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Contenu archivé le 2024-05-29

Magnetic moulding: innovative technology to improve the competitiveness and working conditions of the European foundries

Final Report Summary - MAGNET (Magnetic moulding: Innovative technology to improve the competitiveness and working conditions of the European foundries)

The development of a new foundry process was proposed that would increase the competitiveness of sand casting, lost wax and lost foam foundries. The new technology proposed, magnetic moulding, was an innovative process in which an expendable model was used that was surrounded by metallic particles bonded together by the action of an induced magnetic field. Once the cast metal had solidified the magnetic field was interrupted so that it would collapses by itself, the part was recovered and the particles could be reused in the subsequent castings.

The innovative process combined the advantages of the lost foam process and the permanent mould processes; it was environmentally friendly, cost competitive and suitable to produce high quality parts with very complex shapes with a large range of sizes and materials. The components produced did not need any parting lines and the metallurgical and mechanical properties obtained were better than those obtained in lost wax, lost foam and sand casting due to the fine grain structure obtained through the fast solidification phase derived from the use of the metallic particles that formed the mould.

The potential impact of the new foundry technology is therefore large as it will enable European sand casting and investment casting foundries to offer complex shaped parts with high metallurgical quality through a knowledge based foundry process. The concept on which the magnetic moulding was based was born in Europe together with the lost foam process concept. The maturity of the lost foam process and the results from the investigations in the magnetic moulding concept of the last years finally made it possible now to approach the proposed project to develop the new foundry process up to the industrialisation stage.

In summary, the main objective of MAGNET project was to develop the magnetic moulding process, a variant of the lost foam foundry technology in which the sand loose mould is substituted by steel shots further compacted by the effect of an applied magnetic field. Four foundries working with different technologies (GSLienen in Germany, Fundiciones del Estanda in Spain, Krolmet in Poland and WH Rowe in United Kingdom) formed the consortium that was completed with a expendable foamed pattern supplier, Knauf Créaform from France, Rodabell, one end-user of casting from Spain Hirst Electromagnetics a company from the United Kingdom and two Research and technological development (RTD) performers, PFRI and Inasmet from Poland and Spain.

The project had successfully complied with the previously planned work programme and five different demonstrators had been cast with four different metallic alloys: bronze, aluminium, steel and Grey cast iron (GCI).

The final results of the project have confirmed that the magnetic moulding technology is an economically and technically valid lost foam variant foundry process that can be used to produce complex shaped components with improved performance. The obtained results have been positive with regards to an improvement in the mechanical properties of the components and reduction of cycle time and the application of this technology in the industry may increase the competitivity and range of products of the foundries.

From the technical point of view the main conclusions drawn from the work carried out during the project and the analysis of the produced demonstrators were the following:
1. The application of the magnetic moulding technology resulted in an improvement of the mechanical properties of ferrous and non ferrous alloys. The main aspect that could be accounted for this fact was the reduction of the grain size due to the finer microstructures obtained when compared to traditional lost foam components.
2. The magnetic fields used in the process did not seem to influence the microstructure of the materials at the intensities established to carry out the castings. Intensities up to 6 - 7 Teslas have been tested without any relevant effect on the microstructure.
3. The magnetic fields applied did have a positive influence on the dimensional tolerances of the castings with GCI. Furthermore it made possible to apply different metal flow orientations and increase the flexibility of the lost foam process in terms of feeding and filling design.
4. The magnetic moulding process was environmentally friendly, steel shots could be reused and recycled and the magnetic field had not any effect on the health of workers. The important decrease in the cycle time obtained when compared to the traditional lost foam process may help increase the competitiveness of European foundries.
5. The investments needed to implement the technology were low cost and not any major change was needed in the facilities and equipment presently used in lost foam foundries. The process was economically feasible.
6. All kind of ferrous and non ferrous alloys could be cast. Sound demonstrators made of all aluminium, bronze, GCI and steel have been produced with success.