Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

SOUNDCAST Report Summary

Project ID: 315506
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: Spain

Final Report Summary - SOUNDCAST (Vacuum-assisted high pressure die castings with reduced porosity at low cost)

Executive Summary:
At the present, the use of aluminium high pressure die castings for structural applications in the transportation market is limited due to the presence of porosity inherent to the fabrication process. High vacuum processes can reduce porosity significantly, but both the capital investment and the process costs are very high.
The use of cheaper adaptable vacuum systems it is still not very popular, because of the complexity of this process, the need for improved process stability and deeper metallurgical knowledge of the alloys used in these new applications.
In the SOUNDCAST project an innovative, competitive and environmentally friendly technology to manufacture sound and weldable high performance castings, by vacuum assisted high pressure die casting (VPDC) process, has been developed. The Soundcast technology package optimizes all the factors affecting casting quality:

- Numerical simulation of die filling and solidification was used to optimize the die filling and assist on the design of vacuum channels and gating system.
- Die design: A special die was manufactured for evaluation of mechanical properties (step test part) and evaluation of lubrication and weldability (sheet part).
- Use of a “state of the art vacuum” valve: For the testing dies a VDS vacuum valve was used. In step casting a chill vent was also used in parallel.
- HPDC process parameters: Vacuum was found to reduce porosity and blister formation in the T6 heat treatment, HPDC parameters such as second phase speed and compaction pressure were optimized regarding porosity and casting defects.
- Optimized die and shot sleeve lubrication for welding applications: The release agents and plunger lubricants have an important influence on the quality of high-pressure die cast parts. The use of the wax-free release agent with a high dilution for example 1:125 was found to give best results.
- Development of quality control software: An offline tool to perform statistical analysis of the process parameters with the aim to characterize their variability and to identify the most relevant ones for forecasting the part quality has been developed based on Partial Least Squares Regression (PLS). Furthermore, a software based on the solidification curve of the new recycled alloy able to predict the melt quality in terms of eutectic Si modification was developed.
- Development of a new recycled alloy(s) with high mechanical properties: A new recycled alloy that could be a substitute of Silafont 36 (AlSi9MnMg primary alloy), with acceptable amounts of impurities such as Fe and Cu and mechanical properties comparable to the primary alloy, has been developed. The new alloy is cheaper and presents reduced die sticking due to its higher Fe content.
- Melt and heat treatment optimization for the new recycled alloy(s): The melt treatment was optimized regarding oxide content and hydrogen content in the melt and eutectic Si modification. Quality checks are proposed. Heat treatments were optimized for the new alloy in terms of solution temperature and time. It was found that porosity and blister formation was reduced by lowering the solution temperature and time.
- Development of a new laser welding process at reduced pressure: Laser beam welding at reduced pressure shows excellent suitability for welding high-pressure die castings at high speeds (v > 2.0 m/min). Welds with extremely high seam quality (homogeneous formation of seam surface and root, low porosity) have been generated. Basically, the newly developed secondary alloy has excellent weldability of laser beam welding in a vacuum.

Finally, procedures for obtaining high mechanical properties and weldability have been established and employed to manufacture real parts in two SME foundries: one with high mechanical properties and another with weldability. In both cases satisfactory results have been obtained.

Project Context and Objectives:
The necessity of preserving resources and reducing environmental pollution makes light weight concepts and recycling highly interesting for the transportation market, being light weight essential for newly developed electric and hybrid vehicles.

At the present, the use of aluminium high pressure die castings for structural applications in the automotive industry is limited due to the presence of porosity inherent to the fabrication process. High vacuum processes can reduce porosity significantly, but both the capital investment and the process costs are very high.

On the other hand, the use of cheaper adaptable vacuum systems it is still not very popular in SME foundries, despite significant technological improvements during the last years; this is mainly because of the complexity of this process, the need for improved process stability and deeper metallurgical knowledge of the alloys used in these new applications.

The aim of the SOUNDCAST project has been to provide the SME die caster with an innovative and environmentally friendly technology to produce sound and weldable high performance castings by a low cost vacuum assisted high pressure die casting (VPDC) process. The optimized fabrication technology, Soundcast technology, must be capable of economically producing large, thin walled and complicated components with recycled aluminium alloys having minimal porosity, excellent mechanical and welding properties.

This has made it necessary to take into account all the factors affecting casting quality. Technically, the first and major step has been clearly to master the different aspects related with vacuum technology applied to HPDC. The link between the most important parameters that enhance porosity was established during the project and a versatile technology package (“Soundcast Technology Package”) which optimizes the whole fabrication process was developed including:
- Numerical simulation of die filling and solidification
- Special die design
- Use of a “state of the art vacuum” valve
- HPDC process parameter optimization
- Optimized die and shot sleeve lubrication for welding applications
- Development of quality control software
- Development of new recycled alloy(s) with high mechanical properties
- Melt and heat treatment optimization for the new recycled alloy(s)
- Development of a new laser welding process at reduced pressure

The developed know-how and technologies were demonstrated and validated in two SME foundries: RUFFINI (Spain) and SCHMALE & SCHULTE (Germany). RUFFINI coordinated demonstration activities and performed successfully the demonstration activities related with the fabrication of a high mechanical properties demonstrator, while SCHMALE & SCHULTE foundry performed successfully demonstration activities related with the fabrication of a weldable high pressure die casting demonstrator. It should be mentioned that another two SMEs foundries also participated in the first phase of Soundcast project: DIACE (France) and ALIASA (Spain).

The vacuum valve fabricant VDS (SME from Switzerland) and die lubricant supplier ChemTrend provided technological advice in all aspects of vacuum technology and die lubrication, indispensable for reduction of porosity regarding to the application of heat treatment and/or welding process of VPDC castings.

Intensive dissemination of the project results has been performed to promote it among the target groups: 20 scientific-industrial publications, 10 stands at international Fairs, 8 versions of printed dissemination materials, 3 videos, 3 specific training activities, SOUNDCAST Web Site was regularly updated and a minimum of 6 after project dissemination actions are already planned.

Project Results:
First a summary of the DISTRIBUTION OF EXPLOITABLE RESULTS BETWEEN THE SOUNDCAST PARTNERS is shown:

•Exploitable product: SOUNDCAST TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE
-Proposed value: Innovative process to produce sound and weldable vacuum-assisted HPDC (VPDC) components.
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry, Automotive
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): Trade Secret
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: VDS. Internal use (*): AZTERLAN, TU-BS and EURECAT

•Exploitable product: KNOW-HOW BASED ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOUNDCAST TECHNOLOGY
-Proposed value: Know-how applied to sound and weldable vacuum-assisted HPDC (VPDC) components
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry, Automotive
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): Not possible
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: VDS. Internal use(*): AZTERLAN, TU-BS, EURECAT , DIACE, RUFFINI and SCHMALE & SCHULTE

•Exploitable product: NEW RECYCLED ALLOY
-Proposed value: New recycled alloy(s) for structural applications in the automotive industry
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry, Automotive
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): WPO or European Patent
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: RUFFINI. Internal use (*): AZTERLAN, DIACE and SCHMALE & SCHULTE

•Exploitable product: QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEM
-Proposed value: Control software that validates the quality of components produced
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): Copyright
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: VDS. Internal use (*): EURECAT, AZTERLAN, DIACE, RUFFINI and SCHMALE & SCHULTE

•Exploitable product: NEW WELDING PROCESS
-Proposed value: Innovative welding process suitable for components
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry, Automotive
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): WPO or European Patent
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: SCHMALE & SCHULTE. Internal use (*): TU-BS, DIACE and RUFFINI

•Exploitable product: KNOW-HOW BASED ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW WELDING PROCESS
-Proposed value: Know-how applied to welding process suitable for VPDC components
-Sector(s) of application: HPDC Industry, Automotive
-Timetable, commercial use: 2016
-Patents or other IPR exploitation (licenses): Not possible
-Owner & Other Beneficiary(s) involved: Ownership: SCHMALE & SCHULTE. Internal use (*): TU-BS, DIACE and RUFFINI

(*)The RTD Performers: The RTD Performers shall be granted by the SME Partners Access Rights to Results on royalty-free conditions to conduct further research (Article 50.5 RfP). Access Rights for internal research and for research in areas other than those targeted by the Project, as well as for teaching purposes, shall be granted royalty-free on request.

