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Porosity in Steel Sand Castings

02/08/2012 7:27 PM

I need help in solving a porosity problem in a steel casting valve body poured in SS316. We see
porosities,small in size in various areas inside the housing bore after machining. Our customer is
particular that the housings should be 100% free of these small voids. The foundry has done
everything in controlling the process parameters like temperature,sand control,moisture,pouring
speed etc., Finally when it came to the gating they had done many iterations they know to get the best
casting,but still have the problem. Can any steel foundry expert offer advice? Thanks K

"Gas porosity is the formation of bubbles within the casting after it has cooled. This
occurs because most liquid materials can hold a large amount of dissolved gas, but the
solid form of the same material cannot, so the gas forms bubbles within the material as
it cools.[6] Gas porosity may present itself on the surface of the casting as porosity or
the pore may be trapped inside the metal,[7] which reduces strength in that
vicinity.Nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen are the most encountered gases in cases of
gas porosity.[5] In aluminum castings, hydrogen is the only gas that dissolves in
significant quantity, which can result in hydrogen gas porosity.[8] For casting that are a
few kilograms in weight the pores are usually 0.01 to 0.5 mm (0.00039 to 0.020 in) in
size. In larger casting they can be up to a millimeter (0.040 in) in diameter.[7]

To prevent gas porosity the material may be melted in a vacuum, in an environment of

low-solubility gases, such as argon[9] or carbon dioxide,[10] or under a flux that prevents
contact with the air. To minimize gas solubility the superheat temperatures can be kept low.
Turbulence from pouring the liquid metal into the mold can introduce gases, so the molds are
often streamlined to minimize such turbulence. Other methods includevacuum degassing, gas
flushing, or precipitation. Precipitation involves reacting the gas with another element to form
a compound that will form a dross that floats to the top. For instance, oxygen can be removed
from Copper by adding phosphorus, or aluminum or silicon can be added to steel to remove
oxygen.[6] A third source consists of reactions of the molten metal with grease or other
residues in the mold.

Hydrogen is normally produced by the reaction of the metal with humidity or residual
moisture in the mold. Drying the mold can eliminate this source of hydrogen formation.[11]

Gas porosity can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from micro shrinkage because micro
shrinkage cavities can contain gases as well. In general, micro porosities will form if the
casting is not properly risered or if a material with a wide solidification range is cast. If neither
of these are the case then most likely the porosity is iny gas bubbles are called porosities, but
larger gas bubbles are called a blowholes[13] or blisters.

Such defects can be caused by air entrained in the melt, steam or smoke from the casting
sand, or other gasses from the melt or mold. (Vacuum holes caused by metal shrinkage (see
above) may also be loosely referred to as 'blowholes'). Proper foundry practices, including
melt preparation and mold design, can reduce the occurrence of these defects. Because they
are often surrounded by a skin of sound metal, blowholes may be difficult to detect, requiring
harmonic, ultrasonic,magnetic, or X-raydue to gas formation.[12]I read the Wikipedia
definition and frankly am not impressed with many of their entries. I would recommend a
more authoritative and accurate book to be the American Foundrymen's Society Third Edition
of "Analysis of Casting Defects". The descriptions are re-enforced with clear photographs
showing the defects.

Some of the Wikipedia entries miss the mark considerably while some are quite accurate but
not well said and somewhat misleading. It does look the part of a "committee drafted

I would even question the complete accuracy of their "blowhole in a cast iron casting"
photograph. While it is quite possible that the hole is a result of a blow from the green sand
cored area that made the elongated slot (excessive moisture especially if the molder had to
patch back that area if it ripped up on him) and since it is adjacent to a hub in the center of
the casting being feed by spokes that are being reduced in cross sectional area it could be a
shrinkage area if no center riser was utilized on that hub. It would be necessary to look into
that cavity and see whether the interior is dendritic in nature(typical of shrinkage cavity) or
smooth and shinny (typical of a blow). If you notice there appears to be a round black hole
just to the right and below where the hub meets the spoke. This could be evidence of an
internal connected area not visible here which would indicate that it is a shrinkage cavity
caused by inadequate risering of the center hub.

