Molding Sand: Constituents, Types and Properties

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The general sources of receiving molding sands are the sea shores, rivers, lakes, deserts and granular elements of rocks.
Molding sands can be classified mainly into two types namely natural or synthetic.
Natural molding sands contains sufficient amount of binder material. Whereas synthetic molding sands are prepared artificially using basic sand molding constituents (silica sand in 85-91%, binder 6-11%, water or moisture content 2-8%) and other additives in proper proportion by weight with perfect mixing and mulling in suitable equipment’s.

1. Constituents of Molding Sand

The main constituents of molding sand involve silica sand, binder, moisture content and additives.

1.1 Silica sand

Silica sand in form of granular quarts is the main constituent of molding sand having enough refractoriness which can impart strength, stability and permeability to molding and core sand. But along with silica small amounts of iron oxide, alumina, lime stone (CaCO3), magnesia, soda and potash are present as impurities. The chemical composition of silica sand gives an idea of the impurities like lime, magnesia, alkalis etc. present. The presence of excessive amounts of iron oxide, alkali oxides and lime can lower the fusion point to a considerable extent which is undesirable. The silica sand can be specified according to the sand grain size and the shape (angular, sub-angular and rounded) of the sand.

1.2 Binder

Binders can be either inorganic or organic substance. Binders included in the inorganic group are clay sodium silicate and port land cement etc. In foundry shop, the clay acts as binder which may be Kaolinite, Ball Clay, Fire Clay, Limonite, Fuller’s earth and Bentonite. Binders included in the organic group are dextrin, molasses, cereal binders, linseed oil and resins like phenol formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde etc. Binders of organic group are mostly used for core making. Among all the above binders, the bentonite variety of clay is the most commonly used. However, this clay alone can’t develop bonds among sand grins without the presence of moisture content in molding sand and core sand.

1.3 Moisture

The amount of moisture content in the molding sand varies from 2 to 8%. This amount is added to the mixture of clay and silica sand for developing bonds. This is the amount of water required to fill the pores between the particles of clay without separating them. This amount of water is held rigidly by the clay and is mainly responsible for developing the strength in the sand. The effect of clay and water decreases permeability with increasing clay and moisture content. The green compressive strength first increases with the increase in clay content, but after a certain value, it starts decreasing. For increasing the molding sand characteristics some other additional materials besides basic constituents are added which are known as additives.

1.4 Additives

Additives are the materials generally added to the molding and core sand mixture to develop some special property in the sand. Some commonly used additives for enhancing the properties of molding and core sands are coal dust, corn flour, dextrin, sea coal, pitch, wood flour, silica flour.

1.4.1 Coal dust

Coal dust is added mainly for producing a reducing atmosphere during casting process. This reducing atmosphere results in any oxygen in the poles becoming chemically bound so that it cannot oxidize the metal. It is usually added in the molding sands for making molds for production of grey iron and malleable cast iron castings.

1.4.2 Corn flour

Corn flour belongs to the starch family of carbohydrates and is used to increase the collapsibility of the molding and core sand. It is completely volatilized by heat in the sand mould, thereby leaving space between the sand grains. This allows free movement of sand grains, which finally gives rise to mould wall movement and decreases the mold expansion and hence defects in castings. Corn sand if added to molding sand and core sand improves significantly strength of the mold and core.

1.4.3 Dextrin

Dextrin also belongs to starch family of carbohydrates that behaves also in a manner similar to that of the corn flour. Dextrin increases dry strength of the molds.

1.4.4 Sea coal

Sea coal is the fine powdered bituminous coal which positions its place among the pores of the silica sand grains in molding sand and core sand. When heated, sea coal changes to coke which fills the pores and is unaffected by water. Because to this, the sand grains become restricted and cannot move into a dense packing pattern. Thus, sea coal reduces the mould wall movement and the permeability in mold and core sand and hence makes the mold and core surface clean and smooth.

