Optimization is the search for one or more better solutions to a certain problem. Within this sector, an optimizer is a software able to identify, suggest and eventually verify the ideal set of input variables that provides the best design solutions among all those possible. In most cases, the underlying relationships between the control parameters (called inputs) and the measured performances (called outputs) are unknown or difficult to solve. Sometimes, moreover, in order to obtain the answer of the system it is necessary to use complex numerical models that require a lot of time in order to be able to produce the desired output: a typical example is that of the use of simulators of foundry process, in which the result of the simulation, in function of the chosen parameters, is the fruit of a long and complex calculation of 3D thermofluid dynamics. Figure 1 - Optimization process scheme The IMPROVEit optimization software is able to interface with multiple applications, including the FLOW-3D® CAST (Flow Science inc.) process simulator, and connect them together to completely define a workflow that can be run repeatedly and automatically in order to get the best solution in the shortest possible time, understanding the nature and complexity of the problem. Case study: Optimization of the injection phase In this case study, courtesy of FORM S.r.l., during the design of the moulding for battery covers by HPDC, many areas were found in the structure where the amount of porosity from gas was high. It was therefore decided to use the optimization with the aim of reducing defects by acting on the design of the casting channels and optimizing the speed of the piston. For our purposes, the workflow inputs chosen were the values of the piston speed curve in the first phase and a wide range of geometric parameters of the channels managed by interaction between optimizer and parametric CAD software, while the objectives were the best calibration of the arrival of the metal at the casting connections and the reduction of the amount of air trapped in the alloy during this first phase of filling. The flow is structured as follows: the optimizer interacts directly with a parametric CAD software to automatically change the shape of the casting channels and then exports the geometries in STL format; the latter are then used by the process software to simulate the filling, after which the desired outputs are extracted and processed. Figure 2 - Parameters for the optimization of the injection phase, courtesy of Form S.r.l. When there are two objectives to evaluate at the same time, it is possible to find a series of different optimal results of compromise between the two outputs sought, which is called front of Pareto. Since a workflow cycle takes an average of about 20 minutes, it was decided to perform the optimization on a total of 20 calls. On the basis of these calls, the chosen configuration is positioned in the center of the Pareto front and therefore presents a good compromise to have a low and most uniform possible arrival time at the casting attacks, 10% better than the initial setup, and at the same time obtain a minimum quantity of trapped air, 13% lower than the initial data. Figure 3 - Comparison between initial and optimized solution, courtesy of Form S.r.l. This case study therefore shows how the automation and numerical optimization of product design, simulation, interpretation of results and changes, help to save a lot of time and how it is possible to achieve important improvements even in the face of a limited number of calls. … [Read more...]

