Paper presents the results of research on modified surface grain refinement method used in investment casting of hollow, thin-walled parts made of nickel based superalloys. In the current technology, the refining inoculant is applied to the surface of the wax pattern and then, it is transferred to the ceramic mould surface during dewaxing. Because of its chemical activity the inoculant may react with the liquid metal which can cause defects on the external surface of the cast part. The method proposed in the paper aims to reduce the risk of external surface defects by applying the grain refiner only to the ceramic core which shapes the internal surface of the hollow casting. In case of thin-walled parts the grain refinement effect is visible throughout the thickness of the walls. The method is meant to be used when internal surface finish is less important, like for example, aircraft engine turbine blades, where the hollowing of the cast is mainly used to lower the weight and aid in cooling during operation.
Turbine blades have complex geometries with free form surface. Blades have different thickness at the trailing and leading edges as well as sharp bends at the chord-tip shroud junction and sharp fins at the tip shroud. In investment casting of blades, shrinkage at the tip-shroud and cord junction is a common casting problem. Because of high temperature applications, grain structure is also critical in these castings in order to avoid creep. The aim of this work is to evaluate the effect of different process parameters, such as, shell thickness, insulation and casting temperature on shrinkage porosity and grain size. The test geometry used in this study was a thin-walled air-foil structure which is representative of a typical hot-gas-path rotating turbine component. It was observed that, in thin sections, increased shell thickness helps to increase the feeding distance and thus avoid interdendritic shrinkage. It was also observed that grain size is not significantly affected by shell thickness in thin sections. Slower cooling rate due to the added insulation and steeper thermal gradient at metal mold interface induced by the thicker shell not only helps to avoid shrinkage porosity but also increases fill-ability in thinner sections.
With increasing technology development, an increasing emphasis is placed on the precision of products, but cannot be guaranteed without a stable production process. To ensure the stability of the production process, it is necessary to monitor it in detail, find its critical locations and eliminate or at least control it. With such a precise manufacturing method as investment casting, such a process is a must. This paper therefore deals with monitoring the production process of wax models of large turbine blades using infrared thermography. The aim was to evaluate the critical locations of this production and to propose recommendations for their elimination or, at the very least, significant mitigation of their impact on the final quality of the large turbine blade casting.