Exploring the Potential Benefits of a New Metal Casting Model for 3D Printing

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Aston University in the UK has initiated a project focused on progressing the liquid metal casting field with the creation of an advanced mathematical model. The aim of the project is to address a significant issue faced by lightweight aluminium alloys: they corrode rapidly when they come into contact with air. This problem significantly affects the emerging processes in the additive manufacturing of light metals.

There is a gradual shift from steel to lighter alloys in the transport sector. However, these alloys, despite being rust-resistant, oxidise rapidly when initially exposed to atmospheric conditions, affecting their quality and life-span. Dr. Paul Griffiths, a senior lecturer in applied mathematics, will helm a 12-month-long research project funded by £80,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Named ‘Developing an accurate non-Newtonian surface rheology model,’ the project concentrates on understanding the thin oxide films that appear on alloys during the casting procedure.

Griffiths intends to produce a mathematical model that effectively captures the complex interaction between the flow of liquid metal and the oxide layer. The oxide layer, acting as a non-Newtonian liquid/gas interface, plays a key role in the casting process. The proposed model will attempt to explain surface characteristics such as velocity and shear profiles and the effects of surface curvature. Developing a more precise mechanical model for the oxidised surface could further our understanding of the encapsulation process and, in turn, have an impact on the performance of the alloy.

The research collaboration extends internationally, with a project partner in Grenoble, France. As the project unfolds, it holds the promise of refining liquid metal casting processes, contributing to advancements in 3D printing of light metals.

By unraveling the complexities of liquid metal flow and oxide layer interaction, this research anticipates a transformative impact on alloy encapsulation, shaping the trajectory of the industry towards increased efficiency and performance.

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