## Design optimization for mass production

Introduction The development of a product involves various phases of calculation and design that provide a series of predefined steps to follow in order to reach mass production. With this aim in mind and considering the high number of parts to be produced, any material saving is advantageous and relevant from an economic perspective. The parties involved in the production need to reduce the waste material (relevant for the foundry) and to reduce the weight of the components (relevant for the end customer). Optimizing the shape of the product helps both parties (foundry and customer) to reach the right compromise to make the adequate savings while obtaining the highest quality parts. In this article we will show the design optimization process of a foundry product destined for mass production using an optimization software and a process simulator. The aim is to analyze the solidification of the metal present in the system of interest and to evaluate how the optimization helps both parties to benefit from it. Component to produce The component to optimize in this study is produced by sand molded casting technique, one of the oldest, simplest and most economical techniques. The preliminary design phase has provided a prototype in stereolithography format (STL), which is already potentially good for production (courtesy of Flow Science Deutschland). In the image [Figure 1] you can see the feeding system (in yellow) and the geometry of the part to be produced (in red). The weight of the part itself in this starting configuration is 2,197kg, and the whole system weight is 3,126kg. The main objective is, by acting on some details of the geometries themselves, to obtain a total weight of the system as small as possible without having significant porosity in the part. In order to obtain the best possible result, the parameters chosen to be modified are the size of the feeder [Figure 2], the thickness of the vertical wall closest to the feeder and the thickness of the transition zone between the two walls [Figure 3]. Figure 2 - First optimization parameter Figure 3 - Second and third optimization parameters The considered variables are thus potentially multiple and exploring manually all the possible combinations can be a very long and complex work. That is why we have chosen to use a numerical optimizer able to explore the solutions independently. Therefore, IMPROVEit was chosen, which thanks to its simple interface allows to perform both the setup phase and the processing of results easily. FLOW-3D® CAST was chosen as the process simulator for its precision, reliability and simple use in foundry simulations. As for modifying the geometrical shape, the optimization software allows both to interact directly with parametric CAD if the file is in original format, and to modify an STL file directly inside IMPROVEit if, as it is the case in this test, only the latter is available. Once the parameters to be corrected have been selected, the software is able to internally modify the shape of the geometries, launch the solidification simulations interacting with the FLOW-3D® CAST process software using the modified geometries, extract the results of the analyses and process them with suitable mathematical nodes to obtain the right optimized quantity. [Figure 4] shows the workflow of our case study. Figure 4 - Optimization workflow In order to detect the shrinkage porosity dimension present at the end of the solidification simulation, four control volumes divide the geometry in four distinct zones: the top part is in dark blue, the central part in yellow, the left part in cyan and the right part in magenta. According to the customers’ exigences, among those four parts only three are relevant for optimization: the porosity in the top part (dark blue) is not considered. In the initial configuration, the total shrinkage porosity volume in the three control volumes is 581mm3. Figure 5 - Control volumes Execution For the purpose of the optimization process, two objectives and one constraint were chosen: minimizing the feeding system and the part’s weight while having the amount of porosity in the three control volumes below a threshold low enough to be able to consider the part free from visible defects. Setting up an optimization with two objectives and a constraint makes the understanding of the problem complex; nevertheless, the IMPROVEit engine being developed specifically for this type of problem, it allows to obtain an excellent result with just a few calls of the process simulator. Since each optimization cycle lasts only a few minutes, it was decided to allow the execution of fifty cycles. Considerations After fifty cycles, IMPROVEit was able to propose a wide range of solutions that reduce the weight of the system with tolerable thresholds of porosity, which was our objective. Moreover, by analyzing the panorama of the solutions found, it is possible to … [Read more...]

