Making foam patterns for use in the lost foam casting process is a difficult business. To make a pattern foam beads are blown into a mold containing discrete vent locations for the displaced air and steam. This makes the density of the packed beads difficult to control. Patterns typically show final density variations of ±20%. Much larger variations are not uncommon.
One goal of the Lost Foam Consortium is to evaluate techniques for improving the uniformity of patterns. A related goal is to determine to what extent density variations in patterns are significant with respect to the quality of the parts produced.
Recent real-time X-Ray observations of the metal filling process reported by Dr. Wayne Sun (Advanced Lost Foam Casting Technology-Phase V Meeting, June 20-21, 2001) revealed several interesting facts about the behavior of foam patterns. In particular, when the foam has a low degree of fusion metal is observed to move very fast into the foam (e.g., 4 to 5 times faster than in normal fusion foam). The advancement of the metal is typically in the form of fingers, which subsequently spread sideways causing the meeting of metal fronts that result in many fold defects. Furthermore, the location of the fingering is significantly affected by density variations in the foam pattern.
In contrast, when the foam patterns consisted of normal fusion foam, the metal front moved smoothly (i.e., no fingering) and considerably fewer fold defects occur. Also, the presence of density variations in the foam has little effect on the propagation of the metal fronts.
Based on these findings it was concluded that no attempt should be made to model low fusion foam because this in not likely to be choice for production work. Instead, we report here the development and testing of a model for adding a variable foam density to the FLOW-3D® software package from Flow Science, Inc.