Applications of aluminium alloys are spreading in many industrial fields, thanks to the excellent compromise between mechanical performances and lightness assured by such materials. The world-wide interest to design aluminium components is a witness of the need to sustain researches committed to a more effective utilisation of this material. Aluminium alloys are actually used in terms of about 100 kg for each commercially available car (according to European Aluminium Association, EAA) , and a significant growth is expected in next years. The developments of activities aimed at extending the use of aluminium as a structural material (replacing steel and/or cast iron) or at designing more precisely aluminium components or at improving casting yield is a strategic point for a further diffusion of this material, resulting in added values, such as reduced weight and then emission of pollutants.
The goal of the IDEAL project is the set up of an integrated suite of software tools for the design and production of more reliable, efficient and optimised Aluminium cast components. This result, which has strong implications in terms of exploitation of the potential of Aluminium castings, will be the sum of different and specific achievements.
The main scientific objective is to have a better understanding of the evolution of the aluminium structure during casting (including filling of die and solidification) and post casting process stages. Great interest is also on residual stresses in the component after cooling.
Technological objectives are aimed to a more efficient exploitation of material, by supplying realistic mechanical characteristics to designers. In particular, the main technical objective is the integration of numerical codes performing simulation of the casting process (with prediction of the microstructural and mechanical behaviour of cast alloys), optimisation of the manufacturing cycle and structural analysis (including the analysis of crash behaviour of cast components). Up to now, during the design stage of a component, its mechanical properties have been regarded as constants. In the reality, all properties of cast products change due to the different microstructural features produced by different cooling rates achievable (consider, e.g., the effects induced by different wall thickness) and to the defects such as porosity, oxides, strongly affecting the performances. Efficiency of design, achieved by means of the use of optimisation techniques, will supply strong reductions on testing time, lead time to market and costs for the industries.
Technical achievements will be lighter and reliable components.
The project is focussed on three different demonstrators (cylinder heads, transmission case and suspension part), produced by gravity casting or by diecasting. The quantification of the objective, in terms of weight reduction, can be done only with a certain degree of tolerance. The actual (i.e. at the start of the project) design and size of these components will be taken as the reference. The objective will be reached when a weight reduction ranging from 10 to 20% will be achieved, by means of the integrated software tool developed during the project.