A Near-Surface Layer Heat Treatment of Die Casting Dies by Means of Electron-Beam Technology
Increasing the service life of die casting dies is an important goal of the foundry industry. Approaches are either material- or process-related. Despite new material concepts, hot work steels such as H11 are still predominantly used in the uncoated condition for die casting dies. In order to withstand the stresses that occur, this steel is used exclusively in the quenched and tempered condition. Required properties such as high high-temperature strength and high hardness combined with high toughness are, in principle, contradictory and can only be adjusted consistently over the entire die by furnace-based heat treatment. However, the results of various investigations have shown that improvements in the thermal shock resistance and wear resistance of hot work tool steels can be achieved by thermally influencing the microstructure near the surface. Based on these studies and related findings, an approach to surface heat treatment using the electron beam was developed. Due to the particle character of the radiation and the associated possibility of high-frequency beam deflection, the electron beam offers significantly greater flexibility in energy input into the workpiece surface compared with lasers or induction. The overall technological concept envisages replacing furnace-based heat treatment in the production of casting dies by localized and demand-oriented boundary layer heat treatment with the electron beam. The experiments include, on the one hand, the experimental determination of a suitable temperature–time interval with a focus on short-term austenitization. On the other hand, a simulation-based approach of boundary layer heat treatment with validation of a suitable heat source is investigated. Regarding short-term austenitization, the corresponding temperature and time range could be narrowed down more precisely. Some of these parameter combinations seem to be very suitable for practical use. The test specimens show a hard surface layer with a depth of at least up to 6 mm and a very tough buffer layer. Numerical simulation is used to estimate the resulting metallurgical microstructure and the achievable hardness as a function of the temperature–time interval. In addition, the results provided show the possibility of determining and optimizing the material properties by means of a simulation-based approach within the framework of a purely digital process planning and subsequently transferring them into a process planning. In the technical implementation, a temperature control was first established by means of a two-color pyrometer. In the further course of research, the pyrometer will be supplemented by an internally installed infrared camera, which will allow the reproducible setting of specified temperature profiles even for complex, large-area contours in the future.