WP2: SYSTEM MODELLING AND POROSITY REDUCTION

This WP aims reaching the following objectives:
• Reduce the porosity on HPDC process by the use of simulation tools for correct application of vacuum and die design.
• Use of a special vacuum system and optimization of the process parameters.
• Development of statistical techniques to determine the main influences of the process parameters in porosity formation.

TASK 2.1 NUMERICAL SIMULATIONS OF DIE FILLING AND SOLIDIFICATION

The main work in Task 2.1 was related to the design of the die constructed in Task 2.2 as well as its optimization for a better performance. Simulation was used to optimize the filling of the component and assist on the design of the channels and gating system. Special emphasis was paid to the evaluation of the porosity that could arise in the testing part which was evaluated with the simulation software Click2Cast.

In HPDC can be identified two main sources of porosity a) gas porosity, due to air entrapment during the cavity filling and b) shrinkage porosity due to the solidification of the molten aluminium. Both phenomena were addressed in the simulation performed within Task 2.1. The simulation results show that air porosity could be expected mainly in the overflows, but the component will be mostly clean of air entrapments.

TASK 2.2 FABRICATION OF DIE FOR THE TEST PIECES

A die for evaluation of mechanical properties were fabricated successfully: It is a test piece with steps of different thicknesses.
The most specific aspect of the SOUNDCAST testing die is the design required to obtain the desired vacuum level. The consortium decided to use for the testing die a vacuum valve and a Chill-Vent in parallel. The selected elements, according to the size and geometry of the component, as well as to reach the level of vacuum desired in the SOUNDCAST Project were:
1. Valve ProVac® Ultra EASY 2000
2. Chill-Vent CV 4/8

The vacuum channels were designed by extending the runner section of the valve and the Chill-Vent in such a manner that their added evacuation sections (160 mm2) was fully usable till the very end of the filling and for the fastest evacuation. The die was machined and assembled according to the final design defined in the task.

TASK 2.3 HPDC PROCESS PARAMETER OPTIMIZATION FOR POROSITY REDUCTION

The main objective of the present task is to optimize the HPDC process parameters. The optimization of the HPDC process parameter was done in 2 stages. In a first stage it was optimized the injection curve with a secondary AlSi9Cu3 alloy. In the second stage, the effect that the main casting parameters had on the final component porosity was verified on the new SOUNDCAST alloy.
In the first optimization stage with the AlSi9Cu3 secondary alloy the curve optimization was performed following the different steps:
- optimization of the first phase injection curve to maximize the vacuum aspiration time
- validation of the optimal velocity for the second injection phase was validated
- analysis of the influence of the third phase compacting pressure on the porosity of the parts

The set of trials, corresponding to the second optimization stage, were conducted with the new SOUNDCAST alloy developed within the project. On this new set of tests they were addressed three main considerations:
- to determine the effect of vacuum application on the porosity level.
- to investigate a possible relationship between the second phase speed and the porosity present in the parts.
- to see the effect that has the final compacting pressure on the part porosity.

RELATION BETWEEN VACUUM AND POROSITY
In order to evaluate the effect of vacuum in the gas porosity it was defined a procedure to conduct quantitative metallographic analysis of some parts conducted with and without vacuum with the same processing parameters. The porosity level (%) and the maximum size of the pores (μm) were measured on 3 polished surfaces for each of the steps as cast and after a T6 heat treatment.

The porosity measured, in general, was similar in all conditions and no significant differences were observed between the components produced with or without vacuum. However, a slightly difference was observed between the different tempers analyzed. The surfaces of the as cast components showed a slightly lower porosity than those subjected to a T6 heat treatment. The porosity increase was especially remarkable in the thinnest steps (1, 2, 4 and 6 mm), whereas in the thickest steps there was not a clear trend (10 and 15 mm).

These results indicate that the porosity present in the thinnest steps is mainly due to gas entrapped and during the solution treatment it expands, while in the thickest steps the main source of porosity is due to solidification shrinkage and, therefore, there is not an expansion of the pores during the exposition at high temperature. As an additional result a procedure to evaluate the porosity fraction is defined.

RELATION BETWEEN SECOND PHASE SPEED AND POROSITY.
Parts cast at different second phase injection speeds were produced and inspected in order to determine the relation between this parameter and the porosity level. Four different levels of second phase speed where tried: 3.5, 4, 4.5 and 5 m/s. Porosity values determined by quantitative metallography.

The results obtained show that the lower porosity level in the components is achieved at intermediate 2nd phase injection speeds of 4 and 4.5 m/s. The extreme values of 3.5 and 5 m/s exhibit higher porosity levels than those observed on the parts cast at 4 and 4.5 m/s. The intermediate values of 4 and 4.5 m/s reported the best results achieved. Further increase to 5 m/s reverts in an increment of the porosity observed in the part.

RELATION BETWEEN COMPACTING PRESSURE AND POROSITY.
In order to evaluate the importance of the final compacting pressure on the porosity present on the parts, components with 3 different final pressure levels were produced. It was selected a pressure of 300 bar as low, 575 bar as medium and 900 bar as high. Porosity was evaluated by X-ray computed tomography. It was observed that the shrinkage porosity (mainly in the thick steps) was highly reduced by increasing the final compacting pressure. The initial porosity of 1.74% observed in the part cast at a final compacting pressure of 300 bar was reduced to 1.47% by increasing the 3rd phase pressure to 575 bar and to 0.41% when the pressure is raised to 900 bar.

As an additional result, evaluation of porosity by tomography is very helpful for selecting the best compacting pressure and other HPDC parameters that affect shrinkage porosity, while metallographic porosity is most adequate to evaluate the effect of vacuum.

TASK 2.4 PROCESS CONTROL BY STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

The main objective of this task was to develop an offline tool to perform statistical analysis of the process parameter with the aim to characterize their variability and to identify the most relevant ones for forecasting the piece quality. A statistical model has been developed based on Partial Least Squares Regression (PLS) for processing the data gathered during the injections. By modelling the variability of the acquired data, a statistical tool is developed with the capability to classify and forecast the manufactured pieces.

It is important to note that it has been selected a supervised algorithm, meaning that the system must be trained in order to “learn” the behaviour of the system and discover the hidden relationships among the process parameters and the piece quality. Supervised algorithm offers better performance, especially for classifying problems (good parts and bad parts).
Once the system is trained, the developed model is ready for forecasting new sets of data gathered from new casts. By projecting the process parameter data from the new casts into the created vector space all the relevant information is codified in a single n-dimensional point. For classifying new castings, the software module calculates the probability of belonging to each training group for the new piece.

The developed system not only offers the classification of the new injections, but also their interval of confidence. This offers a great added value, since shows to the final user “how sure” is the system for each one of the predictions.

TASK 2.5 METHODOLOGY FOR POROSITY REDUCTION

The task objectives and expected results were reached successfully. The main result was the definition of the “Soundcast procedures for porosity reduction” that were released to the foundries of the consortium and other partners, as well as, presented and diffused on the Open House session held in Eurecat facilities.

