounding environment. This rapid oxidation has a detrimental effect on their quality and durability, consequently impeding their usefulness in the field of industrial fabrication.

The research team plans to tackle this issue by focusing on the formation of thin oxide films on the surface of these alloys. Although these films can provide some protection against corrosion under certain conditions, they also present complications.

During the casting process, when the aluminum is in liquid form, these thin oxide films have the potential to become trapped in the molten metal flow. This trapping process can happen repeatedly, causing the oxide films to become embedded in the final product, thus compromising the quality and longevity of the fabricated parts.

As per the researchers, gaining deeper insights on the oxidation process and finding ways to control it will have implications on the associated production costs. This in turn, could increase the demand for lightweight alloys and decrease greenhouse gas emissions due to the decreased energy demands in transporting a lighter product.

The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a mathematical model capable of accurately describing the dynamics between the liquid metal flow and the oxide layer, something which cannot be determined using current methods. 

“The objective of this project is to describe both the surface characteristics – velocity and shear profiles – as well as the important effects of surface curvature,” stated Dr Griffiths. “The benefit of a more appropriate mechanical model for the oxidized surface of a melted metal flow would lead to a better understanding of the encapsulation process which affects the alloy.”

It is hoped that the findings will offer new insights into how to control this oxidization process in a practical setting. The mathematical model will be validated and verified against existing experimental observations.…

Metal casting in process. Photo via Autodesk.

Research in metal additive manufacturing

Research into improving metal additive manufacturing is nothing new. Last year, a team of researchers from multiple institutions, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, announced a breakthrough in the understanding of how cooling rates impact metal properties during laser powder bed fusion (LPBF).

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