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Optimal gating system design for investment casting of 17-4PH stainless

steel enclosed impeller by numerical simulation and experimental

Article  in  International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology · March 2017

DOI: 10.1007/s00170-017-0198-0


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Jenn-Kun Kuo Pei-Hsing Huang

National University of Tainan National Pingtung University of Science and Technology


Hsin-Yi Lai
National Cheng Kung University


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Int J Adv Manuf Technol
DOI 10.1007/s00170-017-0198-0


Optimal gating system design for investment casting of 17-4PH

stainless steel enclosed impeller by numerical simulation
and experimental verification
Jenn-Kun Kuo 1 & Pei-Hsing Huang 2 & Hsin-Yi Lai 3 & Jian-Rong Chen 2

Received: 12 October 2016 / Accepted: 20 February 2017

# Springer-Verlag London 2017

Abstract The impellers of centrifugal pumps are highly sus- Keywords Investment casting . Mold flow analysis . Niyama
ceptible to the latent damage of corrosion and cavitation after criterion . Retained melt modulus . Riser . Shrinkage
long periods of transporting chemical fluids. To enhance the
structural integrity and effective lifespan of impellers, this
study applied mold flow analysis to the design of gating sys- 1 Introduction
tems for 17-4PH stainless steel enclosed impellers. Our objec-
tive was to eliminate shrinkage and porous defects common in Investment casting can be used to produce components with
investment casting. We adopted various bottom, side, and top complex geometric shapes with high dimensional accuracy
pouring systems with different pouring parameters to examine and superior surface roughness at low cost, which is widely
the behavior of the molten metal flow and solidification in the adopted in the production of metal components in the medical,
mold cavity. We designed a pressurized gating system with defense, and aerospace industries [1–5]. During the initial
specific gating ratio to achieve a stable flow velocity at in- stage of casting blanks, new production lines tend to be de-
gates. Physical sensors preset in the interior of the cavity were veloped through trial and error. Thus, the flow behavior and
also used to detect thermodynamic behavior and analyze solidification of molten metal are hard to predict. This in-
phase changes during casting simulations. The probability of creases the likelihood of shrinkage and pore formation in casts
shrinkage defect formation was assessed using the retained (as shown in Fig. 1). Such product defects severely weaken
melt modulus (RMM) and the Niyama criterion. the competitiveness of industry and their business
Experiments and nondestructive inspections show that opti- opportunities.
mizing the design of the gating system prevented surface Research has shown that employing mold flow analysis to
shrinkage and interior defects. The improvements also re- design casting schemes can greatly increase yields [6–12].
duced post-processing time and costs, increased yields, and Zhang et al. [3] and Wu et al. [5] predicted the shrinkage
enhanced casting quality. and gas porosity of dental prostheses and optimized the gating
system designs in dental medicines based on numerical anal-
yses conducted using MAGMASOFT software. Swaminathan
and Voller [13] proposed the volume of fluid (VOF) equation
* Pei-Hsing Huang to derive the relationship between the free surface location
phh@mail.npust.edu.tw; phhuang1970@gmail.com function and the time step function for a shape liquid/air in-
terface. Jin et al. [14] used the ProCAST software to determine
Department of Greenergy, National University of Tainan,
the boundary effects of thermophysical parameters and solid-
Tainan 70005, Taiwan, Republic of China ification parameters. Their results indicate that increasing the
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Pingtung
heat transfer coefficient at the interface decreases the width of
University of Science and Technology, Pingtung 912, Taiwan, the mushy zone. Norouzi and Farhangi [15] examined thermal
Republic of China cracking behavior during casting. They found that increasing
Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Cheng-Kung cooling rate increases the thermal gradient, which raises the
University, Tainan 701, Taiwan, Republic of China likelihood of hot tearing. Pan et al. [16] used ProCAST and the
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 1 a Location of defects in

impeller casting fabricated using
initial scheme. b Gaseous pore
defects on the rear cover surface
of the impeller. c Shrinkage
defects in the front cover surface
of the impeller. d Shrinkage
defects affecting the structure of
blade (b–d are magnifications of
the locations marked in a)