The document pretends to be a first guide for HPDC foundries that are willing to get introduced in the vacuum assisted HPDC process and it is public. It compiles the basic aspects that have to be taken into account in order to adapt the standard HPDC process to the innovative and not well known VPDC, starting from the selection of the vacuum elements and the design of the vacuum channels to the optimization of the different process parameters and ancillaries involved in the HPDC process:
- Vacuum equipment selection: it provides advice about the characteristics of the different vacuum equipment and the criteria to have in mind in order to select the equipment that better fits each specific application.
- Design of the vacuum channel: this section presents guidelines to take into account in the designing phase of the vacuum channel.
- Housing of the vacuum elements: it presents a couple of important things to check in the die design, especially in case of adapting an existing die for VPDC.
- Optimization of the vacuum aspiration time: it offers a guideline to follow in order to maximize the aspiration time of the vacuum valve, without negatively affecting the filling phase of the die casting process.
- Operation of the vacuum equipment: it is a compilation of advices to have in mind when operating the vacuum equipment, especially during the starting phase.
- Optimization of the lubrication: remaining lubricant is one of the main sources of porosity and therefore it is important to select well the releases agents and provide only the indispensable amount for avoiding die sticking and plunger griping.
- Optimization of the 2nd phase speed: it is a description of the procedure to follow to optimize the 2nd phase speed of the injection process.
- Optimization of intensification final pressure: it is a short revision of the effect of the intensification process on the part porosity, indicating the best approach to adjust it.
- Porosity quality check on parts: it provides recommendations about the quality inspections to conduct on the cast parts, in order to verify their quality and porosity level.

WP3: MECHANICAL PROPERTY IMPROVEMENT

The objective of the present WP is to improve the mechanical properties of the new recycled alloy(s) by microalloying, optimizing the process parameters, melt and heat treatment optimization and development of a quality control system. A methodology for mechanical property improvement has been established.

The main objectives for this first reporting period are described below:
• Development of new secondary alloy(s) with high mechanical properties optimized by micro-addition of alloying elements (Task 3.1).
• Melt treatment optimization for the new alloy development for the Soundcast project (Task 3.2).
• To develop a software based on the solidification curve of the alloy able to predict the melt quality. This software has to predict the silicon modification level of the developed new alloy for the Soundcast project (Task 3.3).
• To improve the mechanical properties of the new recycled alloy(s) optimizing the process parameters (Task 3.4).
• To improve the mechanical properties of the new recycled alloy(s) optimizing the heat treatment (Task 3.5).
• Formulation of a methodology for mechanical property improvement (Task 3.6).

All these goals are fulfilled, as it was planned in the Soundcast project schedule.

TASK 3.1 DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW RECYCLED ALLOY

The objective of the present task is the formulation of a new recycled alloy that could be a substitutive of Silafont 36 (AlSi9MnMg primary alloy) with acceptable amounts of impurities such as Fe and Cu.

Adjustment of the main alloying elements or microaddition of other alloying elements was performed in order to reduce the presence of harmful beta phases and promote their substitution by alpha phases. The formulation of the new recycled alloy is based on the trials performed and the following requirements:
1.- Market constraints for aluminium alloy suppliers.
2.- Deleterious effect of impurities.
3.- Process alloy requirements in HPDC: die soldering and sludge factor criteria.

The general secondary alloy composition for supply demand (wt. %) was defined in terms of Si, Fe, Mn, Mg, Zn, Ti, Cr and Cu.

After the analysis of the microstructures in the different steps an optimum range of Mn and/or Cr additions has been defined for different Fe contents. The main conclusions are:

For iron contents in the range of 0.3-0.4 pct:
• An intermediate value of Mn is defined, based in Soundcast experimentation, to be sufficient to transform the beta phases fulfilling the requirements of die soldering and sludge factor.
• Die soldering criteria established 0.4 pct as the lowest limit of Mn.
• In order to avoid hard spots (Sludge factor criteria), Mn content is limited to 0.8pct.

For iron contents in the range of 0.4-0.5 pct:
• For Cr=0% higher values of Mn are required to avoid beta phase formation. Thus, Cr addition is not necessary to avoid beta phase formation.
• If Cr is added sludge factor and die soldering criteria must be fulfilled, which depends on the Fe and Mn content.

For iron contents in the range of 0.6-0.7 pct:
• Die soldering is not an issue due to the high Fe content.
• Cr additions are recomendable to reduce beta phases.
• Sludge factor limit becomes more significant.
• Mn content and Cr additions range have been define to minimize beta phases.

According to the criteria defined in the project the selected new secondary alloy for trials at RTD and foundry facilities was the high Fe alloy, since it has a higher economical advantage as raw material cost reduction and reduced die solder.

TASK 3.2. MELT TREATMENT OPTIMIZATION

The objective of this task is the optimization of the melt treatment of the new alloy developed in Task 3.1. The melt treatment is divided in different stages that have the aim to achieve:
• A chemical composition that fulfils the defined range for the developed alloy.
• A low level of oxides that can assure good results in mechanical properties.
• A high density in under vacuum solidified samples, necessary to assure low hydrogen content in the melt.
• A good silicon modification level in order to improve the final mechanical properties.

Several trials were performed to define the Process Flow Chart of the melt treatment. It consists on the melting of alloy, flux addition, degassing, Sr addition, dross removal and pouring. The main controls that are necessary in order to achieve a good melt quality are:
• Temperature control: For the complete dissolution of the alloying elements.
• Chemical composition: To fulfill the defined range for the developed alloys in Task 3.1.
• K-Mould: Used for oxides and inclusions control in molten metal (“K-index below 6.5).
• Density “D80”: Density control that is directly related to the hydrogen content of the melt (density higher or equal to 2.65 g/cm3)
• Thermolan-Al: Used to check the evolution of the molten metal in terms of silicon modification, described in Task 3.3.

TASK 3.3 CONTROL SYSTEM FOR MELT QUALITY

The objective of the present work is to develop a software based on the solidification curve of the alloy able to predict the melt quality. This software has to predict the silicon modification level of the new alloy developed for the Soundcast project (see Task 3.1. The silicon modification is important because it affects directly the mechanical properties of the new secondary alloy.

The modification of the silicon depends on the chemical composition of the alloy, mainly Sr content and also on the cooling rate. All these parameters are considered in the prediction software:
• The developed software predicts Si modification for the new developed secondary alloy (Soundcast alloy) and the standard primary alloy (AlSi9MnMg).
• Strontium content is defined for Soundcast alloy.
• Cooling rate: Two cooling rates were considered:
• A thermal analysis sand cup with a thermal modulus of 0.6 C cm is used to record solidification curve of the different chemical compositions studied, with a typical SDAS (secondary dendrite arm spacing) of 55 – 60 microns.
• The test sample with high cooling rate, cooled in a copper die is also used for microstructural analysis of silicon particles. This high cooling test sample was selected because it has a similar SDAS as High Pressure Die Castings HPDC (6 – 10 microns).

After the schedule trials, a correlation between Si particle size and one of the main parameters of thermal analysis was obtained. The correlation is similar for alloys, primary AlSi10MMg alloy and Soundcast (secondary) alloy. At high modification levels, a linear relationship between Si particle size and thermal analysis parameter was formulated, being the correlation coefficient 0.77.

The software was implemented in several equipments that were used for SMEs training and demonstration trials.

TASK 3.4 HPDC PROCESS PARAMETERS OPTIMIZATION

Research on the HPDC process parameters optimization, in order to fit the requirements of the new recycled alloy, melt treatment and its casting behavior has been carried out and the equipments necessary to perform the melt treatment at RTDs and industrial foundry facilities participating in the project are listed and the necessary modifications are proposed. Several tests with different parameters were performed in order to find the better filling and quality of the part in terms of mechanical properties.
Optimized vacuum assisted HPDC parameters are:

1. THE MELT TREATMENT WAS OPTIMIZED REGARDING:
• the electric furnace temperature. The optimum temperature was increased in order to avoid cold shut and cold drop defects during the casting process.
• Fluxes (Coveral GR6512) were added to the melt in order to clean the metal from oxides and other impurities.
• The alloys were correctly modified using AlSr10 master alloy.
• Pure Mg was added in order to keep the concentration of Mg between the Soundcast range limits in the melt.
• The melt was degassed with argon using a rotor impeller until D80 density values were over 2.65 g/cm3
• The control of oxides was also made using the K-Mould and dross test.

