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About die casting - Tooling and Mould of Die Casting

Knowledge  About Die Casting (III)

Mold or tooling




The ejector die half



The cover die half

Two dies are used in die casting; one is called the "cover die half" and the other the "ejector die half". Where they meet is called the parting line. The cover die contains the sprue (for hot-chamber machines) or shot hole (for cold-chamber machines), which allows the molten metal to flow into the dies; this feature matches up with the injector nozzle on the hot-chamber machines or the shot chamber in the cold-chamber machines. The ejector die contains the ejector pins and usually the runner, which is the path from the sprue or shot hole to the mold cavity. The cover die is secured to the stationary, or front, platen of the casting machine, while the ejector die is attached to the movable platen. The mold cavity is cut into two cavity inserts, which are separate pieces that can be replaced relatively easily and bolt into the die halves.

The dies are designed so that the finished casting will slide off the cover half of the die and stay in the ejector half as the dies are opened. This assures that the casting will be ejected every cycle because the ejector half contains the ejector pins to push the casting out of that die half. The ejector pins are driven by an ejector pin plate, which accurately drives all of the pins at the same time and with the same force, so that the casting is not damaged. The ejector pin plate also retracts the pins after ejecting the casting to prepare for the next shot. There must be enough ejector pins to keep the overall force on each pin low, because the casting is still hot and can be damaged by excessive force. The pins still leave a mark, so they must be located in places where these marks will not hamper the casting's purpose.

Other die components include cores and slides. Cores are components that usually produce holes or opening, but they can be used to create other details as well. There are three types of cores: fixed, movable, and loose. Fixed cores are ones that are oriented parallel to the pull direction of the dies (i.e. the direction the dies open), therefore they are fixed, or permanently attached to the die. Movable cores are ones that are oriented in any other way than parallel to the pull direction. These cores must be removed from the die cavity after the shot solidifies, but before the dies open, using a separate mechanism. Slides are similar to movable cores, except they are used to form undercut surfaces. The use of movable cores and slides greatly increases the cost of the dies. Loose cores, also called pick-outs, are used to cast intricate features, such as threaded holes. These loose cores are inserted into the die by hand before each cycle and then ejected with the part at the end of the cycle. The core then must be removed by hand. Loose cores are the most expensive type of core, because of the extra labor and increased cycle time. Other features in the dies include water-cooling passages and vents along the parting lines. These vents are usually wide and thin (approximately 0.13 mm or 0.005 in) so that when the molten metal starts filling them the metal quickly solidifies and minimizes scrap. No risers are used because the high pressure ensures a continuous feed of metal from the gate.

The most important material properties for the dies are thermal shock resistance and softening at elevated temperature; other important properties include hardenability, machinability, heat checking resistance, weldability, availability (especially for larger dies), and cost. The longevity of a die is directly dependent on the temperature of the molten metal and the cycle time. The dies used in die casting are usually made out of hardened tool steels, because cast iron cannot withstand the high pressures involved, therefore the dies are very expensive, resulting in high start-up costs. Metals that are cast at higher temperatures require dies made from higher alloy steels.

Die and component material and hardness for various cast metals
Die component Cast metal
Tin, lead & zinc Aluminium & magnesium Copper & brass
Material Hardness Material Hardness Material Hardness
Cavity inserts P20 290–330 HB H13 42–48 HRC DIN 1.2367 38–44 HRC
H11 46–50 HRC H11 42–48 HRC H20, H21, H22 44–48 HRC
H13 46–50 HRC        
Cores H13 46–52 HRC H13 44–48 HRC DIN 1.2367 40–46 HRC
    DIN 1.2367 42–48 HRC    
Core pins H13 48–52 HRC DIN 1.2367 prehard 37–40 HRC DIN 1.2367 prehard 37–40 HRC
Sprue parts H13 48–52 HRC H13
DIN 1.2367
46–48 HRC
44–46 HRC
DIN 1.2367 42–46 HRC
Nozzle 420 40–44 HRC H13 42–48 HRC DIN 1.2367
H13
40–44 HRC
42–48 HRC
Ejector pins H13 46–50 HRC H13 46–50 HRC H13 46–50 HRC
Plunger shot sleeve H13 46–50 HRC H13
DIN 1.2367
42–48 HRC
42–48 HRC
DIN 1.2367
H13
42–46 HRC
42–46 HRC
Holder block 4140 prehard ~300 HB 4140 prehard ~300 HB 4140 prehard ~300 HB

The main failure mode for die casting dies is wear or erosion. Other failure modes are heat checking and thermal fatigue. Heat checking is when surface cracks occur on the die due to a large temperature change on every cycle. Thermal fatigue is when surface cracks occur on the die due to a large number of cycles.