## Minimizing air entrainment in shot sleeve

M. Barkhudarov, Flow Science Inc., Santa Fe, New Mexico; S. Mascetti, XC Engineering, Italy; R. Pirovano, XC Engineering, Italy Abstract High pressure die casting is one of the most complex processes in the foundry world due to the wide range of physical phenomena and process parameters that control the outcome. A particular challenge is achieving optimal conditions in the shot sleeve from which metal is injected into the die cavity. The speed of the plunger in a horizontal shot sleeve must be carefully controlled to avoid unnecessary entrainment of air in the metal and, at the same time, minimize heat losses in the sleeve. The paper presents a general solution for the flow of metal in a shot sleeve, based on the shallow water approximation of the interaction of the moving plunger and liquid metal. The derived analytical solution allows engineers to precisely control the behavior of metal in the shot sleeve during the slow-shot stage of the high pressure die casting process, minimizing the risk of air entrainment. Results are validated with three-dimensional numerical modeling of the process. Coupled with parametric optimization, the numerical model can improve the process conditions predicted by the analytical model. Introduction The speed of the plunger in a horizontal shot sleeve must be carefully controlled to avoid unnecessary entrainment of air in the metal and at the same time minimize heat losses in the sleeve. If the plunger moves too fast, large waves are created on the surface of the liquid metal that may overturn and entrain air into the metal, which will then be carried into the die cavity. A plunger moving too slow results in waves reflecting from the opposite end of the shot sleeve. The reflected waves prevent proper expulsion of air into the die cavity. In either case, the outcome is excessive porosity in the final casting. Moreover, a slow plunger increases also oxidation of the free surface of liquid metal, and the heat losses because of the long contact time with the mold walls. In this article two approaches are used to limit these effects: a general solution for the plunger speed as a function of time and a full-physics, three-dimensional CFD optimization. Mathematical model The dynamics of waves in a horizontal shot sleeve can be analyzed by drawing an analogy with flow in an open channel. A detailed analysis is possible by modeling the flow of metal in a rectangular shot sleeve of length L and height H (justified for initial fill fractions in the range of 40-60% [1]) using the shallow water approximation [3]. In this approximation the flow in the vertical direction is neglected in comparison with the horizontal velocity component. The flow is modeled in two dimensions, with the x axis directed along the direction of motion of the plunger, and the z axis pointing upwards. If viscous forces are omitted, then the flow has only one velocity component, u, along the length of the channel. The plunger speed in the positive x direction is given by dX/dt=X’(t), where X(t) defines the position of the plunger at time t>0. At the moving surface of the plunger, the velocity is defined as . As the plunger moves along the length of the channel it sends waves traveling forward along the metal surface. Each wave is associated with a small segment of the metal free surface and the column of metal directly below it (Fig. 1). The location, metal speed and depth in a wave that separates from the surface of the plunger at time t=tp are given by [3]: (1) Where According to Eq. (1), the metal speed, u, and depth, h, in each wave are constant and depend only on the time of the wave separation from the plunger, tp. They both increase with the speed of the plunger X’. Therefore, the first conclusion is that to maintain a monotonic slope of the metal surface in the direction away from the plunger, the latter must not decelerate. If this condition is not satisfied, then there will be waves sloped in both directions. When they reflect off the end of the sleeve and travel back towards the plunger, it creates unfavorable conditions for the evacuation of air from the sleeve and into the die cavity. Figure 1: Schematic representation of the flow in a shot sleeve and the coordinate system. Controlling the Waves Once a wave detaches from the plunger it travels at a constant speed given by (2) If the plunger accelerates, then each successive wave will move faster than the waves generated earlier. This will lead to a steepening of the surface slope as the waves travel further down the channel, and can potentialy result in overturning. If the speed of the plunger can be controlled as to limit the wave steepening during the slow shot stage, then the overturning can be avoided. Figure 2: The illustration for calculation of the slope of the metal’s free surface. Let us analyze the evolution … [Read more...]