2. METAL TRANSPORT TO THE SHOT SLEEVE:
• Optimization of ladle material (a ceramic ladle instead of metallic and coating application) was carried out. Appearance of cold flakes was reduced due to the reduced temperature drop in the ladle.

3. SHOT SLEEVE PRE-HEATING:
• It was found the presence of cold flakes is also related to the shot sleeve temperature. The optimum pre-heating temperature of the shot-sleeve was established. Higher temperatures are not recommended due to sticking problems between the plunger and the shot sleeve.

4. PLUNGER LUBRICATION:
• The plunger lubricant in this project is Chem–Trend PL-766 which is a mineral oil free plunger lubricant. The lubricants used in High Pressure Die Casting for plunger lubrication, decompose in contact with the molten metal producing gas. This gas is a source of porosity that reverts to an increase of the total porosity present on the produced components, producing gas pores. Therefore, it is important to reduce the amount of dosed lubricant to the minimum that does allow a good movement of the plunger.

5. DIE TEMPERATURE:
• During the trials it has been determined that the die temperature is a key factor and it has been kept hot by using thermal oil at a temperature about 200ºC.

6. SHOT PROFILE:
• Adjustment of 1st to 2nd phase COMMUTATION POINT:
-The commutation point from 1st to 2nd phase has to be adjusted in order to avoid pre-filling of the die cavity.

• Optimization of the 2ND PHASE SPEED:
- The 2nd phase speed should be optimised by analysing the cavity filling process and the quality of the parts. AlSi9MnMg alloy and SOUNDCAST alloy require higher 2nd phase speeds than traditional casting alloys such as AlSi9Cu3(Fe). In our particular case the best quality was achieved at 2nd phase values of 4 and 4.5 m/s.

• Optimization of INTENSIFICATION FINAL PRESSURE.
- 3RD PHASE COMPACTING PRESSURE should be optimised in order to prevent flashes at the same time that a good part quality is achieved. In the present tests 3 different final pressures have been analysed 300, 575 and 900 bar. The best porosity level was obtained with the highest intensification pressure.

Another important results is that high die sticking problems were observed when primary AlSi9MnMg alloy was used instead of conventional HPDC AlSi9Cu3(Fe). These die sticking problems diminished when Soundcast alloy was used mainly due to the higher iron content in comparison with the primary AlSi9MnMg alloy.

TASK 3.5 HEAT TREATMENT OPTIMIZATION OF THE NEW RECYCLED ALLOY

The objective of this task was to define heat treatments for the new recycled alloy which provide high mechanical properties suitable for different applications and comparable to the ones of the primary alloy. The fabricated and optimized test parts have been subjected to different types of heat treatments (F, T4, T5, T6, T7) in order to allow choosing the appropriate heat treatment for each application. The solution heat treatment has been optimized regarding solution temperature and time in order to minimize internal porosity and blister formation.

The following conclusions have been drawn from the optimization of heat treatment based on tensile test results:
POROSITY:
• The lowest porosity was observed in the F and T5 condition which have no solution treatment.
• Porosity and blistering increase with increasing solution time and temperature.
• Samples treated at the lowest solution temperature and time (490 ºC for 3h) presented the lowest porosity.

MECHANICAL PROPERTIES:
• Mechanical properties within the property range defined for the corresponding primary alloy in the F, T4, T5 and T6 temper are achieved if the test specimens are free from casting defects (2-4 mm step casting).
• The presence of casting defects such as laminations, cold shuts and cold flakes was found to reduce elongation significantly in both the primary and secondary alloy, while the effect of the area fraction of small amounts of small sized gas porosity was less pronounced.
• For the T7 heat treatment the combination of strength and elongation specified by the primary alloy manufacturer was not achieved for ageing at 220º C for 1h, 2h, 4h and 7h. However, the observed tendency shows that it could be reached by further increasing the ageing time.
• From an industrial point of view long ageing times are not desirable. Thus, a better approach would be to reduce the Mg content of the alloy from 0.37 wt. % to 0.25 wt. % when a T7 temper is required. Up to 0.1 wt.% of Mg is reported for primary AlSi9MnMg variant.

TASK 3.6 METHODOLOGY FOR ALLOYING, HPDC PROCESS PARAMETERS, MELT AND HEAT TREATMENT

In this task a methodology for obtaining high mechanical properties in the two demonstrators has been established. The following points were considered:
1. MELTING AND MELT TREATMENT
Instructions regarding the following points were defined:
• Melting and dross removal
• Chemical composition
• Melt treatment
• Eutectic Si modification
• Hydrogen content
• Melt cleanliness

2. METHODOLOGY TO OPTIMIZE HPDC PARAMETERS AND VACUUM TECHNOLOGY
These are the key points regarding HPDC parameters and vacuum assisted technology to achieve good mechanical properties in HPDC.
• Vacuum equipment selection
• Design of the vacuum channel
• Housing of the vacuum elements
• Operation of the vacuum equipment
• Adjustment of 1st to 2nd phase commutation point
• Optimization of the 2nd phase speed.
• Optimization of intensification final pressure.

3. PROCEDURES FOR HEAT TREATMENT OF THE NEW RECYCLED ALLOY
According to the desired mechanical properties of the casting an appropriate heat treatment can be selected. In case high ductility is required a T4 or T7 heat treatment which provides elongation values above 10 %. While T5 heat treatment offers intermediate strength and moderate elongation between 5 and 10 %. Highest yield strength and tensile strength are achieved by T6 heat treatment at moderate elongation.
Instructions for solution heat treatment, quenching and different ageing treatments (T4, T5, T6 and T7) are formulated.
Recommended quality checks after heat treatment include porosity quality check on parts (non-destructive and destructive), visual inspection and mechanical property controls.

WP4: WELDING PROCESS OPTIMIZATION

The objectives of this WP is to establish an appropriate lubrication technique and welding process that allows using the new recycled alloy(s) for structural applications in vehicles.
To reach these objectives the work package is split into five tasks.

TASK 4.1: SELECTION OF DIE LUBRICANT AND APPLICATION TECHNIQUE

Potential release agents for weldable die casting were selected for the casting test trials. Both, the demoldability and the gas applied to the casting were considered by the composition of the release agent. In order to keep close to industrial needs, also the extremes of high and low gas application of the casting were selected. This means that in the welding test trials the whole range of possible porosities were covered.

Concerning the porosity and weldability, release agents have an evident influence on the quality of high-pressure die cast parts.

In order to prove the suitability of the wax-free release agent on the one hand and to identify the maximal tolerable wax content, it was decided to test two types of release agents. In collaboration with the project partner Chem-Trend, two release agents were selected, each representing an extreme case of high and no wax content. Different lubricant and release agents have been used:

Release agents:
- Wax free lubricant, thinning ratio: 1:125 and 1.50
- High wax content, thinning ratio 1:125, 1:50

TASK 4.2: FABRICATION OF A DIE FOR THE TEST PIECE

To meet the requirements of the research concerning the influence of release agents on the weldability of die-cast parts, a test die was developed at the institute of joining and welding.
This die has the geometry of a square sheet, height: 150 mm, width: 260 mm and 4 mm thickness.

The chosen design of the test die is suitable to meet demands of testing the influence of the applied release agent on the weldability of die-cast parts. It allows time-saving testing by several analysis methods. Furthermore, the plain sheet design is optimal to produce test specimens by machining. All this meets the requirements for release agent test procedures to be conducted in the project SOUNDCAST.

TASK 4.3: OPTIMIZATION OF DIE LUBRICATION AND HPDC PROCESS PARAMETERS FOR WELDING APPLICATIONS

Re-melt tests
The re-melting tests show little but significant differences between the two tested release agents and the dilution ratios. Taking the surface pollution and surface pores into account as criteria for weldability of the die-cast test parts, the use of the wax-free release agent provided the best results. So the application of the release agents resulted in minimal amounts of pollution and pores for both dilution ratios.