Typical die temperatures and life for various cast materials
  Zinc Aluminium Magnesium Brass (leaded yellow)
Maximum die life [number of cycles] 1,000,000 100,000 100,000 10,000
Die temperature [C° (F°)] 218 (425) 288 (550) 260 (500) 500 (950)
Casting temperature [C° (F°)] 400 (760) 660 (1220) 760 (1400) 1090 (2000)

Process

The following are the four steps in traditional die casting, also known as high-pressure die casting, these are also the basis for any of the die casting variations: die preparation, filling, ejection, and shakeout. The dies are prepared by spraying the mold cavity with lubricant. The lubricant both helps control the temperature of the die and it also assists in the removal of the casting. The dies are then closed and molten metal is injected into the dies under high pressure; between 10 and 175 megapascals (1,500 and 25,400 psi). Once the mold cavity is filled, the pressure is maintained until the casting solidifies. The dies are then opened and the shot (shots are different from castings because there can be multiple cavities in a die, yielding multiple castings per shot) is ejected by the ejector pins. Finally, the shakeout involves separating the scrap, which includes the gate, runners, sprues and flash, from the shot. This is often done using a special trim die in a power press or hydraulic press. Other methods of shaking out include sawing and grinding. A less labor-intensive method is to tumble shots if gates are thin and easily broken; separation of gates from finished parts must follow. This scrap is recycled by remelting it. The yield is approximately 67%.

The high-pressure injection leads to a quick fill of the die, which is required so the entire cavity fills before any part of the casting solidifies. In this way, discontinuities are avoided, even if the shape requires difficult-to-fill thin sections. This creates the problem of air entrapment, because when the mold is filled quickly there is little time for the air to escape. This problem is minimized by including vents along the parting lines, however, even in a highly refined process there will still be some porosity in the center of the casting.

Most die casters perform other secondary operations to produce features not readily castable, such as tapping a hole, polishing, plating, buffing, or painting.

Inspection

After the shakeout of the casting it is inspected for defects. The most common defects are misruns and cold shuts. These defects can be caused by cold dies, low metal temperature, dirty metal, lack of venting, or too much lubricant. Other possible defects are gas porosity, shrinkage porosity, hot tears, and flow marks. Flow marks are marks left on the surface of the casting due to poor gating, sharp corners, or excessive lubricant.

Lubricants

Water-based lubricants, called emulsions, are the most used type of lubricant, because of health, environmental, and safety reasons. Unlike solvent-based lubricants, if water is properly treated to remove all minerals from it, it will not leave any by-product in the dies. If the water is not properly treated, then the minerals can cause surface defects and discontinuities. There are four types of water-based lubricants: oil in water, water in oil, semi-synthetic, and synthetic. Oil in water is the best, because when the lubricant is applied, the water cools the die surface by evaporating while depositing the oil, which helps release the shot. A common mixture for this type of lubricants is thirty parts water to one part oil, however in extreme cases a ratio of 100:1 is used.

Oils that are used include heavy residual oil (HRO), animal fats, vegetable fats, and synthetic fats. HROs are gelatinous at room temperature, but at the high temperatures found in die casting, they form a thin film. Other substances are added to control the emulsions viscosity and thermal properties; these include graphite, aluminium, and mica. Other chemical additives are used to inhibit rusting and oxidation. Emulsifiers are added to water-based lubricants, so that oil based additives can be mixed into the water; these include soap, alcohol esters, and ethylene oxides.

Historically, solvent-based lubricants, such as diesel fuel and kerosene, were commonly used. These were good at releasing the part from the dies, but a small explosion occurred during each shot, which led to a build-up of carbon on the mold cavity walls. However, they were easier to apply evenly than water-based lubricants.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of die casting:

  • Excellent dimensional accuracy (dependent on casting material, but typically 0.1 mm for the first 2.5 cm (0.005 inch for the first inch) and 0.02 mm for each additional centimeter (0.002 inch for each additional inch).
  • Smooth cast surfaces (Ra 1–2.5 micrometres or 0.04–0.10 thou rms).
  • Thinner walls can be cast as compared to sand and permanent mold casting (approximately 0.75 mm or 0.030 in).
  • Inserts can be cast-in (such as threaded inserts, heating elements, and high strength bearing surfaces).
  • Reduces or eliminates secondary machining operations.
  • Rapid production rates.
  • Casting tensile strength as high as 415 megapascals (60 ksi).
  • Casting of low fluidity metals.

The main disadvantage to die casting is the very high capital cost. Both the casting equipment required and the dies and related components are very costly, as compared to most other casting processes. Therefore, to make die casting an economic process, a large production volume is needed. Other disadvantages are that the process is limited to high-fluidity metals, and casting weights must be between 30 grams (1 oz) and 10 kg (20 lb). In the standard die casting process the final casting will have a small amount of porosity. This prevents any heat treating or welding, because the heat causes the gas in the pores to expand, which causes micro-cracks inside the part and exfoliation of the surface. Thus a related disadvantage of die casting is that it is only for parts in which softness is acceptable. Parts needing hardening (through hardening or case hardening) and tempering are not cast in dies.