Aluminum Alloy for Casting

Bernier Cast Metals works with most aluminum alloys including: 206, 319, 355, 356, 357, 359, 380, 535, 713 & 771. We can produce small to large runs utilizing air-set sand casting, green sand casting, lost foam casting, and creating wood or plastic patterns directly from customer drawings.

Aluminium alloys (or aluminum alloys; see spelling differences) are alloys in which aluminium (Al) is the predominant metal. The typical alloying elements are copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, tin and zinc. There are two principal classifications, namely casting alloys and wrought alloys, both of which are further subdivided into the categories heat-treatable and non-heat-treatable. About 85% of aluminium is used for wrought products, for example rolled plate, foils and extrusions. Cast aluminium alloys yield cost-effective products due to the low melting point, although they generally have lower tensile strengths than wrought alloys. The most important cast aluminium alloy system is Al–Si, where the high levels of silicon (4.0–13%) contribute to give good casting characteristics. Aluminium alloys are widely used in engineering structures and components where light weight or corrosion resistance is required.[1]

Alloys composed mostly of aluminium have been very important in aerospace manufacturing since the introduction of metal-skinned aircraft. Aluminium-magnesium alloys are both lighter than other aluminium alloys and much less flammable than alloys that contain a very high percentage of magnesium.[2]

Aluminium alloy surfaces will develop a white, protective layer of aluminium oxide if left unprotected by anodizing and/or correct painting procedures. In a wet environment, galvanic corrosion can occur when an aluminium alloy is placed in electrical contact with other metals with more positive corrosion potentials than aluminium, and an electrolyte is present that allows ion exchange. Referred to as dissimilar-metal corrosion, this process can occur as exfoliation or as intergranular corrosion. Aluminium alloys can be improperly heat treated. This causes internal element separation, and the metal then corrodes from the inside out.[citation needed]

Aluminium alloy compositions are registered with The Aluminum Association. Many organizations publish more specific standards for the manufacture of aluminium alloy, including the Society of Automotive Engineersstandards organization, specifically its aerospace standards subgroups,[3] and ASTM International.

Engineering Use and aluminum alloys properties

Aluminium alloys with a wide range of properties are used in engineering structures. Alloy systems are classified by a number system (ANSI) or by names indicating their main alloying constituents (DIN and ISO). Selecting the right alloy for a given application entails considerations of its tensile strength, density, ductility, formability, workability, weldability, and corrosion resistance, to name a few. A brief historical overview of alloys and manufacturing technologies is given in Ref.[4] Aluminium alloys are used extensively in aircraft due to their high strength-to-weight ratio. On the other hand, pure aluminium metal is much too soft for such uses, and it does not have the high tensile strength that is needed for airplanes and helicopters.

Aluminium alloys versus types of steel

Aluminium alloys typically have an elastic modulus of about 70 GPa, which is about one-third of the elastic modulus of most kinds of steel and steel alloys. Therefore, for a given load, a component or unit made of an aluminium alloy will experience a greater deformation in the elastic regime than a steel part of identical size and shape. Though there are aluminium alloys with somewhat-higher tensile strengths than the commonly used kinds of steel, simply replacing a steel part with an aluminium alloy might lead to problems.

With completely new metal products, the design choices are often governed by the choice of manufacturing technology. Extrusions are particularly important in this regard, owing to the ease with which aluminium alloys, particularly the Al–Mg–Si series, can be extruded to form complex profiles.

In general, stiffer and lighter designs can be achieved with Aluminium alloy than is feasible with steels. For instance, consider the bending of a thin-walled tube: the second moment of area is inversely related to the stress in the tube wall, i.e. stresses are lower for larger values. The second moment of area is proportional to the cube of the radius times the wall thickness, thus increasing the radius (and weight) by 26% will lead to a halving of the wall stress. For this reason, bicycle frames made of aluminium alloys make use of larger tube diameters than steel or titanium in order to yield the desired stiffness and strength. In automotive engineering, cars made of aluminium alloys employ space frames made of extruded profiles to ensure rigidity. This represents a radical change from the common approach for current steel car design, which depend on the body shells for stiffness, known as unibody design.

Aluminium alloys are widely used in automotive engines, particularly in cylinder blocks and crankcases due to the weight savings that are possible. Since aluminium alloys are susceptible to warping at elevated temperatures, the cooling system of such engines is critical. Manufacturing techniques and metallurgical advancements have also been instrumental for the successful application in automotive engines. In the 1960s, the aluminium cylinder heads of the Corvair earned a reputation for failure and stripping of threads, which is not seen in current aluminium cylinder heads.

An important structural limitation of aluminium alloys is their lower fatigue strength compared to steel. In controlled laboratory conditions, steels display a fatigue limit, which is the stress amplitude below which no failures occur – the metal does not continue to weaken with extended stress cycles. Aluminium alloys do not have this lower fatigue limit and will continue to weaken with continued stress cycles. Aluminium alloys are therefore sparsely used in parts that require high fatigue strength in the high cycle regime (more than 107 stress cycles).

Heat sensitivity considerations

Often, the metal’s sensitivity to heat must also be considered. Even a relatively routine workshop procedure involving heating is complicated by the fact that aluminium, unlike steel, will melt without first glowing red. Forming operations where a blow torch is used can reverse or remove heat treating, therefore is not advised whatsoever. No visual signs reveal how the material is internally damaged. Much like welding heat treated, high strength link chain, all strength is now lost by heat of the torch. The chain is dangerous and must be discarded.

Aluminium is subject to internal stresses and strains. Sometimes years later, as is the tendency of improperly welded aluminium bicycle frames to gradually twist out of alignment from the stresses of the welding process. Thus, the aerospace industry avoids heat altogether by joining parts with rivets of like metal composition, other fasteners, or adhesives.

Stresses in overheated aluminium can be relieved by heat-treating the parts in an oven and gradually cooling it—in effect annealing the stresses. Yet these parts may still become distorted, so that heat-treating of welded bicycle frames, for instance, can result in a significant fraction becoming misaligned. If the misalignment is not too severe, the cooled parts may be bent into alignment. Of course, if the frame is properly designed for rigidity (see above), that bending will require enormous force.

Aluminium’s intolerance to high temperatures has not precluded its use in rocketry; even for use in constructing combustion chambers where gases can reach 3500 K. The Agena upper stage engine used a regeneratively cooled aluminium design for some parts of the nozzle, including the thermally critical throat region; in fact the extremely high thermal conductivity of aluminium prevented the throat from reaching the melting point even under massive heat flux, resulting in a reliable, lightweight component.