Niyama criterion to predict the formation of shrinkage pores dual thermocouple ceramic molds to measure the thermal
in TiAl alloy castings. They also found that the thickness of properties of alloys, such as thermal conductivity and specific
the casting section influences Niyama criterion values via the heat capacity. They used the MAGMASOFT package to sim-
cooling rate. Wang et al. [17] enhanced the casting quality of ulate and adjust experiment cooling curves, thereby enhancing
seven-blade stainless steel helicoid impellers by redesigning the accuracy of mold flow analysis in casting simulations.
the gating system and casting parameters. Gao et al. [18] cov- Yahaya et al. [25] used activated charcoal to modify ceramic
ered runners and shell mold surfaces with cotton insulation to shell molds. Molds with 20% activated charcoal were shown
deal with the problem of cold shuts and misruns in the casting to enhance microwave absorption, reduce dewaxing time, and
of combined guide vanes. Feng [19] increased the yield rate of improve collapsibility. In this study, we applied the techniques
impeller castings to 90% using an annular gate and runner of metallic mold flow analysis to trial production runs of high-
system in conjunction with exothermic risers. Budavari and value stainless steel impellers for use in centrifugal pumps.
Molnar [20] employed the modulus technique of Chvorinov to Optimizing the design of the gating system and various pro-
simulate the local solidification processes of large steel cast- cess parameters greatly enhanced casting quality and short-
ings with walls of nonuniform thickness. The characteristics ened the production line development time.
of nonisotropic solidification have been derived using the con-
trol volume method. Chen et al. [21] adopted AnyCasting
software to examine various insulating and exothermic riser 2 Experimental and numerical methods
designs for the steel castings of gear ring seats in excavators.
The riser modulus, as well as the volume and quantity of 2.1 Gating system design and process parameters
risers, can be derived according to the feeding liquid method
and the solidification times obtained through simulations. Based on previous experience, we first developed an initial
Wang et al. [22] presented the evolution of flow dynamics gating scheme with a simply designed sprue cup, runner, ven-
and liquid fraction in low-pressure die-casting for magnesium tilators, and mold cavity, as shown in Fig. 2a. Considering that
wheels using the commercial software PAM-CAST. Based on the impeller would need to operate in chemical fluids for
the prediction of the Niyama criterion using ProCAST soft- prolonged periods of time, we selected the commercial 17-
ware, Guo et al. [23] investigated the volume fraction of mac- 4PH stainless steel with high-strength and corrosion resistance
roscopic shrinkage and microscopic pore defects caused by characteristics as casting materials (chemical composition: C,
hot spots during the solidification of nickel-based alloys. Xu ≤0.07%; Si, ≤1.00%; Mg, ≤1.00%; Cr, 15.00∼17.50%; Ni,
et al. [24] examined the solidification and effects of heat 3.00∼5.00%; Cu, 3.00∼5.00%; S, ≤0.030%) [26]. The coeffi-
shrinkage on ceramic shells. They also proposed the use of cient of thermal expansion and the thermal conductivity are
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 2 a Design of gating system in initial casting scheme. b Temperature distribution at filling rate of 10%. c Solidification sequence and unsolidified
regions at t = 100.7 s