On the plates cast with wax-containing lubricant, the re-melt test results in a higher degree of surface pollution and porosity compared to the plates cast by using the wax-free release agent.

Comparing the results concerning the dilution ratio, local differences occur. Looking at the area far from the ingate, there is a lesser amount of surface pollution and porosity on the plates cast with a higher dilution ratio (1:125), compared to plates cast with a dilution ratio of 1:50.

In the area near the gating system the higher amount of pollution and imperfections of the re-melt seam is found on the plates cast by using the lower dilution ratio (1:50). In both cases, there is a small area of adequate re-melt seam directly above the ingate, flanked by areas of high pollution.
Going deeper into these areas, a higher degree of residues is shown, but a lower amount of surface porosity in the case of applying the wax-containing release agent with a dilution ratio of 1:125.

EPMA results
In accordance with the re-melt tests, the EPMA results were applied to specimens from each parameter set mentioned above.
As regards the local differences in general the results for the was free lubricant show that for both dilution ratios in the area opposite the ingate, the carbon layer thickness is comparably high, whereas near the ingate the carbon layer has its thinnest formation. Comparing the lower and higher dilution ratios, the minimal carbon layer can be found, as expected, on the plates cast with a 1:125 diluted release agent.
The results of the carbon layer thickness analysis for the high was lubricant show similar local dependencies of the carbon distribution. So in the case of both dilution ratios, the carbon layer has a thicker formation opposite the ingate than in the area near the ingate. The carbon layer thickness on the test plates cast with a dilution of 1:50 is higher than on plates cast with a dilution of 1:125.

Main results
• The selected wax-free release agent shows a better performance concerning surface porosity and carbon contamination than the wax-containing one.
• The results of the re-melt test show that the wax-free release agent with low dilution performs better than the wax-containing one with high dilution.
• The tests show a slightly increased carbon contamination when comparing the low diluted wax-free release agent with the high diluted wax-containing one.

TASK 4.4: DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW WELDING PROCESS EXPERIMENTAL SETUP

For the welding tests, a vacuum chamber of 1.5 m³ of a former electron beam plant was modified so that, instead of the beam generator, the laser beam could couple into the chamber. The vacuum was generated by the existing pump system. The modification offered the possibility of setting very low pressures in the range between 10 and 1000 mbar precisely and reproducibly.

Laser beam welding with a focus diameter of 600 microns
• Laser beam welding under atmospheric conditions with relatively large spot size and slower welding speed (1.0 m/min) allows the production of good quality welds with low porosity.
• However, the welds are very broad and unsuitable for weld parts requiring high dimensional accuracy and low distortion, such as housings for electronics or cooling channels.

Laser beam welding with double-focus technology
• The double focus technology in laser welding is not suitable for welding of high-pressure die castings. In this case, atmospheric and vacuum welding could not provide sufficient weld quality.
Laser beam welding with a focus diameter of 300 microns
• No satisfactory seam qualities are generated using conventional laser welding at speeds of more than 2.0 m/min.
• Laser beam welding in a vacuum shows excellent suitability for welding high-pressure die castings at high speeds (v > 2.0 m/min).
• Welds with extremely high seam quality (homogeneous formation of seam surface and root, low porosity) can be generated by the use of reduced pressure in the process environment during laser welding. A vacuum-assisted casting process, resulting in higher casting quality, thus resulting in higher weld quality. Therefore, it is meaningful to produce weld components from HPDC with vacuum assistance.
• Basically, the newly developed secondary alloy has excellent weldability of laser beam welding in a vacuum. Their properties come out at a higher level than those of the primary AlSi9MnMg.

MECHANICAL PROPERTIES
The strength and elongation properties were determined in tensile tests. In this case, the alloys of primary AlSi9MnMg (with and without vacuum assistance) as well as the newly developed secondary alloy were investigated. In addition, tensile tests are carried out on these alloys welded. As welding processes the newly developed "laser beam welding in a vacuum" and electron beam welding were used.

As a result, it can be stated that the use of a vacuum valve during casting shows an advantageous effect on casting quality. The primary alloy AlSi9MnMg which has been produced with vacuum assistance displays a higher tensile strength and higher elongation compared without vacuum assistance. This is particularly clear for the welded tensile specimens. The failure of the specimens of vacuum-assisted primary AlSi9MnMg always occurs in the base material. Thereby, strength and elongation of the welds achieved the level of the base material. In contrast, the tensile specimens of primary AlSi9MnMg without vacuum assistance failed in the weld seam. The fracture surfaces show an increased porosity, which is responsible for the failure, and the relatively poor properties.

The newly developed SOUNDCAST secondary alloy also shows excellent properties which are absolutely comparable with those of primary AlSi9MnMg. Laser beam welding in vacuum as well as electron beam welding has excellent suitability for producing welds of high-pressure die castings. The mechanical properties of the welds conform completely to the base material. The specimens fail in both welding methods in the base material, which reflects the high quality of the weldings.

TASK 4.5: PROCEDURE FOR WELDING

VACUUM
• Although a pressure of 10 mbar leads to a significant improvement of the weld seam quality, best welding results will be obtained by a decrease in pressure up to 0.1 mbar within the laser vacuum chamber.
• For future parts, a meaningful compromise between weld quality and processing time must be found. Generally, the aim should be to work with a pressure of 10 mbar. In this case, the time for the evacuation of the vacuum chamber is in a competitive range (in this research project: 60 s). The pressure reduction to 1 mbar adds another 30 s to the evacuation time, which can be still acceptable.
• However, the decrease of chamber pressure for another order of magnitude (0.1 mbar) leads to an evacuation time of about 240 s. Usually, this parameter is not desirable and the quality of the HPDC part should be critically examined and optimized.

FOCAL SETTINGS
• For vacuum laser welding a focal diameter, welding a speed below 1.0 m/min and zF below the surface of the work piece has be defined.

WELDING SPEED
• In order to achieve sufficient penetration the welding speed has to be chosen in relation to laser beam power and ambient pressure.
• At the recommended pressure of 0.1 mbar e.g. the welding speed should be chosen in rather broad range and the beam power depends on welding speed then.

WP5: DEMONSTRATION

The objective of this WP was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new VPDC technologies and new recycled alloy(s) developed in the project in each participating SME foundry under industrial conditions. The demonstrators were validated by X-ray tomography, metallographic analysis, tensile testing and welding test.

TASK 5.1: NUMERICAL SIMULATION AND DIE FABRICATION

One casting with high mechanical property requirements and another one with weldability requirements were selected from the references of the corresponding foundry.

RUFFINI – HIGH MECHANICAL PROPERTIES DEMONSTRATOR
Taking into account the existing die selected by Ruffini for the demonstration activity of the SOUNDCAST Project it was defined the required modifications in order to adapt it to vacuum assisted HPDC:
- Introduce the housing for the vacuum valve.
- Implement a vacuum channel to canalize the air from the cavity to the vacuum valve.
- Close the air vents present in the existing die by welding them.
In order to design and implement the vacuum channels in the existing die it was followed the recommendations for design of the vacuum channels defined in the SOUNDCAST project:
- The access to the vacuum channels were placed on the opposite side of the gates and the last regions to fill up. This was done with the help of the sequence of the filling simulation. It was decided to introduce 3 vacuum channels in the last 3 overflows to fill up during the filling process.
- The main runner for the vacuum valve was given by their aspiration channel: isosceles trapezium .º
- The minimum section of the whole vacuum channel should be the effective aspiration section of the selected vacuum valve and chill-vent.
- Dead-ends have been introduced in the channels transition, from the channel coming from each overflow to the main aspiration channel of the vacuum valve, in order to retain the metal, with a higher density than the air, and to have more time to evacuate the air.

