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Sandblasting foundry product

Foundry products are often characterised by complex channels and internal geometry such as for instance the oil-hydraulic distributors or engine cylinder heads. In these cases it is fundamental to perfectly remove casting wax and sand. The high production quantity typically associated with such products require highly automated and reliable solutions, not to speak of deburring or simple aesthetic finishing of aluminium castings.

Sand casting, also known as sand molded casting, is a metal casting process characterized by using sand as the mold material.

It is relatively cheap and sufficiently refractory even for steel foundry use. A suitable bonding agent (usually clay) is mixed or occurs with the sand. The mixture is moistened with water to develop strength and plasticity of the clay and to make the aggregate suitable for molding. The term "sand casting" can also refer to a casting produced via the sand casting process. Sand castings are produced in specialized factories called foundries. Over 70% of all metal castings are produced via a sand casting process.

There are four main components for making a sand casting mold: base sand, a binderadditives, and a parting compound.

Molding sands

Molding sands, also known as foundry sands, are defined by eight characteristics: refractoriness, chemical inertness, permeability, surface finish, cohesiveness, flowability, collapsibility, and availability/cost.

Refractoriness — This refers to the sand's ability to withstand the temperature of the liquid metal being cast without breaking down. For example some sands only need to withstand650 °C (1,202 °F) if casting aluminum alloys, whereas steel needs a sand that will withstand 1,500 °C (2,730 °F). Sand with too low a refractoriness will melt and fuse to the casting.

Chemical inertness — The sand must not react with the metal being cast. This is especially important with highly reactive metals, such as magnesium and titanium.

Permeability — This refers to the sand's ability to exhaust gases. This is important because during the pouring process many gases are produced, such as hydrogennitrogen, carbon dioxide, and steam, which must leave the mold otherwise casting defects, such as blow holes and gas holes, occur in the casting. Note that for each cubic centimeter (cc) of water added to the mold 16,000 cc of steam is produced.

Surface finish — The size and shape of the sand particles defines the best surface finish achievable, with finer particles producing a better finish. However, as the particles become finer (and surface finish improves) the permeability becomes worse.

Cohesiveness (or bond) — This is the ability of the sand to retain a given shape after the pattern is removed.

Flowability – The ability for the sand to flow into intricate details and tight corners without special processes or equipment.

Collapsibility — This is the ability of the sand to be easily stripped off the casting after it has solidified. Sands with poor collapsibility will adhere strongly to the casting. When casting metals that contract a lot during cooling or with long freezing temperature ranges a sand with poor collapsibility will cause cracking and hot tears in the casting. Special additives can be used to improve collapsibility.

Availability/cost — The availability and cost of the sand is very important because for every ton of metal poured, three to six tons of sand is required. Although sand can be screened and reused, the particles eventually become too fine and require periodic replacement with fresh sand.

In large castings it is economical to use two different sands, because the majority of the sand will not be in contact with the casting, so it does not need any special properties. The sand that is in contact with the casting is called facing sand, and is designed for the casting on hand. This sand will be built up around the pattern to a thickness of 30 to 100 mm (1.2 to 3.9 in). The sand that fills in around the facing sand is called backing sand. This sand is simply silica sand with only a small amount of binder and no special additives.

Types of base sands

Base sand is the type used to make the mold or core without any binder. Because it does not have a binder it will not bond together and is not usable in this state.

Silica sand

Silica (SiO2) sand is the the sand found on a beach and is also the most commonly used sand. It is made by either crushing sandstone or taken from natural occurring locations, such as beaches and river beds. The fusion point of pure silica is 1,760 °C (3,200 °F), however the sands used have a lower melting point due to impurities. For high melting point casting, such as steels, a minimum of 98% pure silica sand must be used; however for lower melting point metals, such as cast iron and non-ferrous metals, a lower purity sand can be used (between 94 and 98% pure).

Silica sand is the most commonly used sand because of its great abundance, and, thus, low cost (therein being its greatest advantage). Its disadvantages are high thermal expansion, which can cause casting defects with high melting point metals, and low thermal conductivity, which can lead to unsound casting. It also cannot be used with certain basic metal because it will chemically interact with the metal forming surface defect. Finally, it causes silicosis in foundry workers.

Olivine sand

Olivine is a mixture of orthosilicates of iron and magnesium from the mineral dunite. Its main advantage is that it is free from silica, therefore it can be used with basic metals, such as manganese steels. Other advantages include a low thermal expansion, high thermal conductivity, and high fusion point. Finally, it is safer to use than silica, therefore it is popular in Europe.

Chromite sand

Chromite sand is a solid solution of spinels. Its advantages are a low percentage of silica, a very high fusion point (1,850 °C (3,360 °F)), and a very high thermal conductivity. Its disadvantage is its costliness, therefore its only used with expensive alloy steel casting and to make cores.

Zircon sand

Zircon sand is a compound of approximately two-thirds zircon oxide (Zr2O) and one-third silica. It has the highest fusion point of all the base sands at 2,600 °C (4,710 °F), a very low thermal expansion, and a high thermal conductivity. Because of these good properties it is commonly used when casting alloy steels and other expensive alloys. It is also used as a mold wash (a coating applied to the molding cavity) to improve surface finish. However, it is expensive and not readily available.

Chamotte sand

Chamotte is made by calcining fire clay (Al2O3-SiO2) above 1,100 °C (2,010 °F). Its fusion point is 1,750 °C (3,180 °F) and has low thermal expansion. It is the second cheapest sand, however it is still twice as expensive as silica. Its disadvantages are very coarse grains, which result in a poor surface finish, and it is limited to dry sand molding. Mold washes are used to overcome the surface finish problem. This sand is usually used when casting large steel workpieces.

Other materials

Modern casting production methods can manufacture thin and accurate molds—of a material superficially resembling papier-mâché, such as is used in egg cartons, but that is refractory in nature—that are then supported by some means, such as dry sand surrounded by a box, during the casting process. Due to the higher accuracy it is possible to make thinner and hence lighter castings, because extra metal need not be present to allow for variations in the molds. These thin-mold casting methods have been used since the 1960s in the manufacture of cast-iron engine blocks and cylinder heads for automotive applications.







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