varied significantly with temperature, which are considered as phenomena observed in the casting process, including pre-
variables. As to the thermophysical properties possessing a dictions pertaining to the distribution of phase fraction and
limited change with temperature, such as the density, dynamic mechanical characteristics as well as the formation of cast-
viscosity, specific heat, and latent heat, they are treated by ing defects; and (iii) postprocessing, in which the simula-
constants in the AnyCasting simulation package. Table 1 lists tion results are visualized using the AnyPOST module. In
the thermophysical properties of the 17-4PH stainless steel, analytic calculations, the heat loss and nonthermostatic so-
including density (ρ), specific heat (S), coefficient of thermal lidification process of molten flows follow the conservation
conductivity (K), latent heat (L), liquid-phase temperature (Tl), laws of mass, momentum, and energy, dominating by the
and solid-phase temperature (Ts). For numerical simulation, continuity equation, Navier-Stokes equation, and energy
we designed five sets of casting process parameters based on equation, as shown in Eqs. (1)–(3) [27]. The free surface,
solid- and liquid-phase temperatures of the material, including surface tension, and turbulence generated by the pouring
the ceramic shell material, ceramic shell temperature (Tceramic), process are predicted by the models of the volume of fluid
casting temperature (Tcasting), pouring time (tpouring), ceramic (VOF), wall adhesion, and the standard k-ε function, as
shell thickness (δ), and mesh number, as shown in Table 2. shown in Eqs. (4)–(7) [27]. We adopted the successive
overrelaxation (SOR) method with convergence accuracy
of <0.001 for the numerical iteration processes. This meth-
2.2 Physical model and numerical method
od provides a satisfactory balance of convergence speed
and computation costs [27].
During the pouring process, the molten metal forms a
viscoplastic and unsteady flow field within the mold cavity.
1. The continuity equation is applied to the conservation of
We employed the AnyCasting software package with finite
mass and the filling process:
difference (FD) scheme to analyze complex flow behavior
and solve the associated thermodynamic equations by di- ∂ρ ∂ðρui Þ
viding the simulation domain into finite mesh grids at each þ ¼0 ð1Þ
∂t ∂xi
time step. This approach has the advantages of numerical
stability and convergence, while reducing computation
time and reducing memory requirements [4, 28, 29]. The 2. The Navier-Stokes equation is applied to the conservation
simulation procedures include three core blocks: (i) prepro- of momentum and the calculations of flow velocity and
cessing, in which the AnyMESH and AnyPRE modules are pressure:
used to generate the meshes of the gating system and set the
∂u⇀ ⇀
þ ρu⇀⋅∇u⇀ ¼ −∇p þ μ∇2 ⇀
casting process parameters; (ii) analytic calculations, in
ρ u þf ð2Þ
which the AnySolver is used to analyze the physical ∂t

Table 1 Thermophysical
properties of 17-4PH stainless ρ (kg/m3) S (J/kg K) K (W/m K) L (kJ/kg) Tl (°C) Ts (°C) μ (g/cm s) rs (%)
7750 460 Variable 289.99 1440 1400 0.03354 3.16

Source: [27]
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Table 2 Design parameters used in impeller casting process defect formation, i.e., the Niyama criterion [30] and the
Exp. 1 Exp. 2 Exp. 3 Exp. 4 Exp. 5 retained melt modulus (RMM) [4, 27]. The Niyama criterion,
Ceramic shell material Zircon (Zr) sand proposed by Eisuke Niyama, can be formulated as follows:
Mesh number 3,008,460 Ny ¼ G R< CNiyama ð8Þ
Tceramic (°C) 1150 1200 1220 1250 1250
Tcasting (°C) 1550 1600 1600 1600 1650 In Eq. (8), G denotes the temperature gradient and R is the
tpouring (s) 5 5 6 5 5 cooling rate. Based on the Niyama criterion, a value calculated
δ (mm) 5.5 to be smaller than the critical value (CNiyama) is an indication
that shrinkage defects are likely to occur at this location.
RMM denotes the volume of retained melt divided by the
3. The conservation of energy equation is employed to cal- surface area at the time when a critical solid fraction is reached
culate thermal conductivity, the temperature field, and the at each mesh. A lower RMM value indicates a higher proba-
solidification process: bility of defect formation [4].

∂H ⇀−∇⋅ðk∇T Þ−q ¼ 0
ρ þ ρH∇⋅u ð3Þ
3 Results and discussion
4. The VOF function simulates the nondirectional flow state
of the molten metal on the free boundary: 3.1 Numerical mold flow analysis of initial scheme