Ruffini conventional HPDC casting in as-cast state without applying Soundcast technology was evaluated in terms of porosity and mechanical properties. The porosity evaluated by CT-tomography and metallographically by VDG in as-cast state was quite low, however it increased significantly when T6 treatment is applied. It is worth to mention that T6 treatment is not required for this casting.

SCHMALE & SCHULTE – CASTING SELECTION DEMONSTRATION AT SCHMALE & SCHULTE
Within the framework of demonstration activities, the high-pressure die casting product “terminal box” of Schmale and Schulte was employed to demonstrate the weldability taking account of the SOUNDCAST technology. This HPDC product serves as housing for electronic elements and is composed of three components: a frame, a cap and a base plate. The main dimensions of the terminal box are 153 x 128 x 60 mm.

In its original state, these three parts are intended to be joint by bolds and sealed by a gasket. In order to achieve a reasonable welding fabrication, a new cap was designed and casted at Schmale & Schulte with the die casting tool owned by TU BS. The new product consists of the redesigned cap and frame.

In its original design, the die-casting mould of the frame only features an atmospheric venting. This is reasonable, since in its original state, no welding technologies at this high-pressure die casting part are applied. Due to design limitations, it is not possible to equip the die-casting mould of the frame with a vacuum system. No limitations are regarding the application of all the other Soundcast procedures. However, the die casting tool of TU-BS is equipped with full Soundcast-vacuum technology. The external dimensions of the casted plate allow a fabrication of the needed plate. Hence, within the framework of the SOUNDCAST research project, the die-casting tool of TU-BS was installed at the die-casting machine FRECH DAK 500/315 SDC at Schmale & Schulte. The cap is machined to fit to the frame.

DIACE – CASTING SELECTION DEMONSTRATION AT DIACE
Some actions were also carried out for preparation of the demonstration activity at DIACE foundry previous to its leave of the project. The most interesting result of these activities is the evaluation of the state of the art of T5 treatment applied to primary AlSi9MnMg alloy at DIACE facilities.

TASK 5.2: DEMONSTRATOR FABRICATION

RUFFINI – HIGH MECHANICAL PROPERTIES DEMONSTRATOR
A total of 96 parts were produced, in 2 different days of production under vacuum assisted production at 40-50 mbar. Vacuum unit from VDS partner: reference VDS PLC 350 was successfully implemented at Ruffini facilities. The lubricants (die release agent and plunger lubricant) were both supplied by the partner Chem-Trend, and the application parameters were defined according to their instructions:
• Release agent : Chem-Trend SL1697S (wax free, mixing ratio 1:80)
• Plunger lubrication: Chem-Trend Power –Lube 766 (minimum application)

The spraying was done by Wollin spray technology. The lubrication of the plunger was done with a Chem-Trend dosing equipment of oil droplets with a volumetric pump.
SCHMALE & SCHULTE – HIGH WELDABILITY DEMONSTRATION
For manufacture of the cap a FRECH DAK 500/315 SDC die casting machine and for the frame a FRECH DAK 350 SC machine were used at Schmale and Schulte´s facilities. Both parts were manufactured according to Soundcast technology, except vacuum: Only the cap was produced with vacuum assistance using a VDS PROVAC 1000 system. The lubricants (die release agent and plunger lubricant) were both supplied by the partner Chem-Trend, and the application parameters were defined according to their instructions with a Wollin spraying system was used to apply the release agent and the lubrication of the plunger was done with a Chem-Trend dosing equipment of oil droplets with a volumetric pump:
• Release agent : Chem-Trend SL1697S (wax free, mixing ratio 1:125)
• Plunger lubrication: Chem-Trend Power –Lube 766 (minimum application)

TASK 5.3: DEMONSTRATOR VALIDATION

RUFFINI – HIGH MECHANICAL PROPERTIES DEMONSTRATOR
The first analysis performed to some of the produced parts was the CT- inspection which included a comparison between the vacuum assisted process and the atmosphere injection process (no vacuum assisted process). The effect of vacuum assisted process in reducing the porosity level both in defect volume and maximum defect was evident.
The VDG P202 porosity evaluated in the same area for conventional Ruffini casting is 0.38-0.43 % in the as-cast state in the wall and corner area, respectively. Thus, it is not so different from the porosity evaluated at Soundcast demonstrator in as-cast state.

Whereas, the porosity of the Soundcast demonstrator after T6 remains still low, below 0.25 %, thus a significant reduction in porosity is achieved with respect to the conventional HPDC Ruffini part not intended to be heat treated.

Nevertheless, the key parameter to evaluate Ruffini’s demonstrator are the mechanical properties. The mechanical properties were obtained in the demonstrator of Ruffini in the most sound zone identify by CT-tomography at (F, T4 and different T6 tempers). A significant increase in Elongation was observed with respect to the state of the art at Ruffini and Diace without applying Soundcast technology.

For the parts manufactured by Soundcast technology elongation values in the T6 temper are within the mechanical property range of the primary AlSi10MnMg alloy primary AlSi9MnMg or very close to it for two ageing treatments. Further increase of elongation could be obtained by decreasing the Mg content to 0.25 wt. % or up to 0.1 wt. % at the expense of yield strength.

In the case of the F and T4 tempers a higher yield strength and lower elongation than specified for the primary alloy database are achieved. This has been attributed to the relative high Mg content of the Soundcast alloy. For applications which require very high elongation and low yield strength (F, T4 and T7 temper) the Mg content should be reduced to 0.1 -0.25 wt. %.

SCHMALE & SCHULTE – HIGH WELDABILITY DEMONSTRATION
The welding trials performed were carried out using welding equipment designed and developed in the project. At first, the corners were tack welded at 10 mbar ambient pressure, a welding speed of 4 m/min, -2 mm focus position and 1900 W of laser power to reduce weld distortion. After tack welding, the full weld path length was welded using the tack welding parameters at 1 mbar ambient pressure in order to achieve a firmly bonded joint.

The parameters chosen for laser beam welding at reduced ambient pressure showed good results. Due to the application of high welding speeds, produced weld beads possess a narrow appearance. The reduction of ambient pressure caused a significant decrease of outer weld bead defects. However, a thin soot layer was observed at the surface of the weld bead and its direct surroundings. It is assumed that this soot layer is caused by an incomplete combustion during the welding process which in turn results from the low oxygen content at reduced pressure. The soot layer could be easily removed after welding by using an alcohol-based solution.

Besides the regular outer weld appearance, the inner weld quality was observed as good as well. Both metallurgic cross section and CT-Scan showed low porosity contents. Furthermore, the CT-Scan displays the constancy of the welding result and proofs that a continuous bonded joint was achieved. The porosity found is assumed to be a result of the casting quality of the frame of the demonstrator, which was casted without vacuum assistance. The metallurgic cross section also revealed that there is a gap between the frame and cap. This gap results from a poor hold-down force of the cap. For the application in an industrial welding process, a powerful holding-down device would be designed in order suppress this gap. However, this was not possible within the framework of the SOUNDCAST project.

TASK 5.4: FORMULATION OF SOUNDCAST FABRICATION PROCEDURES

The main objective of the Task 5.4 was to define the final SOUNDCAST fabrication procedures. The SOUNDCAST fabrication procedures to be applied in order to manufacture sound and weldable vacuum-assisted HPDC (VPDC) components at a competitive cost by using secondary alloys with enhanced mechanical properties and high weldability were collected in a single document.

