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Semi-solid metal alloys, as used in industrial thixoforming, have a special microstructure of globular grains suspended in a liquid metal matrix. The complex rheological properties are strongly influenced by the local solid fraction, particle shape, particle size and state of agglomeration. It was analysed how the microstructure develops in dependence of the shear rate and cooling rate during the solidification and it was observed that the average particle size increased with increasing shear rate and decreasing cooling rate. In order to account for those phenomena, the rate of crystal growth and the relationship between average particle diameter and viscosity was modelled by applying the Sherwood two-film model for the mass transport. The dependence of the viscosity from the particle size were modelled with a modified Krieger–Dougherty model. Based on the rheological and microstructural observations an evaluation method was elaborated that allows for the construction of objective master curves that are independent of the particle growth during the experimentation. The isothermal experiments for the characterisation of the rheological behaviour consisted of step-change of shear-rate and yield-stress experiments. From the experimental data the steady-state flow curves could be determined as well as the time-dependent relaxation of the shear stress after a change of shear rate. The steady-state rheological behaviour was found to be shear thinning. Nevertheless, immediately after a shear-rate change an overshoot was observed that resulted from a short-time shear-thickening behaviour. The yield stress was found to strongly depend on the microstructure and the degree of agglomeration of the solid phase. With increasing rest time the yield stress was increasing strongly, because of the agglomeration of the solid particles. Based on the step-change of shear-rate experiments a single-phase flow has been developed that consists of a modified Herschel–Bulkley approach and accounts for the thixotropic as well as for the yield-stress behaviour of the alloys.

Semi-solid metal alloys, as used in thixoforming, have a special microstructure of globular grains suspended in a liquid metal matrix. The complex rheological properties are strongly influenced by the local solid fraction, particle shape, particle size and state of agglomeration. There is a high demand for models and software tools allowing the simulation of semi-solid casting processes. The material under investigation is a tin-lead alloy (Sn-15%Pb) which exhibits a similar microstructure to aluminium alloys. The experiments were performed with a concentric cylinder rheometer of the Searle type. Initially, the liquid alloy is cooled down to the semi-solid range under constant shearing and then kept under isothermal conditions for further experimentation. Based on the experimental data, a single-phase model has been derived where the semi-solid alloy is regarded as a homogeneous material with thixotropic properties and the microstructure is characterised by a structural parameter. The model consists of two parts: the equation of state, including a finite yield stress, and a rate equation for the structural parameter. The model equations are employed in numerical software and used for the simulation of characteristic filling cases and the comparison with the conventional filling.

Semi-solid metal alloys, as used in thixoforming, have a special microstructure of globular grains suspended in a liquid metal matrix. The material under investigation is a tin–lead alloy (Sn–15% Pb) which exhibits a similar microstructure as aluminum alloys. The experiments were performed with concentric cylinder rheometers. Initially, the liquid alloy is cooled down to the semi-solid range under constant shearing and then kept under isothermal conditions for further experimentation. The microstructure is characterized in dependence of the shearing time. The rheological techniques consisted of step change of shear rate and shear stress ramp experiments for different solid fractions (40–50%). Based on the experimental data a single phase model has been derived, where the semi-solid alloy is regarded as a homogeneous material with thixotropic properties and the microstructure is characterized by a structural parameter. The model consists of two parts: the equation of state, including a finite yield stress, and a rate equation for the structural parameter. The model equations are employed into numerical software and used for the simulation of a characteristic thixocasting process. The results are compared to real experiments.