∂ Fv ∂ Fv ∂ Fv ∂ Fv We used numerical mold flow analysis to analyze the process

þ u1 þ u2 þ u3 ¼0 ð4Þ
∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z of casting impellers as well as the influence of gating system
design and process parameters on defect formation. Figure 2b
5. Surface tension is calculated using the surface curvature shows molten metal flowing directly into the cavity through
of the molten metal: the vertical gate without passing the transverse runner to buff-
er the flow. This promoted the formation of a turbulent flow
σ ¼ C σ ⋅K a ð5Þ field in the cavity and carries air or slag into the impeller
structure, thereby forming oxide inclusions or micropore de-
fects. Moreover, before the molten metal filled up the mold
6. The standard k-ε turbulent model is used to predict the
cavity, the blocking of vent holes on both sides prevented the
turbulent flow field, as follows:
discharge of gas from the mold. Figure 2c presents the solid-
   ification sequence in which the impeller begins solidifying
∂k e ∂k e ∂ ut ∂k e
þ uj ¼ uþ þ Pk e −ε ð6Þ from the outer rim toward the gate. The areas in which molten
∂t ∂x j ∂x j σke ∂x j
metal has not been fed into the front and back covers of the
   impeller are prone to cooling shrinkage, resulting in insuffi-
∂ε ∂ε ∂ ut ∂ε ε ε2
þ uj ¼ uþ þ C ε1 Pk −C ε2 ð7Þ cient filling and shrinkage defects.
∂t ∂x j ∂x j σε ∂x j ke ke Figure 3a–c presents the probability of defect formation at
* the end of the solidification period, as determined using the
In Eqs. (1)–(7), ρ represents density (kg/m3), u denotes retained melt modulus. The dark red indicates regions with the
velocity vector (m/s), P stands for pressure (Pa), T means highest probability of defect formation. As shown in Fig. 3b,
temperature (°C), k denotes thermal conductivity (W/m K), the largest shrinkage defect appeared in the pouring cup. The
F is the volume fraction (i.e., the VOF), f represents particle insufficient availability of molten metal being fed into the
weight (body force), μ denotes dynamic viscosity (mPa·s), H solidifying casting led to the formation of porous defects on
signifies enthalpy (J), Cσ is the coefficient of surface tension the front cover of the impeller, as shown in Fig. 3c. Figure 4a–
(dyne/cm), ka denotes curvature, ke stands for turbulent kinetic c uses the Niyama criterion to predict the probability of defect
energy, ε is the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy, σk formation. Due to the thin and curved structure of the impeller
denotes the Prandtl number corresponding to turbulent kinetic and poorly designed ventilators, both sides of the covers and
energy k, and σε is the Prandtl number corresponding to dis- the blades are prone to defects over large areas. A comparison
sipation rate ε. of defects in the impeller (Fig. 1) and the probability of defect
Various prediction models are applied for the forecasting of formation (Figs. 3 and 4) demonstrate that the results obtained
shrinkage and porous defects [4, 29–34]. In this study, two from numerical simulation are in good agreement with actual
models were adopted to evaluate the probability of casting castings.
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 3 Probabilities of defect formation in initial casting scheme (Exp. 3), as evaluated using the retained melt modulus. a Exterior surface. b Interior of
gating system. c Cross-sectional view of the front cover

3.2 Improvements in gating system design riser, including the height, diameter, and volume of the risers
as well as the size of riser neck. The design of the riser must
Analysis of the initial scheme revealed severe porosity and fulfill three major conditions [12, 21, 31]: (1) the solidification
shrinkage defects throughout the impeller structure. We devel- timing of the riser neck must exceed that of the casting to
oped six improved gating system designs to remedy these ensure a smooth feeding flow (energy principle); (2) the vol-
defects (cases 1∼6), as shown in Fig. 5. The bottom pouring ume of the riser must be adequate to feed the shrinkage vol-
design in case 1 prevents pouring directly into the mold cavity, ume of the casting (volume principle); (3) the potential energy
as was the case in the initial scheme. Risers were also placed of the riser must be higher than that of the casting (potential
on the rear cover to serve as feeders. The side pouring design principle).
in case 2 and case 3 employed three 50 × 50-mm risers and The results of mold flow analysis revealed that neither the
two to four gates attached to a ring-like runner along the outer side pouring approach of case 3 nor the mock-side pouring
rim of the impeller. The side-pouring gating system in case 4 approach of case 4 could effectively eliminate the casting
provides an improved annular bevel design in the rear cover. defects. However, simulations of the solidification process
The top pouring designs in case 5 and case 6 use a transverse indicate that the riser and annular bevel feeding design can
runner with gates placed atop the mold cavity. Case 6 also effectively increase the temperature gradient of the impeller.
includes two vent holes and an annular bevel of 8.5 ° on the Shell mold cracking occurred in case 5 during the dewaxing
rear cover to enhance venting performance. process. This can be attributed to the excessive size of the gate,
which resulted in thermal expansion and excessive stress in
3.3 Numerical analysis of improved gating system designs the wax patterns within the ceramic shell. Thus, we selected
case 1, case 2, and case 6 for comparison and further improve-
We employed the hot spot method to derive a suitable design ments. Moreover, to make the contents of the paper as con-
for the risers. The diameter of hot spots was determined ac- cisely as possible, only the parameter set (selected from Exp. 1
cording to the sectional thickness of castings, whereupon an to Exp. 5 in Table 2) that was most appropriate to each im-
empirical formula was used to derive the dimensions of the proved gating system design was shown for comparison and