Their reference to "streamlining the mold" to prevent turbulence shows unfamiliarity with the
procedure. The reference would be better if it stated that "the gating system should be
properly sized to prevent turbulence during pouring, provide the proper amount of time for
proper filling keeping the metal velocities low enough to prevent erosion of the mold walls or
core materials and provide for the proper risering of the casting utilizing directional
solidification." It is the gating system that accomplishes the smooth entry and flow and proper
feeding of the casting and not "streamlining the mold".

Porosity is the bane of every foundry.

Some techniques that may be of assistance:

 Make sure that any core material or inserts are absolutely dry, preferably
warm or hot to touch before pouring.
 Instead of pouring directly into the casting cavity build a trough along side
the sprue and pour into this and let it then flow into the sprue. This reduces
turbulence and therefore gas entrainment. It also helps maintain heat close
to the centre of the casting and therefore allows more gas to escape before
 Increase the size of the sprue. This will help keep things hot for longer and
will provide additional weight. The extra heat allows gas more time to
escape and the extra weight keeps greater pressure on the molten metal
and hence reduces the porosity size.

There is a little more waste with these sprue and runner arrangements but if it
saves having to remelt a half machined casting it soon pays for itself.
Stainless is always interesting stuff to cast as the metallurgical requirements are so tight.
Otherwise an addition of an alloy can increase flowability.

Once upon a time that software was called the foundry master's experience .

on the problem area as many companies try to reduce the sprue size/weight so that with one
pouring they can fill more moulds....and have less waste!!!

Big failure.

Older engineers never make that mistake (again)!

1) are you certain that they are porosity rather than voids left from nonmetallic inclusions
ripped out during machining? Entrained slag or other materials can cause this.

2) Is Sand the best choice for this part? or just the cheapest?

3) Sprue (s) Size increase will forgive a lot of ills. At the steel mill to increase useable yield on
our Ingot castings we would put on "hot tops" on our big end up molds. This allowed the
gases and other non metallics that evolved (were divorced out of the solidifying matrix)
during solidification to be concentrated in the very top of the ingot/ hot top. This would then
be cropped off, leaving a sound ingot body.

4) Deoxidizer grain refiners - is the foundry using sufficient of these? How do they prevent
reoxidation / gas pickup of melt? Or do they not? Not knowing batch size, if the porosity tends
to be worse on the last ones poured compared to the first ones poured, then gas pick up
during your pour operation is implicated.

Obviously a larger sprue adds cost / reduces metal yield, but compared to
rejected product…

The foundry has done everything in controlling the process parameters like temperature,sand
control,moisture,pouring speed etc., Finally when it came to the gating they had done many
iterations they know to get the best casting".

It sounds like kumar's communication with the foundry is with someone who already has all
the answers he needs. Perhaps the answer lies in the economics of the process. It is easy to
find "solutions", but they all (as suggested) involve significant costs. Is the customer willing to
pay? Is the producer willing to take a reduced profit? Can a new contract be negotiated?
Companies have gone out of business with wrong answers to these questions.

