Experimental and Numerical Investigation on Friction Welding of Thixocast A356 Aluminium Alloy
Singh, Shailesh Kumar
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The challenges of weight reduction and good strength in automotive industry have drawn considerable interest in thixocasting technologies. Joining of such components with conventional fusion welding creates voids, hot cracking, distortion in shape, and more importantly evolution of dendritic microstructure that ultimately would lead to inferior mechanical properties of the weld region. Thus, the purpose of making thixocast component is lost. The friction welding which is a solid state joining process can avoid defects associated with melting and solidification in a typical fusion weld and can be a promising alternative. This process produces a weld under compressive force at the contact of workpieces rotating or moving relative to one another to produce heat and plastically displacing material from the faying surfaces. Research on semisolid processing has its origin in the early 1970s. However, from the literature survey on semisolid processing it is clear that, till date, not much work has been done in field of joining of semisolid processed components. In the area of solid state welding, in particular, it is not at all explored. In view of this, the present work is focused on exploration of joining of Thixocast A356 Aluminium alloy component by friction welding and comparison of its performance with friction weld of conventionally cast sample of the same alloy. The study is carried out experimentally as well as numerically. Moreover, the material behaviour of thixocast component at elevated temperature in solid state is also described with the help of processing maps and constitutive modelling. The hot workability of thixocast and conventionally cast A356 alloy is evaluated with the help of processing maps developed on the basis of the dynamic materials model approach using the flow stress data obtained from the isothermal compression test in wide range of temperature (300-500℃) and strain rates (0.001s-1-10s-1). The domains of the processing map are interpreted in terms of the associated microstructural mechanism. On comparing the flow stress at elevated temperature of thixocast and conventionally cast A356 alloy samples, it is observed that the flow stress of the latter showed higher value at different strain level, temperature and strain rates. This indicates that the flow property of the thixocast alloy sample is better than that of the conventionally cast one (i.e. response to plastic flow is better for the former); while at room temperature thixocast sample has higher strength. Moreover to investigate the general nature of the influence of strain, strain rate and temperature on the compressive deformation characteristics of thixocast A356 and conventionally cast A356 aluminium alloy, a comprehensive model describing the relationship of the flow stress, strain rate and temperature of the alloys at elevated temperatures is proposed by hyperbolic-sine Arrhenius-type equation and Johnson-Cook model. The validity of descriptive results based on the proposed constitutive equation is also investigated and a comparison between two constitutive models is also made. In order to numerically model the friction welding process of a thixocast A356 aluminium alloy and conventionally cast alloy of same material using a finite element method (FEM), temperature dependent physical properties, mechanical properties as well as viscoplastic constitutive equations were used in the model. A two- dimensional axisymmetric finite element model has been developed. The modelling is based on a coupled thermomechanical approach. First, a nonlinear, transient two-dimensional heat transfer model is developed to determine the temperature fields. Later, the temperature fields are used as input for a nonlinear, two-dimensional structural model in order to predict the distortions and von Mises stress. The finite element models are parametrically built using APDL (ANSYS Parametric Design Language) provided by ANSYS. The validation of the model is carried out by comparing with the experiment. Once validated, the thermomechanical model was used to perform parametric studies in order to investigate effects of various process parameters on temperature and stress distribution in the workpieces. This helps in deciding the range of parameters for friction welding experiments in order to get good weld. Both thixocast and conventionally cast samples exhibited similar temperature distribution during the friction welding process, because of identical thermophysical properties. The magnitude of von Mises stress distribution during friction welding of thixocast A356 sample is found to be lower than that of the conventionally cast sample. It is because of their different constitutive behaviour at elevated temperature. Moreover, the developed FEM model can be successfully used to predict the residual stress at various locations for different set of parameters and geometry for friction welding of thixocast and conventionally cast A356 alloy. This helps in reducing time consuming and expensive experiments on residual stress measurement. The chosen experiments based on Taguchi L27 orthogonal array were conducted on the friction welding machine which works on the principles of continuous drive-mechanism. The experimental specimens were machined from thixocast A356 aluminium alloy connecting rods as well as conventionally cast A356 aluminium alloy ingot in the form of cylindrical bars of dimensions 85mm length and 20mm diameter. The parameters used for welding were friction pressure, rpm, forge pressure, burn-off, and upset pressure. The effects of welding parameters on performance characteristics (i.e. tensile strength and weld efficiency) were evaluated. Taguchi method was applied to investigate the influence of each parameter on strength of joints and evaluate the combination of parameters that leads to the highest weld strength. Accordingly optimum process parameters was identified which helps in achieving the tensile strength of more than parent material. The optimized process parameters for friction welding of thixocast A356 aluminium alloy are rpm = 500, friction pressure = 60, upset time = 5, upset pressure = 100 and burn off = 5. The empirical relationships were also developed to predict the tensile strength. The developed relationship can be effectively used to predict the tensile strength of welded joint with a correlation coefficient of 0.86, which indicates the strong positive relationship between predicted and experimental data. Friction welding of thixocast A356 aluminium alloy helps to achieve very fine eutectic silicon particles of the order of 0.4 at the interface due to severe plastic deformation taking place during welding. Obtaining such fine eutectic silicon particles is difficult to be achieved within few seconds of processing by any other method. The hardness variation of friction welded thixocast alloy shows higher value as compared to that of a conventionally cast sample in the heat affected zone, which indicates better weld strength of the former. This was also confirmed by the tensile strength studied and fatigue test. This indicates that weldability of cast alloys will get improved if the microstructure is modified to globular type.
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