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Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 13361340

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Journal of Materials Processing Technology
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ j mat pr ot ec
Method to determine hot permeability and strength of ceramic shell moulds
S. Amira
, D. Dub
, R. Tremblay
Aluminum Technology Centre, NRC-ATC, Saguenay, QC, Canada G7H 8C3
Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Laval University, Quebec, QC, Canada G1V 0A6
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 23 November 2010
Received in revised form 1 March 2011
Accepted 3 March 2011
Available online 10 March 2011
Hot permeability
Hot strength
Ceramic shell
Investment molding
a b s t r a c t
This paper reports on an improved method to evaluate both the strength and the permeability of ceramic
shell specimens under high temperature conditions. In order to maintain safe testing conditions and
use lower testing pressure, a spherical wax model, larger than the standard ping-pong ball, was used
to prepare ceramic shells. Compressed air was introduced into ceramic shell specimen held at 900

Air ow and pressure drop across the shell wall were measured and hot permeability was calculated
according to Darcys law. Air pressure was subsequently increased and recorded up to bursting point. A
hoop stress formula was used to calculate the hot strength from the bursting pressure. This very simple
method is easy to implement in foundries.
2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Hot permeability and hot strength, two properties closely
related to the performance of in-service investment casting shells,
are in fact their most reliable performance indicators (Mills, 1995).
Hot strength refers to the mould capacity to resist metallostatic
pressure and preserve the dimensional integrity of castings, while
hot permeability is required to promptly evacuate air and other
entrappedgases during metal lling. The permeability andstrength
of shell materials aremost oftendeterminedindependentlyat room
temperature using two different set-ups; however, extrapolation
of their properties is unreliable and characterization at room tem-
perature does not illustrate shell mould behavior at high service
Hot permeability can be evaluated by a method well described
by Lang et al. (1988) and recommended by the Investment Casting
Institute (1979) using a ceramic shell built on the ping-pong ball
model. After dryingandring, compressedair is introducedintothe
shell test specimen under high temperature. Pressure drop evolu-
tion with ow across the shell walls subsequently leads either to a
permeability factor or to absolute permeability using Darcys law
(Investment Casting Institute, 1979). Permeability index (similar to
the AFS number) may also be obtained from the seconds required
for 1000ml of air compressed at 980Pa to ow through this shell
(Beeley, 1972).
Hot strength is usually determined by the four-point bending
test which requires a tensile machine equipped with compo-

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 418 656 3533; fax: +1 418 656 5343.
E-mail address: dominique.dube@gmn.ulaval.ca (D. Dub).
nents that are capable of withstanding high temperatures. Proper
test bars alignment, regular surface nish, and constant thick-
ness are crucial for sound results. This testing method is often
difcult to conduct, as it is strongly inuenced by experimental
conditions and is rather inaccessible for small- and medium-sized
Shell materials strength has also been evaluated using vari-
ous types of burst tests. Babu et al. (1990) have used spherical
shells pressurized with compressed air to test overall permeabil-
ity at roomtemperature and compared bending strength and hoop
strength. Chennakesava Reddy et al. (2000) used burst testing with
pressurized air to study the permeability and strength of spheri-
cal shells at room temperature and found that the burst test was
superior to the bend test in simulating the casting conditions and
failure rates observedininvestment casting. Ina more recent study,
the bursting resistance of square and cylindrical prismatic shells
has also been tested using pressurized water (Kline et al., 2009).
The authors predictions with regard to the nite element method
overestimated the resistance of the shells because of the presence
of natural defects that were difcult to anticipate.
The burst test was also found to better simulate the properties
of shells used in investment casting (Babu et al., 1990), contrary
to the bend test which determines the strength using a relatively
limited volume of material, less likely to contain defects capable of
rupturing during tests. These authors also found burst strength to
be signicantly more sensitive to defects present in ceramic shells
compared to bending strength, although no test was performed to
nd a more representative strength at high temperature.
The present study therefore explored an innovative method to
rapidly assess the hot permeability and hot strength of ceramic
shells using the same test specimen. Of interest is that this novel
0924-0136/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
S. Amira et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 13361340 1337
Fig. 1. Spherical aluminum mould and hollow wax ball used as model (a); wax ball and Vycor glass tube assembly (b); and shell mould test specimens after dipping and
stuccoing (c).
approach requires no expensive equipment and can thus be easily
implemented in small foundries.
2. Experimental
2.1. Materials
A colloidal silica binder was used to prepare the shell speci-