## A new frontier in the simulation of gas defects

Thanks to their high reliability, efficiency and precision, process simulation software is increasingly used on a daily basis: many of the defects commonly found in foundry parts are already successfully grasped by existing numerical models and can therefore be prevented. These technologies are rapidly evolving and, thanks to the increasing availability of computing power, you are now able to simulate very complex problems by dividing the domain with millions of cells. Despite this, some important physical aspects have dimensions that remain much smaller than the size of the grid cell: in the modeling of these phenomena are introduced the main approximations, not being able to simulate them directly. Among the numerical challenges that propose the "sub-grid" models - those that involve precisely physical phenomena with a characteristic length smaller than the cell size - one of the largest is to accurately and effectively simulate the smallest air bubbles that remain embedded within the metal. THE SOFTWARE FLOW-3D® CAST The aim is therefore to show the current solutions available for the simulation and analysis of air incorporation and to propose an innovative solution able to overcome the limits of traditional methods. This was done using FLOW-3D® CAST software, one of the most accurate software for modelling a wide range of foundry processes. Its peculiarities are the ability to interpret with great accuracy the geometries of the piece through the FAVOR algorithm, despite the use of a structured grid, and the absolute precision in modeling the movement of the fluid alloy during the filling phase, using the TruVOF algorithm. In addition, the software has numerous numerical models able to simulate all the physics and particularities characterizing the foundry processes, from the thermal cycle of preheating to the final extraction of the piece from the mould. Thanks to this it is possible to carry out simulations with a high precision in determining the position of the defects related to the filling phase. Furthermore, FLOW-3D® CAST has a partially open-source code that can be easily customised: allowing the creation of new numerical models or the improvement of existing ones, the software adapts perfectly to the purpose of this work. NUMERICAL MODELS TO SIMULATE AIR ENTRAPMENT Within FLOW-3D® CAST there are different approaches to simulate air incorporation, of increasing complexity. The simplest approximation is to completely ignore the influence of air on the metal, except for a condition of constant and uniform pressure imposed on the exposed surface of the liquid alloy. With this approximation, the metal behaves as if a perfect vacuum had been created inside the mold, or similarly as if the air could be evacuated instantly from anywhere in the mold. The most complete modeling, on the other hand, consists in simulating also the dynamics of the air, calculating its speed at each point. Although it is possible to consider the complete and coupled fluid dynamics of metal and air simultaneously, in most cases this is not necessary. Due to the relatively small influence of air on the dense and viscous surface of the metal, it is possible to significantly reduce the calculation time by concentrating most of the resources on resolving the motion of the alloy. On the other hand, completely neglecting the influence of air does not allow to obtain realistic solutions to the problem, both in terms of filling dynamics and with regard to the identification of defects related to the presence of air. To obtain the best compromise between simulation speed and precision of the result, considering all the physical phenomena that have a significant influence during the filling phase of a die-casting process, within FLOW-3D® CAST it was decided not to calculate the complete dynamics of the air but to approximate its main contributions with two additional numerical models: In fact, air can be incorporated in the fluid because it is completely surrounded by it, in the form of compressible bubbles (bubble model), or trapped as a quantity dispersed by the effect of turbulence (air entrainment model). Air Entrainment model The air entrainment model [1] was developed in the 1990s to simulate the effect of turbulence on the surface of a moving liquid. During filling, in fact, the high speeds at which the fluid is found are sufficient to disturb the surface to the point of incorporating air in the form of microscopic bubbles. Every single air particle is much smaller than the calculation cell: for this reason the air is represented as a diffused quantity in the metal. Despite the fact that the individual bubbles, being microscopic, are not able by themselves to create a significant defect in the piece, their presence, at different concentrations, can affect the movement of the metal itself. The presence of air in the alloy, in fact, causes the density and local viscosity of the fluid to vary significantly. … [Read more...]

## Low Pressure Die Casting, early solidification issues

In Low Pressure Die Casting processes, the liquid metal is moved from a furnace through a rising tube, typically ceramic, into a metal mould. To do that, the furnace is incrementally pressurized to control the height of the metallic fluid and to impose a final high compression once the part is completely filled. In this process risers are not necessary, reducing the trimming costs, and it is possible to obtain parts with a very good surface finishing and with very low porosity. Anyway, the flow rate of the metal and the die temperature should be accurately calculated to find the best compromise between the velocity of the process and quality of the cast part. In fact, a too fast flow rate could lead to a highly turbulent flow and to an excessive entrainment of air; on the other hand, a too slow filling (in combination with a low temperature of the die) could provoke an early solidification, preventing the complete filling of the part. Using FLOW-3D® CAST it has been possible to reproduce through an accurate simulation, the real process, in which a complete filling is not obtained. The flow in the rising pipe is not included in the setup, imposing the flow rate directly at the entrance in the metal mould, with its real temperature. Figure 1 shows the fluid at the half of the filling phase, coloured with the solid fraction. From this picture the early solidification can already be noticed, underlining the excessive cooling rate. Figure 1 - Solidification front Figure 2, instead, shows the final shape of the aluminium, compared with a picture of the real part. The solidification of the metal front creates a blockage that forces the still liquid metal to flow around it to the upper part of the casting, where it also solidifies generating a big hole in the final shape. Figure 2 - Early solidification defects The video, finally, shows the complete dynamic of the flow, underlining the phase of the early solidification and showing in details how the metal slows down and stops due to the increasing solid fraction. https://youtu.be/x-VaIm05q6s Video of the dynamic of the filling and solidification … [Read more...]