Coal Dust And The Metal Casting Process
Metals are cast in foundries by melting them into a liquid form and pouring the molten material into a mold. Thereafter, the mold is removed and the metal allowed to return its solid form as it cools off. Majority of the metals processed in foundries are aluminum and cast iron. Although castings of bronze, brass, steel, and zinc are also done in foundries.
The process of metal casting starts with the physical conversion of the chosen metal into its molten form. The process takes place in a furnace and begins by charging the furnace with external scraps, internal scraps, virgin material, and alloying elements. Virgin material is the pure form of the primary metals used in manufacturing a specific alloy and sold in commercial quantities. Internal scraps include any defective castings, gates or risers produced within the factory. External scraps, on the other hand, are materials produced during punching, machining, or forging.
After melting the charge materials, refining takes place. The purpose of refining is to eliminate deleterious substances from the molten material and avoid casting defects. As the charge materials undergo melting, materials are added to meet up with industry or internal specifications. Fluxes are used in the separation of metal from slag, and degassers ensure the removal of dissolved gasses from metals.
Variety of furnaces for heating metals exists. However, the choice of a furnace is influenced by the amount of alloy produced. Electric arc furnaces, cupolas, and induction furnace are used in the case of ferrous metals. On the other hand, metal casters would prefer reverberatory or crucible furnace for non-ferrous materials such as brass, bronze, and aluminum castings. One common feature of these furnaces is that they are lined on the inside by refractory materials.
Degassers such as chlorine, nitrogen, helium, and argon are used in removing contaminant gases present in non-ferrous metals. Conversely, carbon monoxide is used in degassing ferrous materials including iron and steel. Hydrogen is the most harmful gas that requires degassing. Hydrogen is formed from the reaction between materials or water vapor or machine lubricants. A high hydrogen concentration indicates an increased porosity of the metal which weakens its mechanical properties. In the case where porosity still exists following degassing, porosity and leak paths are sealed through the process of vacuum impregnation.
The metal casting process also involves creating patterns made out of wood, plastic, metal, or wax. The various processes involved in the construction of molds is determined by the size and complexity of the casting, the metal to be poured, type of foundry, and the number of parts to be produced. The mold processes used in metal casting are die-casting, billet casting, sand casting, lost foam casting, v-process casting, and ceramic mold casting amongst others.
The next step that follows after the melting and the mold-making process is pouring the molten metals into the mold. In foundries operating on the traditional model, the molten metals are poured into the molds with ladles. Advances in technology have allowed for the use of automatic pouring machines and robots in pouring molten metals. However, pouring can also be achieved with gravity or the aid of vacuum or pressurized gases.
The molten metal is allowed to assume a solidified state before attempting to remove it from the mold. Shaking and tumbling are the primary means by which the solid metal is removed from the mold, particularly those made through sand casting. During the process of casting, heads, runners, gates, and risers are formed. These are removed using cutting torches, bandsaws, or ceramic cutoff blades in a process known as degassing.
Use Of Foundry Coal Dust In Sand Casting
A popular technique used in sand casting is green sand. It is a mixture of silica sand, chromite or zircon sand, bentonite, water, inert sludge, and coal dust produced from the pulverization of coal. Greensand is not in itself wet but denotes its wet state – a feature of “greenwood.” The amount of coal dust in green sand never exceeds 5% of the total mixture and undergoes partial combustion in the presence of molten metal, releasing an off-gassing vapor.
However, green sand is not used in the casting process for non-ferrous metals due to the presence of coal dust as an additive. Coal dust gives off carbon monoxide which results in the oxidation of the metal. Aluminum, for instance, uses olivine sand in the place of coal dust as an additive.
Greensand possesses certain characteristics augmented by the addition of coal dust. These properties include:
- Refractoriness: This refers to the ability of green sand to resist high temperatures without getting deformed. Steel requires molding sand that can withstand a temperature of 1500oC whereas a temperature value of 650oC is needed for aluminum alloys. Foundry sands with reduced refractoriness will melt and fuse with the casting. Coal dust, as an additive, has a fusion temperature of more than 1600o Hence, the temperature at which molding sand is increased with the addition of coal dust to the mixture.
- Surface finish: A better surface finish is achieved with finer particles. Unfortunately, finer particles indicate an increased permeability but an improved surface finish.
- Permeability: The ability of molding sand to deplete the available gases is referred to as permeability. Gases formed during the pouring process such as hydrogen, nitrogen, steam, and carbon dioxide results in casting defects, including blowholes and gas holes. Carbon monoxide is passed over steel and iron castings to remove unwanted gases and prevent oxidation. The combustion of foundry coal dust results in the release of carbon monoxide – which as was mentioned earlier is needed in degassing castings of ferrous materials. Carbon monoxide is also produced during the gasification of coal dust where it is passed through oxygen and steam under high temperature and pressure.
- Collapsibility: This refers to the sand’s ability to strip off the solidified metal casting with ease. Increased adherence to the metal casting exists with molding sands having low collapsibility. Foundry coal dust help to increase the collapsibility of green sand at knockout, since this substance burns out during the casting process.
Other features of molding sands include as greensand are cohesiveness, chemical inertness with regards to the metal being cast, and availability/cost of the molding sand.
Properties Of Coal Dust Suppliers For Foundry Purposes
- Volatile content: The quality of the surface finish for a casting done with foundry coal dust as an additive depends on a high amount of volatile matter. It is recommended that foundry coal dust have a minimum of 30% volatile matter.
- Ash content: Coal dust low ash content, not exceeding 12% is recommended from coal dust suppliers.
- Sulfur content: A high sulfur content may lead to casting defects. Coal dust suppliers should limit the sulfur levels to 1% at most.
- Chlorine content: The chlorine content should also be reduced to the barest minimum. An excess of chlorine may also result in casting defects.
Also, a mixture of foundry coal dust and clay may be used to line the bottom of a cupola furnace. Exposure to high-temperature results in the decomposition of coal dust and clay becomes slightly crumbled. Consequently, open holes are formed, through which the molten metals are tapped during the metal casting process in a furnace.