Investigation of Surface Formation in As-Cast and Homogenized 6xxx Aluminium Billets
The direct chill (DC) casting technique to produce billets for extrusion and ingots for rollingwas developed in the 1930s. The principle, which is still valid, is a two-stage cooling with a primary cooling at a mould surface followed by water spraying directly on the surface. Improvements of this technique have mainly focused on changes to the primary cooling, where a water-cooled metal mould has been replaced by different techniques to minimize cooling at this stage. The drive for development comes from the extrusion industry, which can increase the productivity and quality of extruded profiles by improving the billet surface appearance and structure. Hot top casting supported by airflow against the casting surface during the primary cooling is currently the standard procedure to achieve acceptable billet surfaces. The goal is to minimize the depth of the surface segregation zone, which is the governing factor for the appearance of different phases in the surface region. Billet surface quality is evaluated by quantifying surface appearance, segregation zone thickness, and occurrence of large Mg2Si and β-particles near the surface. The β-Al5FeSi intermetallic phase and coarse Mg2Si particles have negative effects on extrudability and workability of 6xxx Al alloys billets. To achieve extruded products with a high surface quality the as-cast billets are heat-treated before extrusion. During heat treatment the undesired intermetallic particles, i.e., β-AlFeSi platelets are transformed to rounded α-Al(FeMn)Si intermetallic phases.
In this research the formation of the surface segregation for smooth defect-free surfaces in both as-cast and homogenized billets was studied. In addition, the surfaces with defects such as wavy, spot and vertical drag defects were investigated and possible mechanisms for initiation of those defects were explained. Moreover, for a better understanding of the homogenization process in-situ studies of the heat treatment of 6082, 6005, 6060 and 6063 Al alloys were carried out by using a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Based on the observations, an explanation of the probable mechanisms taking place during transformation from β-to α-phase was presented.