Looking in my reference book "international atlas of casting defects" some of the type of
defects that match your description are: Dispersed Shrinkage, Slag-Blowhole, and Sand
Inclusions. Dispersed Shrinkage - Narrow cavities resembling tears or fissures. Possible Cause
- - Carbon content low. - Nitrogen content too high. - Mold not sufficiently rigid. Remedies - -
Reduce nitrogen content. - Reduce proportion of steel in the charge. - Substitute alternate
furnace. - Fix the nitrogen in the form of a nitride by use of titanium or aluminum
Slag-Blowhole - Non-metalic inclusions which are usually associated with blowholes within the
inclusion as well as in the mass of the casting. The inclusions are distributed throughout the
casting but occur most often on the cope surface. Possible Cause - - Complex reactions which
occur within the liquid alloy, or between its oxides, the atmosphere, ladle linings or the mold
and its cast. These reactions often arise as a result of the conditions of melting the metal, and
may indeed originate from the quality of the primary materials used or the manner in which
they were produced. Remedies - - Use Primary materials containing a minimum of
internal oxide inclusions or external oxidation such as rust. - Avoid low Si and
high Mn contents, where possible, maintain the ratio Si>Mn+0.5%. - Limit the Al
and Ti contents of the melt. - Keep the sulfur below 0.1%. - Melt and tap at high
temperature. - Maintain correct mold pouring temperature. - Pour rapidly with a
non-turbulent gating system. Sand Inclusions - inclusions of irregular shape,
usually compact, in the vicinity of the cope surface of the casting. Often they are
visible on the rough casting, but may appear only upon machining. Possible
Causes - - Pieces detached from the mold or the cores. - Lack of care in molding. -
Erosion or crush. - Crust formation and detachment of the sand due to expansion
of the silica. I'm a quality guy and not an engineer, this book has helped me many
times in the past. It is published by the American Foundrymen's Society, Inc. Hope this helps .

Aggressive mixing, improper pouring, moisture contamination and excessive exotherm can
cause porosity in a casting.

When mixing casting resins and hardeners, avoid inducing air into the mixture by aggressive
mixing action. Either stir the material with a spatula or use a mechanical mixer and drill motor.
Some mixers, like those of the Jiffy Mixer line, induce less air than others. The best way to
remove trapped air due to mixing is to vacuum degas (de-air) the mixture in a vacuum
chamber before pouring.

Air can be trapped during the pouring process. If the casting is to be made as an open-faced
pour, cast the material in a thin stream into the lowest part of the cavity. Allow the resin to
flow out from that point as it pushes the air ahead of the flow. Do not pour the material back
and forth causing it to fold over itself. If casting into a closed cavity, make sure the sprue (fill
tube) is large enough so the resin can flow down without closing off the opening. Always have
the sprue in the lowest part of the casting and provide adequate venting in the highest parts.

Moisture containing materials, like plaster and wood, should be properly sealed and released
before castings are made against them. Otherwise, when the epoxy casting resin exotherms
during the curing process, the heat will draw out the moisture and create surface porosity in
the casting. Using sanding sealer, wax and PVC or PVA film barriers is the best way to protect
the casting.

Choosing the proper hardener speed for the size of the casting and the ambient shop
temperature will minimize exothermic reactions. If these reactions get hot enough, the
casting resin will boil, creating porosity throughout the casting
Other Possible Causes:

Mechanical Gas Entrapment

 A large amount of mold or core gas with insufficient evacuation from the mold cavity
 Entrainment of air due to turbulence in the gating system

Metallurgical Origin

 Excessive gas content in melt

 In the case of steel and irons, formation of carbon monoxide by the reaction of carbon
with oxygen present in the melt.


 Include vents in the mold cavity to allow the escape or air

 Review gating design for turbulent areas
 Ensure that the sprue is kept full during pouring
 Reduce pouring height
 For steel, deoxidize the melt adequately
 For iron, avoid using rusty charge material which will introduce oxides into the melt

Air Entrapment

During production, workers pour molten metal into the mold. During this process, the they do
not always remove all the air from the molten metal. This happens most often during
incomplete casting. Air bubbles become entrapped in the skin, forming alloys during the filling.
The trapped air expands due to the heat and then contracts when the metal freezes, leading
to pores caused by blowholes. When gases are dissolved in liquid metal and become less
soluble during solidification, pinholes can form. This comes from small bubbles that form from
the less soluble gas. These bubbles are like the bubbles found in carbonated drinks.


Some of the porosity in castings comes from oxides. Most of the porosity on the surface of the
casting comes from oxide formation. Re-oxidization inclusions can cause much of the porosity
in the castings. When blasting removes the inclusion material, the porosity associated with it
remains in the casting. This process can leave behind gassy areas in this steel casting.