Fig. 4 Probabilities of defect formation in initial casting scheme (Exp. 3), as evaluated using the Niyama criterion. a Cross-sectional view of rear cover.
b Interior of gating system. c Front cover
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 5 Improved gating system designs. a–f Case 1 to case 6, respectively

discussion. Figure 6 displays the transient temperature distri- bearing structure of the impeller. In case 2, the gates and risers
butions during the casting process using the improved aided feeding, thereby helping to ensure that the residual iso-
schemes. All of the runners buffered the effects of the thermal lated melts were formed within the risers and transverse run-
shock and flow of the molten metal. Case 2 presented the ners. In case 6, the design of the annular bevel helped to direct
smoothest and filling sequence of greatest stability, thanks to ventilation and solidification in the rear cover of the impeller
uniform pouring into the mold cavity afforded by the four and at the gates, thereby increasing the temperature gradient in
gates. In contrast, the design of the annular bevel for the top the impeller structure and improving the feeding of molten
pouring approach in case 6 made it possible to guide the air metal.
flow, thereby reducing the formation of porous defects. At a As aforementioned, the shrinkage defects are likely to oc-
filling rate of 100%, the molten metal maintained tempera- cur at the bearing structure of case 1 based on the simulation
tures above the alloy solidus line (1399 °C), such that prema- results. Therefore, the improved gating system designs with
ture solidification did not occur. The solidification sequence of an appropriate casting parameter, i.e., case 2 (Exp. 4) and case
the molten metal is closely related to the locations of defect 6 (Exp. 2), were further analyzed and compared with the initial
formations. Figure 7 presents the transient phenomena in the casting scheme, as shown in Figs. 8 and 9. The influence of in-
solidifying metal using the improved schemes. In case 1, feed gates and risers on feeding in case 2 promoted the last residual
interruptions occurred between the middle gate and the risers, melts situated in the annular runner and risers, thereby reduc-
resulting in the formation of isolated residual melt in the ing the number of defects in the impeller, as shown in Figs. 8a.

Fig. 6 Transient temperature distributions during casting process in a case 1 with bottom pouring approach at filling rate 40%, b case 2 with side pouring
approach at filling rate 25%, and c case 6 with top pouring approach at filling rate 60%
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 7 Unsolidified regions in molten metal in a case 1 with bottom pouring approach at t = 310.9 s, b case 2 with side pouring approach at t = 94.8 s, and
c case 6 with top pouring approach at t = 79.2 s

Furthermore, the annular bevel in case 6 increased the tem- bubbles over the rear cover. In case 2, the gating system makes
perature gradient and ventilation efficiency, thereby reducing use of the venting space in the risers to squeeze out air from
the number of shrinkage defects in the impeller by more than within the mold cavity, moving it to the top of the risers. In
50%, as shown in Fig. 8b. Figure 9 presents the probability of case 6, the vent holes on the two sides were shown to reduce
shrinkage defects as determined by the combined defect pa- air pressure within the mold to 4571.4 dyne/cm2. The air was
rameter of the Niyama criterion. As shown in Fig. 9a, we squeezed from within the mold cavity to the annular bevel in
adopted the Exp. 4 parameters in case 2, including preheating the rear cover of the impeller, thereby preventing the forma-
of the ceramic shell and enhancing the performance of riser tion of porous defects.
feeding, thereby eliminating the formation of shrinkage de-
fects in various parts of the impeller. Furthermore, the venting 3.4 Gate flow analysis of gating systems
introduced in case 6 reduced the formation of air traps in the
mold cavity and enhanced the flow of molten metals, thereby Swift, uniform, and stable flow fields are the objective during
reducing the growth of dendritic structures and mediating the the pouring processes. Figure 11a–c exhibits the flow velocity
probability of shrinkage defect formation, as shown in Fig. 9b. curves at the gates under the initial scheme, case 2, and case 6.
Any residual gas or slag suspended in the molten metal can The flow velocity curve of the initial scheme presents the
lead to the formation of porous defects and oxide inclusions in greatest fluctuations, peaking at approximately 140 cm/s,
castings. A failure to reduce air pressure within the mold cav- resulting in the formation of turbulent flow fields within the
ity can cause air to remain in the form of air traps or pores. mold cavity. The flow velocity curves at the gates in case 2
Figure 10 presents the distribution of air pressure within the and case 6 are more level, indicating stability in the flow fields
mold cavity. The blockage of vent holes on both sides of the within the mold cavities. This is expected to decrease the
rear cover in the initial scheme resulted in the formation of air probability of defects forming due to entrapped air, oxidative