The SOUNDCAST technology package is divided in the following fabrication procedures:
- Soundcast Procedure-1: “Melt treatment”
- Soundcast Procedure-2: “Optimized HPDC parameters and vacuum technology for porosity reduction and mechanical properties improvement”
- Soundcast Procedure-3: “Heat treatment of the new recycled alloy”
- Soundcast Procedure-4: “Methodology for a new welding process”
- Soundcast Procedure-5: “Quality checks”

WP6: DISSEMINATION AND EXPLOITATION OF RESULTS

The main objectives of this WP is the dissemination and exploitation of the results reached within the project:
• To disseminate all the results of Soundcast technology in order to reach the companies possibly interested in the developed technology.
• To define and implement the exploitation plan of the results obtained in the project.
• To train SMEs representatives with a commercial and technical purpose and End Users with a practical purpose.
A summary of the work done and main results in WP6 is presented for each Task:

TASK 6.1: EXPLOITATION PLAN

The main objective is to analyse the economic feasibility of introducing our technology into the market. To this end, it has been developed a business plan for each SME in order to identify critical aspects, risks, opportunities, strategies and financial projections.

As a result, it has been submitted the Final Plan for use and dissemination of the knowledge at M35 that includes:
• IPR management plan: An approach on how it is expected to carry out the exploitation plan and distribution of Intellectual Property Rights and what criteria are to be set the fair and reasonable conditions of use, dissemination and access to background, including the conditions for access to the results.

All publications, trademark filled up to now and hereafter by or on behalf of a participant, or any other dissemination relating to results, include a statement that the Results concerned was generated with the assistance of financial support from the Community. Finally, note that SME participants are direct beneficiaries of the project results. RTDs are subcontracted to carry out most of the research and demonstration activities and have received the technological know-how in return that was needed to develop SOUNDCAST technology, including new secondary alloy, control system and new welding process.
• Market needs, value proposition and market Research: systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data about issues relating to marketing products and services. The study also includes an assessment of technology impact on the market. The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing mix impacts customer behaviour (Recycled aluminium demand, Consumption of recycled aluminium parts by end-use, sector analysis).
• Business Model: strategic management that analyses the major initiatives involving profitability and use of resources to ensure project success. To achieve broad adoption, the right mechanism would be through a commercialization plan to persuade foundry SMEs, publishers or other commercial concerns to take up the Soundcast technology complete or some of its main results. It is important to keep the results visible and available, especially through websites, thus target audience can access the information, and adapt them to their own needs. The business plan includes the impact of the technology on the market through each partner.
• Financial Model: definition of a financial model with projected revenues and costs (direct/indirect) based on a scenario and goals. Evaluation of economic return and profitability was performed for each SME and are going be presented in the final review meeting.

TASK 6.2: PROJECT DISSEMINATION

The Final dissemination plan submitted at month 15 reviews the dissemination strategy and approach taken by the project partners, including the dissemination channels exploited by the Consortium and the target groups addressed in order to promote the benefits of the SOUNDCAST technology for its commercial exploitation and disseminate the knowledge gained to the market.
With this regard, consortium has been working in two areas:
• Internal Communication: We have established an infrastructure for communications by building a robust framework in which internal dialogue and interaction can take place. As result, it has been established formal channels of communication for the partnership:
- Management structure: a simple and direct management structure was created, allowing for flexibility and easy decision making, without introducing more heavy procedures.
- Procemm: this is an online collaborative platform with great traceability for project management of R&D, especially when it is required a large flow of information between users.
- Meetings: face-to-face meetings have been held regularly.
- Technical Teleconference/Skype meetings

• External Communication: The purpose is to divulge the tasks accomplished by all the partners, the advantages of our solution and to boost the stakeholder’s interest in the product in order to increase the demand for it. During the SOUNDCAST project course the following results have been achieved in the context of dissemination actions:
- 20 publications – 8 scientific publications were published, in scientific journals and conference proceedings. The impact achieved is the interest of other scientific institutions. 12 industrial publications were published – seminar, technical conference papers and announcements, articles in newspapers, an article in Regional Review, European Parliament Journal, etc.
- 10 stands at international Fairs disseminated the Soundcast project results.
- 8 versions of printed dissemination materials (brochures, flyers, posters) have been prepared and distributed in the events attended or organized by the Soundcast partners.
- 3 video materials were published.
- 3 specific training activities have been planned.
- SOUNDCAST Web Site – regularly updated
- A minimum of 6 after project dissemination actions are already planned.

Although in the first 9 months of the project the dissemination was low, because the first encouraging project results had been just achieved, in the following 28 months an intensive dissemination of the potential information have been done addressing to the following target groups: policy makers, scientific community, general public and specific group of end users: Die casters; cars manufacturers; a variety of industries that use die casting products.

All the partners of the consortium have invested efforts on both, the development of the results and promoting it among the target groups. Therefore, the dissemination activities were intensive, comprehensive, responsibility of all partners, and of huge importance – effective since the target groups have expressed interest in project results and potential opportunities for further cooperation and exploitation of the solution have appeared.

Therefore, the consortium believes communication and dissemination activities conducted during the project course have been successful. The consortium will continue the cooperation after the project end on further testing, evaluation and exploitation of the project results, in particular the participating SMEs which are the owners of the main results.

The consortium will continue working on SOUNDCAST technology solution for the commercialization of the main results– registration of the software, IPR management and intensive marketing.

TASK 6.3: TRAINING

Doing a course regarding the technology is essential to ensure its market uptake. Therefore, at the end of the project an extensive training task has been carried out internally with technical and commercial purpose, to the SMEs involved in SOUNDCAST Project by the RTDs centres, as well as externally with a practical purpose, to End Users and companies outside the consortium.

The main actions taking on these activities have been:
• Training at Ruffini facilities: Training was conducted by Eurecat and IK4-Azterlan at Ruffini facilities to technical staff in order to transfer the knowledge acquired in the project by the RTDs and to transfer how to use the equipment developed and used in the project: thermal analysis equipment, equipment for quality check of the metal and the statistical analysis software.
• Training at Schmale & Schulte facilities: A training session was given by all the RTDs: TU-BS, Eurecat and IK4-Azterlan in Schmale and Schulte facilities to technical staff in order to transfer the knowledge acquired in the project and to transfer how to use the equipment developed and used in the project: thermal analysis equipment and the statistical analysis software. A training “Welding of high ductile secondary aluminum alloys using conventional and advanced welding techniques” was held for Schmale & Schulte technicians and comercial staff at the SME facilities.
• Open house carried out at Eurecat: On November 19th 2015 an open house session was organized at Eurecat facilities were all the current partners of SOUNDCAST Project gave a presentation. The Open House session was oriented, mainly to local foundries. 15 people from 11 different companies, apart from the members of Soundcast consortium attended the session at Eurecat.
• III International Technical Forum on High Pressure Die Casting: As a part of a whole technical conference regarding to structural parts for HPDC, IK4-Azterlan trained the audience regarding the metallurgical key points of Soundcast technologies, Chem-Trend presented the best procedures of lubrication and Ruffini (Esteve Roset and Jordi Cuadrat) participated in the discussion. More than 130 technicians from 62 different companies from seven different countries have taken part in this international technical working frame.

Potential Impact:
It is worth to mention that the automotive industry has always been very rooted in Europe and nowadays, vehicle manufacturers have production facilities in almost all the Member States. That’s why it is not surprising that one third of the 50 million cars produced globally are manufactured in the European Union. In total, the car industry represents 6% of total European employment.