SP-30 was used as a binder for both the primary

and back-up slurries. A single primary zircon layer was applied.

milled zircon GF (325 mesh) was used as the ller mate-

rial in the slurry. REMET

Zircon Sand A (+70200mesh) was used

as primary stuccoing sand. For the back-up layers, aluminosilicate

, 52%SiO

(60% Al
, 40% SiO
) (325 mesh) were used as ller materials
in the slurry. Aluminosilicate REMASIL

48 RG30 (+2040 mesh)

was used as back-up stuccoing sand. Drying took place for approx-
imately 3h between each coat and a total of three layers were
necessary for each shell.
2.2. Shell specimen preparation
Hollow wax balls (outer diameter 80mm) were used as the
model for shell mould test specimens. Each wax ball was prepared
manually by pouring moltenwax into the spherical cavity of analu-
minummould(Fig. 1a). The mouldwas rotatedto evenly spreadthe
liquid wax on the walls of the mould. Once solid, the hollow wax
ball was extracted and connected to the end of a Vycor glass tube
withsticky wax(Fig. 1b). The endof the waxball-Vycor tube assem-
bly was rst dipped in the zircon slurry and stuccoed with zircon
sand to formthe primary layer. The shell mould was then dipped in
the aluminosilicate slurry and stuccoed with aluminosilicate sand
to produce the secondary layer. Finally, the shell test specimen was
dipped in the aluminosilicate slurry without stuccoing to form the
sealing layer (Fig. 1c). Following a nal drying period, the wax ball
was removed by ash ring which produced a thin ceramic shell
with thickness of approximately 2mm (0.2mm).
2.3. Hot permeability and hot strength measurements
Fig. 2 shows the device used to measure the hot permeability
and hot strength of the shell test specimen. Valves ad were used
to put the device ineither the hot permeability measurement mode
(Fig. 2a), or the hot strength measurement mode (Fig. 2b).
2.4. Hot permeability measurement
The hot permeability measurement was performed prior to the
hot strength measurement. In hot permeability mode (Fig. 2a),
the shell test specimen (5) was placed inside a horizontal tubu-
lar furnace with an inner diameter of 100mm and temperature
was gradually increased. The shell was held at 900

C for 30min
to obtain an even temperature distribution. The Vycor glass tube
was then connected to the testing device, as shown in Fig. 2a, and
compressed air was allowed to owinto the shell. The air owrate
(F) was varied using the appropriate owmeter (2) and the cor-
responding pressure drops (P=P
) were measured using a
Fig. 2. Set-ups usedfor themeasurement of (a) hot permeabilityand(b) hot strength
of shell test specimen. (1) pressure regulator; (2) owmeters; (3) water manometer;
(4) tube furnace; (5) shell test specimen; (6) pressure sensor; (7) data acquisition
card. (ad represent the valves).
1338 S. Amira et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 13361340
water manometer (3). Darcys law was used to calculate the hot
permeability of shell according to the ow rates values and corre-
sponding pressure drop. An example of permeability calculation is
given further.
2.5. Hot strength measurement
Thehot strengthof theshell test specimen(5) was determinedat

Cusingcompressedair appliedintothetest specimen(Fig. 2b).

Air pressure was then gradually increased at a rate of close to
MPa s
by means of a pressure regulator (1) until burst-
ing of the shell was achieved. The corresponding bursting pressure
) was then measured with the pressure sensor (6) connected to
a data acquisition card (7). Pressure variation over time within the
shell specimen was recorded by a computer. The data acquisition
rate was 10Hz. Safety precautions were observed during the test to
protect both the operators and the equipment from debris thrown
out by the bursting shells. For this purpose, a steel grid covered the
tube furnace.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Hot permeability determination
Hot permeability k is determined by Darcys law(in its differen-
tial form) as applied to ows through spherical shells:
where is the dynamic viscosity of the owing uid
Ns m
for air at 900

C), k is the permeability (m

and F is the volume ow rate (m
). Under these conditions, air
is compressible and considered an ideal gas:



is the mass ow rate, is the hot air density, M
is the molar mass of air, T is the temperature (K) and R the gas
Rearrangement of Eq. (2) thus led to:

dr =
PdP (3)
Integration between r
and r
for the rst term (outer and inner
radius of the shell specimen, respectively), and between P
and P
for the second term (inner and outer pressures of shell test speci-
men, respectively) led to the following equation:




) (4)
where, after rearrangement, Eq. (4) becomes:



= (P)
where P represents the pressure prevailing at the location of ow
measurement. Assuming that for small pressure drop through shell
wall, (P
)/2P1, the following approximation was deemed
= P


F (6)
The method used to calculate the hot permeability for a set
of n-tested shell specimens is presented hereafter. As previously
described, the hot permeability assessment was based on the
recording of air ow F evolution with the corresponding pressure
drop P through the shell specimen walls. Fig. 3 shows data tted
Fig. 3. Pressure drop variation (P) with the owrate (F) through the walls of three
shell specimens testedunder identical conditions. Linear regressionwas determined
using the least squares method.
by a linear regression in the case of three shell specimens tested at

The slope s of the linear regression curve, as determined by
least squares method, was the proportionality coefcient between
pressure drop P and volume ow rate F, giving:
s =

and hot permeability was expressed as:
k =

From this example (Fig. 3), the calculated hot permeability was
k =3.410
witha relative error of approximately10%, which
was mainly attributed to uncertainty as to shell thickness.
3.2. Hot strength determination
Assuming that the shell specimen was a thin-walled spherical
shell, the hot strength was equivalent to the hoop stress at burst-
ing point. The formula used to determine the hot strength was
where P
is the bursting pressure (MPa), d is the internal radius of
the spherical shell specimen (m) and t is its thickness (m).
Using the bursting pressure P
expressedinFig. 4andEq. (9), the
hot strength of the shell was estimated to be 2.1MPa, with a rela-
tive error of approximately 10% which was essentially attributed to
uncertaintyas toshell thickness andvariations of burstingpressure.
Fig. 4. Air pressure variation inside the shell test specimen and determination of
the bursting pressure (P
) at T =900

S. Amira et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 13361340 1339
Table 1
Comparison of various ceramic shell permeability and strength determination studies.
Method Test specimens Testing temp References
Model Shape/size
Permeability (absolute) Ping-pong ball (611 layers) Spherical (38mm dia. 56mm)
High temp. Lang et al. (1988)
Bend test (mod. of rupture) Wax strips (N/A) Rectangular (dimensions not
Permeability (index) Tennis ball (6 layers) Spherical (75mm dia.)
Room temp. Babu et al. (1990) Burst test (hoop strength)
Bend test (mod. of rupture) Perspex strips (6 layers) Rectangular
Permeability (index) Ping-pong ball (6
Spherical (38mm
dia. 5mm) Room temp.
Chennakesava Reddy
et al. (2000)
Burst test (hoop strength)
Bend test (mod. of rupture) Wax strips (6 layers) Rectangular
Permeability (AFS index and Darcy) Foam (58 layers) Cylindrical (30.5mm
dia. 76.2mm long) (internal
Room temp.
Kline et al. (2009)
Burst test (with pressurized water) Square prisms
(internal dimensions)
Bend test (mod. of rupture) Foam strips (N/A) Rectangular (25.4mm wide
Room/high temp.
Permeability (absolute) Hollow wax ball (3
Spherical (80mm
dia. 2mm)
High temp.
Present work
Burst test (hoop strength)
3.3. Discussion
The sequential of hot permeability and hot strength measure-
ments at high temperature on the same specimen were simple to
execute, thereby enabling to easily replace the four-point bend
test with a burst test. Compared to the conventional hot per-
meability test described by Lang et al. (1988) and recommended
by the Investment Casting Institute (1979), the advantage of a
larger wax model lies in the greater ceramic shell surface exposed
to the conditions encountered in investment mould casting
Another benet of using a burst test is that the defects gen-
erated within the ceramic shell during the manufacturing process
(drying and de-waxing steps), more resemble those encountered in
foundry operation. Inaddition, the burst test requires nomachining
to obtain a smooth surface nish which is mandatory in the four-
point bend test method. Besides, compared to four-point bend test,
tensilestresses inthespherical shell aremoreuniformlydistributed
over the shell volume during testing.
Machined specimens used in the four-point bend test are sub-
ject to both tensile and compression stresses which is far from the
stress distribution in service conditions and during the manufac-
turing process. Furthermore, this test may lead to errors caused
by unequal moments at the inner loading points, twisting result-
ing from skewed contact lines, wedging stresses at the contact
points, and counter moments produced by friction at the loading
points/specimen interface (Hoagland et al., 1976). Calculating the
strength from the maximal bending torque located in the mid-
dle of the sample may also lead to an over-estimation of the
strength. Indeed, in the case of brittle materials, the failure may
not necessarily be initiated at the point of the highest nominal
stress, but rather at the greatest surface or volume critical aw
(Quinn, 1991).
More important, using the four-point bendtest todetermine hot
strength is not only technically difcult but also requires sophisti-
cated equipments, which may limit its access for many investment
casting professionals. It is interesting to note that the four-point
bendtest, as describedby the Investment Casting Institute, pertains
to green or red samples at room temperature; high temperatures
tests, on the other hand, are never mentioned (Quinn, 1991).
The burst test enables operators to avoid all of the above-
mentioned drawbacks (unequal moments, twisting, wedging, and
friction), as there is no direct contact between the shell specimen
and a loading device (typically knife edges or cylindrical rollers
in the case of four-point bend test). In contrast, during the burst
test, stress concentration sources are minimized because (1) the
pressure is applied uniformly over the inner surface of the shell
spherical specimen, (2) the shell specimen has no edges, and (3)
the thickness of the shell is relatively uniform.
Contrary to the four-point bend test, the burst test at high tem-
perature requires additional safety precautions. In this study, the
thickness of the tested shell specimens was limited to approx-
imately 3mm so as to safely maintain the maximum bursting
pressure (P
) below 0.35MPa. The heating elements of the fur-
nace were also covered with a ceramic shield to protect against
the bursting fragments. In this regard, a strong wire mesh enclo-
sure was placed in front of the furnace during testing to collect any
fragment while allowing for the evacuation of the compressed air
released during the bursting process. A ventilation systemwas also
employed to collect the dust.
Most of the leading studies on permeability and strength testing
of ceramic shells usedininvestment castingare listedinTable 1and
represent the wide variety of methods and test specimens used in
different laboratories, thus makingit difcult topresent anaccurate
comparison of shell performances.
4. Conclusions

