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Melting copper–nickel alloys

Nickel increases the solubility of hydrogen in copper melts, so it is necessary


to melt under an oxidising cover of CUPREX, followed by degassing with
the Rotary Degassing Unit or LOGAS 50 to eliminate the hydrogen, then
finally to deoxidise.

For a 100 kg melt, use 2 kg of CUPREX 1 blocks, degas with one LOGAS 50
briquette
and deoxidise with DEOXIDISING TUBES MG (3 MG6 tubes for 100 kg). Note
that Cu–Ni alloys may be embrittled by phosphorus, so DEOXIDISING TUBES
DS should not be used.

Recommended pouring temperatures

Light castings, under 15 mm section 1400°C


Medium castings, 15–40 mm section 1350°C
Heavy castings, over 40 mm section 1280°C

Filtration of copper-based alloys

Copper-based alloys, particularly those containing aluminium such as the


Al–bronzes and some of the brasses, benefit greatly from filtration in the
mould. SEDEX ceramic foam filters are recommended.
Melting and treatment of high conductivity copper
The quality of high conductivity copper is measured by its electrical
conductivity. Pure copper in the annealed condition has a specific electrical
resistance of 1.72 microhms per cubic cm at 20°C. This is said to have 100%
electrical conductivity IACS (International Annealed Copper Standard
units). Cast copper can have a conductivity of 90% IACS and has both
electrical and thermal applications since high electrical conductivity also
implies high thermal conductivity. Many of the impurities likely to be
present in copper lower its electrical conductivity seriously, Table 16.7.
Cu–C (HCC1) copper is used for water-cooled tuyeres and electrode
clamps, it must have 86% IACS minimum so must be of high purity with
only small additions of Cr or Ag to extend the freezing range and make
casting easier.
For less onerous duties, copper having tin or zinc up to 2% may be used.
A degree of conductivity is sacrificed to allow better casting properties and
for ease of machining.
Where greater hardness and strength are required, copper–chromium
castings CC1-TF may be used. This alloy requires to be heat treated (1 hour
at 900°C, followed by quenching to room temperature and reheating to
500°C for 1–5 hrs) to realise its full properties.
High purity copper is particularly prone to gas porosity problems due
both to hydrogen and the hydrogen/oxygen reaction which occurs if any
oxygen is present in the molten metal. Steps must be taken, during melting,
to exclude both hydrogen and oxygen from the melt. The principles
involved are:
Melt quickly, using the lowest temperature possible, under a reducing
cover flux
Purge with an inert gas to remove hydrogen
Add deoxidants to remove residual oxygen, ensuring that residual
deoxidant does not reduce the conductivity
Melting
The charge materials must be carefully selected to avoid impurities which
can reduce the conductivity. Before charging, the copper must be clean and
degreased to avoid any hydrogen-containing contaminants. Clean and dry
crucibles, lids, plungers and slag stoppers must be used. The crucible should
be preheated before charging to minimise the time that the copper is solid
and unprotected by flux. Melt down under a reducing cover of CUPRIT 8;
the flux should be placed in the bottom of the crucible prior to charging. 1 kg
of CUPRIT 8 is needed per 100 kg of metal.
The effect of impurities and alloying elements on the
electrical conductivity of pure copper
Impurity % % IACS
Aluminium 0.1 85
Antimony 0.1 90
Arsenic 0.1 75
Beryllium 0.1 85
Cadmium 1.0 90
Chromium 1.0 80
Calcium 0.1 98
Iron 0.1 70
Magnesium 0.1 94
Manganese 0.1 88
Nickel 0.1 95
Phosphorus 0.1 50
Silicon 0.1 65
Silver 1.0 97
Tin 1.0 55
Zinc 1.0 90
Degassing
Hydrogen is removed from the melt by bubbling an inert gas through the
melt. This can be done using argon or nitrogen using the Mobile Degassing
Unit or less effectively by injecting gas through a graphite
tube immersed deep into the melt. 50–70 litres of gas are needed for each
100 kg of copper.
An alternative way to degas is to plunge LOGAS 50 briquettes into the
melt. LOGAS is a granular material, strongly bonded and formed into a
weighed unit with high surface area/volume ratio to ensure maximum
contact area with the liquid metal. On contact with the metal, LOGAS 50
decomposes releasing a steady stream of non-reactive gas which flushes out
the hydrogen. LOGAS 50 units are packed in foil, they are of annular shape
having a central hole into which a refractory-coated steel plunger can be
inserted,
Treatment takes from 3 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the melt.
Some loss of temperature occurs during treatment, so the initial treatment
temperature must be chosen accordingly. The minimum temperature
practicable should be used.