Global warming and resource shortage have lead to an urgent demand for reducing vehicle weight. Since the first AUDI A8 was introduced in 1994 structural aluminium parts have been successfully manufactured by vacuum assisted High Pressure Die Casting (HPDC) technology. However, it is still an expensive solution and only affordable for upper class cars. Thanks to the results of the SOUNDCAST project the market of aluminum components will be extended to structural parts of the lower and medium class vehicles by reducing the cost of VPDC parts while its high mechanical properties and weldability requirements are fulfilled.
The Soundcast project DEMOCRATIZES THE FABRICATION of high integrity light weight structural castings by the optimization and combination of the different developed technologies:
- the use of low cost, PORTABLE VACUUM SYSTEMS easy to fit to medium range HPDC machines practice; equipped with full monitoring and control system.
- the use of cheaper and environmental friendly SECONDARY ALUMINIUM ALLOYS
- the development of A NEW LASER WELDING TECHNOLOGY adapted to the casting process

IMPACT OF ALTERNATIVE SECONDARY ALLOY
The use of secondary alloys, which are cheaper than primary, does not only reduce the fabrication costs but also leads to a reduced energy and CO2 emissions. The production of secondary alloys REQUIRES 95% LESS ENERGY THAN THE ONE REQUIRED FOR PRIMARY ALLOYS [EAA, 2012 Key facts and figures]. Additionally, the higher Fe content typical of secondary alloys, reduces significantly die soldering and thus DIE MAINTENANCE COSTS.
Chemical composition, melt and heat treatment of the new secondary alloy have been fully optimized for manufacturing high integrity light weight structural castings by vacuum assisted HPDC. Thus, the use of recycling material is promoted. Up to now, there is only primary aluminium alloy available in the market for the manufacturing of VPDC parts.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LIGHT WEIGHT DESIGN
In automotive, it is essential to lower manufacturing costs as well as reduce CO2 emissions by lighter weight designs. Vacuum assisted HPDC is very suitable for manufacturing thin walled high integrity castings with a significant weight reduction.

SOUNDCAST PROJECT OFFERS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CAR MANUFACTURERS (IN PARTICULAR OF ELECTRIC OR HYBRID VEHICLES) TO EXPLOIT THE ADVANTAGES OF THE TECHNOLOGIES DEVELOPED IN THE PROJECT. If just a reduction of few kilos of metal is achieved from a massive automobile, the deliver impact is multiplied by millions.

The advances associated to Soundcast technology provides the automotive sector high added value, due to the fact that they will be able to reach high standards that up to now were only achieved by the expensive high vacuum die casting process. As the project has already proven, mechanical properties and weldability are significantly increased compared to conventionally high pressure die castings and is comparable to values obtained by high vacuum processes, what makes this technology suitable for structural automotive applications (chassis parts such as A, B, C pillars, shock towers and various nodes, to a lesser extent suspension parts).


AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SME FOUNDRIES
IT IS WORTH TO MENTION THAT SOUNDCAST TECHNOLOGY IS PERFECTLY SUITED TO SMALL AND MEDIUM FOUNDRIES AS IT HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED AT INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES OF RUFFINI (SPAIN) AND SCHMALE & SCHULTE (GERMANY). Both HPDC foundries have already developed several demonstrators which showed a significantly improved casting quality at competitive cost. Thus, any SME manufacturer could benefit from VPDC technology and one of the potential impact (expected in one or two years) is a clear competitive advantage against the strong Asiatic competence.

The process stability and casting quality of the Soundcast technology casting process is assured by the newly developed innovative control software suitable for low cost VPDC processes.

The HPDC Industry gets important benefits from the SOUNDCAST project in terms of:
-TECHNOLOGICAL EXCELLENCE: Thanks to the highly innovative SOUNDCAST procedures for the fabrication of high quality parts by VPDC process, the HPDC industry will be able to use the Soundcast technology and open new markets (lower and medium range vehicle manufacturers). Also new opportunities where welding is required will arise
-COMPETITIVE COST: This is an important added value to the industry as they will be able to produce high mechanical property parts (reduced porosity) with high weldability at competitive cost.

HPDC today accounts for approximately 60% of the total production of aluminium castings. Most of them are SME companies that could benefit by this cost reduction and enhanced casting quality due to the knowhow developed in Soundcast project.

Finally, one of the main results of the project is an innovative welding technology for weld seams with low porosity, being also economic in series production for welding components fabricated by SOUNDCAST technology.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT: involved partners have done some cost-efficiency analysis and they expect to increase an average of 2.5% the sales of 3 different parts (RUFFINI and SCHMALE) or a 1.5% the equipment’s sales (VDS). Specifics are considered confidential. Socially, the impact is clear. Further use of a alternative recycled alloys has clear enivornmental benefits. The use of alternative recycled alloys does not only reduce the fabrication cost but also lead to reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions. To produce secondary alloys requires 95% less energy than required for primary alloys. A reduced die solder and increased die life is expected for the higher Fe contents that are usually present in the recycled alloys. The lower die sticking was also observed in the Soundcast project. The die manufacturing and maintenance make up more than 10% of HPDC cast, thus an important reduction in manufacturing cost is expected.

WIDER SOCIETAL IMPLICATIONS SO FAR: after the dissemination and promotion of the project two different societal implications have been occurred up to now, both of them related with the reduced environmental impact associated to the promotion of the use of recycled material instead of primary materials manufactured from ore:
- At local level IHOBE: Public Society of Enviromental Management of Baque Goverment showed interest in the benefits of using Recycling aluminium alloys
- At European Level, the company in charge of the publication at official European Parliament Magazine contacted with project coordinator Ana Fernández to prepare a short summary of the economical benefits of secondary alloy.

MAIN DISSEMINATION ACTIVITIES:
During the SOUNDCAST project course the following results have been achieved in the context of dissemination actions:
- 20 PUBLICATIONS – 8 scientific publications were published, in scientific journals and conference proceedings. The impact achieved is the interest of other scientific institutions. 12 industrial publications were published – seminar, technical conference papers and announcements, articles in newspapers, an article in Regional Review, European Parliament Journal, etc.
- 10 STANDS AT INTERNATIONAL FAIRS disseminated the Soundcast project results.
- 8 VERSIONS OF PRINTED DISSEMINATION MATERIALS (brochures, flyers, posters) have been prepared and distributed in the events attended or organized by the Soundcast partners.
- 3 VIDEO MATERIALS were published.
- 3 SPECIFIC TRAINING ACTIVITIES have been planned.
- SOUNDCAST WEB SITE – regularly updated
- A MINIMUM OF 6 AFTER PROJECT DISSEMINATION ACTIONS are already planned.

TRAINING: Providing courses regarding the technology is essential to ensure its market uptake. Therefore, at the end of the project an extensive training task has been carried out internally with technical and commercial purpose, to the SMEs involved in SOUNDCAST Project by the RTDs centres, as well as externally with a practical purpose, to End Users and companies outside the consortium. The main actions taking on these activities have been: Training at Ruffini facilities. Training at Schmale & Schulte facilities. Open house Session carried out at Eurecat on November 19th 2015 (15 technicians). III International Technical Forum on High Pressure Die Casting: (130 technicians).

EXPLOITAION OF RESULTS:
A business plan for each SME in order to identify critical aspects, risks, opportunities, strategies and financial projections.
Thanks to this project SME foundries, RUFFINI from Spain and SCHMALE AND SCHULTE from Germany, are improving the casting quality, gaining new applications in the automotive and other sectors, and producing at competitive costs with reduced environmental impact. The vacuum device fabricant (VDS: SME from Switzerland) is now able to exploit the knowledge and control systems acquired in the Soundcast project to provide them to all their actual and future customers of its vacuum devices and valves. The combination of these improved technologies will allow increasing the competitiveness of all the consortium enterprises, up to 20%.

Additionally, VDS and also the die lubricant supplier (ChemTrend: HI from Germany) are now able to show that their products are suitable for manufacture of high vacuum and low porosity applications of automotive parts, thereby enhancing competiveness and strengthening their market position. The technical methodologies developed in the project allow VDS and ChemTrend to give technical support not only in the correct application of their products, but in all issues of the VPDC manufacturing process.

List of Websites:
http://www.soundcastproject.eu/
Coordinator contact details
Mrs. Ana Isabel Fernández Calvo
Casa Maristas AZTERLAN (IK4-AZTERLAN)
Aliendalde Auzunea, Nº6, E-48200 (Durango) Spain

Related information

Contact

Ana Fernandez
Tel.: +34 94 6215470
E-mail
Record Number: 193506 / Last updated on: 2017-01-12
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top