Fig. 8 Sectional view showing the probability of defect formation in the front impeller cover. a Case 2 (Exp. 4) and b case 6 (Exp. 2), as calculated using
the retained melt modulus
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 9 Sectional showing the

probability of defect formation in
front (left) and rear (right)
impeller covers. a Case 2 (Exp. 4)
and b case 6 (Exp. 2), as
calculated using the combined
defect parameter of the Niyama

inclusions, and pores. The inclusion of a pressurized gating alloy solidus line (1400 °C). Then, an excessively high rate of
system with a gating ratio (i.e., ratio of cross-sectional area cooling was observed. The addition of risers and a thicker
between the sprue, runner, and in-gates) of 1:0.866:0.6959 in annular bevel on the rear covers (case 2 and case 6) greatly
case 6, the flow velocity at both gates was maintained at about reduced the speed at which the impeller blades cooled. This
a constant 70 cm/s. reduced interruptions in the feeding of molten metal and elim-
inated shrinkage defects in the front cover. Moreover, as
3.5 Comparison of thermodynamic behavior using shown in Fig. 12c, the temperature-solidification curve of
the improved schemes the initial scheme began a noticeable drop when the solidifi-
cation rate reached 16%. This widened the temperature range
In the previous section, we demonstrated the effectiveness of of alloy crystallization in the initial casting scheme. Thus,
the modified gating systems in reducing the probability of flowability declined when the molten metal sharply
defect formation. To compare the improvements in case 2 contracted, resulting in the formation of dendritic crystals on
and case 6, we installed physical sensors at the same locations the casting surfaces and shrinkage defects in the impeller
within the impellers, as shown in Fig. 12a. Process parameter blades. In contrast, when the solidification rates of case 2
combinations Exp. 4 and Exp. 2, which exhibited the greatest and case 6, respectively, reached 49.5 and 41.8%, the
improvements, were respectively selected for case 2 and case temperature-solidification rate curves dropped steadily. This
6. Figure 12b shows that when the cooling time in the initial allowed the solidified alloy to maintain a temperature high
casting scheme reached 204 s, it will be the earliest reach the enough to prevent the premature solidification of internal

Fig. 10 Distribution of air pressure in mold cavity. a Initial casting scheme. b Case 2. c Case 6
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Fig. 11 Changes in flow velocity at in-gates in a initial scheme, b case 2, and c case 6, as a function of pouring time

molten metal, which would otherwise hinder feeding. temperature gradient are necessary for optimal feeding effects.
Furthermore, the improvements gained by the various Thus, shrinkage defects in impeller structures can be eliminat-
schemes can be observed through the cooling rates and tem- ed simply by altering the mechanism by which molten metal is
perature gradients obtained by the sensors. The cooling rates fed into the mold.
in the initial scheme, case 2, and case 6 were 2.58, 2.48, and We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the various
2.38 °C/s, respectively; the temperature gradients were 3.114, pouring schemes with regard to field stability, ventilation/
3.431, and 6.576 °C/cm. A constant cooling rate and higher trapped air, the directionality of solidification, the probability