Deoxidation
A number of deoxidants are available for copper. They combine
with the dissolved oxygen in the metal forming stable oxides which float out
of the melt. Phosphorus is the most widely used deoxidant for copper and
its alloys because of its effectiveness and low cost. It must be used sparingly
with high conductivity copper since any residual phosphorus left in solution
seriously lowers the conductivity of the copper.
The recommended practice is to use phosphorus to remove most of the
dissolved oxygen and to complete the deoxidation with a calcium boride or
lithium-based deoxidant.
The precise quantity of deoxidant needed depends on the melting practice
used. Simple tests can be made in the foundry to observe the solidification
characteristics of the melt. Open-topped cylindrical test moulds having
impressions about 75 mm high by 50 mm diameter are needed. They can be
formed in a cold-setting resin or silicate sand mixture. When the melt is
ready for deoxidation, a sample of the copper should be ladled into one of
the moulds and allowed to solidify. If the head rises appreciably , a very
gassy metal is indicated. DEOXIDISING TUBES DS
containing phosphorus must be plunged and further test castings made. At
the point when the quantity of phosphorus added results in a shallow sink
in the head, it can be assumed that the residual phosphorus
content of the melt is nil and a small amount, about 0.008% of oxygen,
remains.
Deoxidation is now completed by plunging DEOXIDISING TUBES CB or
L, adding sufficient to produce a test casting having a head with a deep sink
. The melt is now in a condition to produce castings free from
porosity. The approximate additions needed are shown below:
Weight of melt
DEOXIDISING TUBES
25 kg 50 kg 75 kg 100 kg 200 kg
400 kg
DS1 & 1 DS1 1 DS2 1 DS3 2 DS4 2 DS4 1 DS6
CB 1 CB3 2 CB3 3 CB3 1 CB6 2 CB6 4 CB6
DEOXIDISING TUBES L, containing lithium, can be used as the final
deoxidant in place of DEOXIDISING TUBES CB. An application rate of
0.018–0.02% of product should be used. In addition to being an excellent
deoxidant, lithium also removes traces of hydrogen. This is found to reduce
the incidence of cracks in complex cast shapes.
Casting conditions
HC copper, being almost pure copper, has an extremely short freezing range.
It is very weak at the point of solidification so that moulds and cores must
not be too strong. Resin bonded sand is suitable and the resin percentage
must be as low as possible, the minimum necessary for handling the mould
and cores. Gating should be designed to minimise turbulence on pouring, in
order to avoid the possibility of oxygen pick-up,
Recommended casting temperatures
Light castings < 15 mm section 1250°C
Medium castings 15–40 mm section 1200°C
Heavy castings >40 mm section 1150°C
Melting and treatment of high conductivity copper alloys
Copper– Silver additions should be made in the form of Cu–Ag master alloy
and
introduced into the melt after degassing but prior to deoxidation. The same
dual deoxidation process used for pure copper is recommended.
The simplest form of gating for small to medium size
castings.
1. Tapered sprue to reduce formation of air bubbles.
2. Deep basin to receive first turbulent impact of metal.
3. Ingate tapering out to reduce metal velocity. Note
position of ingate at top of sprue basin.
2. Progressively narrowing runner to keep
runner bar full; this reduces dross formation.
Note runner bar extention to trap dross.

Copper–cadmium
Degassing and deoxidation by the dual treatment must be completed before
cadmium is added. The molten copper can be tapped directly onto pure
cadmium metal as the metal is transferred from the melting furnace to a
pouring ladle. The use of a Cu–Cd master alloy is preferable, since lower
cadmium losses occur. Molten cadmium evolves toxic brown fumes so good
ventilation is needed.
Copper–chromium
Cu–Cr master alloy should be added after degassing but before deoxidation.
The chromium alloy should be thoroughly stirred in to ensure a
homogeneous solution. A chromium loss of 10–30% may be expected
depending on the state of oxidation of the melt. Phosphorus additions
should only be made if a test casting shows a rising head. Normally the
chromium addition and a final deoxidation with calcium-boride or lithium
is sufficient. Any residual phosphorus left in the alloy will upset its response
to heat treatment.

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