The method proposed inthis study allows for the sequential eval-
uation of both the hot permeability and hot strength of ceramic
shells used for investment casting.

Hot permeability and hot strength can be determined using the

same device and with the same specimen, contrary to conven-
tional methods where permeability and strength are assessed
using different specimens with various models, shapes and sizes.
1340 S. Amira et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 211 (2011) 13361340

Hot strength is determined much easier by burst test than by

four-point bend test.

Contrary to the four-point bend test, the burst test provides the
added advantage of simulating stresses applied on ceramic shell
moulds under service conditions.
The authors would like to thank the Natural Sciences and Engi-
neering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for their nancial
support. Special thanks go to M. Choquette, J. Frenette, as well
as to M. Larouche (Laval University) for the microanalysis, X-ray
diffraction and metallography, respectively.
Babu, K.M., Jebaraj, P.M., Chowdiah, M.P., 1990. Standardization of investment cast-
ing process using modied binder hydrolysis. Bulletin of Materials Science 13
(3), 227234.
Beeley, P.R., 1972. Foundry Technology. Halsted Press Division. John Wiley and Sons
Inc., New York, pp. 149150.
Chennakesava Reddy, A., Murti, V.S.R., Jebaraj, P.M., 2000. A newtechnique for mea-
surement of the strength of ceramic shells in the precision casting process.
Journal of Testing and Evaluation 28 (3), 224226.
Hoagland, R.G., Marschall, C.W., Duckworth, W.H., 1976. Reduction of errors
in ceramic bend tests. Journal of the American Ceramic Society 59 (56),
Investment Casting Institute, 1979. Ceramics Testing Guidebook, 136 Summit
Avenue, Montvale, New Jersey 07645-1720 USA, p. 167.
Kline, D.M., Lekakh, S.N., Richards, V.L., Chandrashekhara, K., Chen, J., 2009. Stucco
size comparison and simulated pressure loading of investment casting shells.
AFS Transactions, Paper No. 09-072, 113.
Lang, W., Learmonth, D., McCallum, R., 1988. Hot permeability of shell moulds:
its measurement and place in process technology. In: Proceedings of the 36th
Annual Meeting of the Investment Casting Institute , p. 29.
Mills, D., 1995. Investment Materials and Ceramic Shell Manufacture. Institute of
Materials, University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 65122.
Quinn, G.D., 1991. Strength and Proof Testing ASMEngineered Materials Handbook,
Ceramics and Glasses, vol. 4. ASM International, Materials Park, OH, USA, pp.