Fig. 12 a Sectional view showing the locations of the physical sensors in the initial scheme, case 2, and case 6. b, c The temperature-time and
temperature-solidification rate curves obtained by the sensors
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

of defect formation, and the costs of the postprocessing, based 1. When manufactured using the initial casting scheme,
on the numerical simulations. The results of this assessment the thin walls of the impeller were prone to shrink-
reveal that case 6 possesses the best overall gating system. The age defects due to rapid cooling and insufficient
yield of each solution was evaluated as follows: initial scheme feeding. Analysis of flow velocity at the in-gates re-
(13%), case 1 (15.9%), case 2 (16.7%), case 3 (17.3%), case 4 vealed instability in the flow velocity curves. The
(32.3%), case 5 (19.0%), and case 6 (40.9%). Clearly, case 6 design of the gating designs was improved through
presented the highest yield at a lower cost with enhanced the incorporation of the bottom, side, and top
casting quality. Thus, this is the design we used in subsequent pouring methods to overcome the adverse effects of
trial-run production experiments. Wax material was first heat- unstable flow into the mold cavity. The changes re-
ed to 53 °C to produce a wax impeller pattern, using an injec- duced the entrapment of air turbulence in flow,
tion temperature of 63 °C with an injection pressure of 20 kg/ which in turn prevented the intrusion of air into the
cm2. The resulting wax tree of the case 6 gating system is molten metal to form porous defects.
presented in Fig. 13a. Figure 13b presents a ceramic shell 2. Simulation results revealed that the configurations in case
mold created by dipping the wax pattern in a slurry and coat- 1, case 3, and case 4 would be unable to eliminate shrink-
ing it with zircon sand to a thickness of approximately age defects. Designs such as these should be avoided dur-
5.5 mm. Once the slurry and sand had bonded and dried (this ing the predesign of molds, in order to facilitate mold
required roughly 1 week), the shell was dewaxed to form a modification and reduce the time required for product
hollow mold. The ceramic shell was then sintered at 1200 °C development.
to strengthen it, whereupon molten metal (1600 °C) was 3. The inclusion of vent holes and an annular bevel design
poured into the shell mold. Postprocessing was then conduct- on the rear cover was shown to enable the release of air
ed to obtain the impellers, as shown in Fig. 13c. Figure 13d–g pressure from the mold cavity, thereby increasing the tem-
presents X-rays images of various regions of the impeller, perature gradient of the impeller blades, and extending the
showing that the structure of the blades, as well as the front time to cooling. The temperature-solidification curve
and rear covers are intact. This experiment verifies the high shows that with an alloy solidus temperature of
casting quality and lack of defects in the resulting impellers. 1400 °C, the solidification fraction in case 6 is 25.8%
higher than achieved in the initial scheme. This made it
possible to maintain the solidified alloy at a temperature
4 Conclusions sufficient to prevent a rapid cooling of the interior of the
molten metal, which would otherwise hinder feeding.
This study used AnyCasting software to perform mold flow This had the effect of reducing the probability of shrink-
analysis of a stainless steel enclosed impeller for use in a age defect formation.
centrifugal pump. We examined the thermodynamic behavior, 4. The yields of the various improved designs were as fol-
ventilation/air traps, and directionality of solidification in the lows: initial scheme (13%), case 1 (15.9%), case 2
formulation of various gating system designs. The probability (16.7%), case 3 (17.3%), case 4 (32.3%), case 5
of defect formation in the castings was used to make adjust- (19.0%), and case 6 (40.9%). Clearly, case 6 presented
ments aimed at improving casting quality. The primary find- the highest yield at a lower cost with enhanced casting
ings of this study are as follows: quality.

Fig. 13 Casting scheme of case 6. a Wax tree. b Ceramic shell mold. c Impeller product. d–g X-ray images of various impeller parts
Int J Adv Manuf Technol

Acknowledgements The authors gratefully acknowledge the support 16. Pan L, Zheng L, Zhang H, Gao W (2011) Applicability of
provided for this research by the Ministry of Science and Technology, shrinkage porosity prediction for casting with Niyama criterion.
Republic of China, under grants MOST 105-2221-E-020-014 and MOST Journal of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
105-2622-E-020-002-CC3. 37(12):1534–1540
17. Wang MF, Guo X, Wang F (2012) Improvement of the investment
casting process used to the production of stainless steel impeller.
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