During solidification, casting can experience shrinkage. This happens when the liquid metal
on the surface of the casting goes under a depression due to exposure to the atmosphere,
causing a contraction in the metal on the inside. Then, atmospheric pressure pushes the
metal downwards or inwards. We see only the depression on the surface of the casting.
Shrinkage porosity can also occur when solid substance surrounds a liquid and solid material
is strong enough to resist the depression of the contracting liquid. This leads to pores that are
usually greater than 3mm. The pores are mostly on the inside of the castings.

The process is manual sodium silicate process. This is a mixture of sea sand with sodium
silicate oil hardened by Co2. I could see this sand does not retain moisture versus others
which is good for the mold_

Sea sand means nothing to me. Are the particles shape round or irregular. Sodium Silicate
may not be the best binder for your process. It may have a tendency to produce gasses once
heated. If your pouring steel I might assume your pouring at or around 2,850 deg F(1650°C).
This is in the upper areas of what silicate may like. I might suggest contacting a supplier of
iso-cure or iso-cyanate processes as they handle the temperatures better.

You also might look into zircon sands. These work well with the above processes and will not
wash away, especially with thin casting sections.

Since you are casting a valve body of some complex nature I would like to know what your
core is made of. Are you using shell or also CO2? If shell, what % of binder and what side
grain? If a CO2 core, what is the sugar content of the material and in fact what material are
you using and what AFS GFN number? How are they venting the core and are they bringing
the vent out to the flask joint? Can you see evidence of the out gassing? Is there any evidence
of gas evolution in the risers or the sprue after pouring? How long do the molds sit before
pouring and how humid is it there? Are we talking tropical conditions? If so, how long before
pouring do they make the cores up especially if they are CO2 and not shell? Are you using a
mold or shell coating and is it alcohol base or water base? CO2 molds and cores will absorb
moisture from the atmosphere when left open. Just because it is not green sand doesn't mean
that moisture is not involved.

If the sprue is too large and doesn't properly choke back the flow and keep the sprue full then
you will aspirate the metal aI would not recommend just opening up the sprue size unless you
are going to increase the runner(s) and gate sizes accordingly. Not totally familiar with the
accepted ratios in 316 but for non-ferrous we talk 1:2:4 generally. nd you will have added gas
and even if you have properly degassed your metal in the ladle it will all have gone to waste.

Most higher nickel-chrome alloys tend to gas. Nickel-Bronze which I have poured can really
gas up on you as did CrCu alloys. We always kept our superheat as low as possible. I would
image that with 316 you would want to have a generously sized gating system with the proper
ratio to minimize the need for too much superheat and to fill the mold in a short amount of
time without too much turbulence.

If the porosity is uniform throughout the casting then it is most often entrained in your metal
and is most often a melting issue which can be insufficient degassing practice, impurity in the
feed materials which create gas during the melting, excessive super-heating of the material
especially if high humidity exists.

If it is just under the skin then it is generally a product of out-gassing of either your molding
medium or your core. Excessive amounts of binder in either of those can create out-gassing.
If your sand GFS is too fine then you may not have good permeability and the gas can't vent

Since you have indicated that it is generally found inside the valve I would look into the core
material, any core wash used, the venting of the core and the path of the gas to the flask
edge, the binder % being used and the GFS of the sand. Also check for any signs that the core
has cracked either before use or during pouring. A cracked core can often lead to internal
venting of the off-gas instead of removal through the venting system provided. Large gas
bubbles on the interior walls will generally be indicative that your core is off-gassing inside the
casting due to cracking. Fine porosity just below the skin interior or exterior generally means
that the gas is being generated off the surface of the core or mold. Large blows or gas holes
will generally mean wet areas of cores, molds or chills.

If you have a photo it would be helpful to see the actual nature. One mans porosity can be
another mans shrinkage or blow, scab or rat tail or foreign material. How uniform the porosity
can also be a tell tail of the cause.