1.4.5 Pitch

Pitch is distilled form of soft coal. It can be added from 0.02 % to 2% in mold and core sand. Pitch enhances hot strengths, surface finish on mold surfaces and behaves exactly in a manner similar to that of sea coal.

1.4.6 Wood flour

Wood flour is a fibrous material mixed with a granular material like sand. Wood flour is relatively long thin fibers prevent the sand grains from making contact with one another. wood flour can be added in between 0.05 % to 2% in mold and core sand. Wood flour volatilizes when heated, thus allowing the sand grains room to expand. Wood flour will increase mould wall movement and decrease expansion defects. Wood flour also increases collapsibility of both mold and core.

1.4.7 Pulverized Silica or Silica flour

Silica flour is called as pulverized silica. Pulverized silica can be easily added up to 3% which increases the hot strength and finish on the surfaces of the molds and cores. It also reduces metal penetration in the walls of the molds and cores.
molding sand in molding board

2. Different types of Molding Sand:

Molding sands can also be classified into various types according to their use are backing sand, core sand, dry sand, facing sand, green sand, loam sand, parting sand, system sand.

2.1 Backing sand or floor sand

Backing sand or floor sand is used to back up the facing sand and is used to fill the whole volume of the molding flask. Backing sand is sometimes called black sand because of old, repeatedly used molding sand is black in color due to addition of coal dust and burning on coming in contact with the molten metal.

2.2 Core sand

Core sand is used for making cores and it is sometimes also known as oil sand. Core sand is highly rich silica sand mixed with oil binders such as core oil which composed of linseed oil, resin, light mineral oil and other bind materials. Pitch or flours and water may also be used in large cores for the sake of economy.

2.3 Dry sand

Green sand that has been dried or baked in suitable oven after the making mold and cores is called dry sand. It possesses more strength, rigidity and thermal stability. Dry sand is mainly used for larger castings. Mold prepared in this sand are known as dry sand molds.

2.4 Facing sand

Facing sand forms the face of the mould. It is next to the surface of the pattern and it comes into contact with molten metal when the mould is poured. Initial coating around the pattern and hence for mold surface is given by facing sand. Facing sand have high strength refractoriness. Facing sand is made of silica sand and clay, without the use of already used sand. Different forms of carbon are used in facing sand to prevent the metal burning into the sand. A facing sand mixture for green sand of cast iron may consist of 25% fresh and specially prepared and 5% sea coal. They are sometimes mixed with 6-15 times as much fine molding sand to make facings. The layer of facing sand in a mold usually ranges between 20-30 mm. From 10 to 15% of the whole amount of molding sand is the facing sand.

2.5 Green sand

Green sand is also known as tempered or natural sand which is a just prepared mixture of silica sand with 18 to 30% clay, having moisture content from 6 to 8%. The clay and water furnish the bond for green sand. It is fine, soft, light, and porous. Green sand is damp, when squeezed in the hand and it retains the shape and the impression to give to it under pressure. Molds prepared by this sand are not requiring backing and hence are known as green sand molds. Green sand is easily available and it possesses low cost. Green sand is commonly employed for production of ferrous and non-ferrous castings.

2.6 Loam sand

Loam sand is mixture of sand and clay with water to a thin plastic paste. Loam sand possesses high clay as much as 30-50% and 18% of water. Patterns are not used for loam molding and shape is given to mold by sweeps. Loam sand is particularly employed for loam molding used for large grey iron castings.

2.7 Parting sand

Parting sand without binder and moisture is used to keep the green sand not to stick to the pattern and also to allow the sand to the parting surface the cope and drag to separate without clinging. Parting sand is clean clay-free silica sand which serves the same purpose as parting dust.

2.8 System sand

In mechanized foundries where machine molding is employed. System sand is used to fill the whole molding flask. In mechanical sand preparation and handling units, facing sand is not used. The used sand is cleaned and re-activated by the addition of water and special additives. This is known as system sand. Since the whole mold is made of this system sand, the properties such as strength, permeability and refractoriness of the molding sand must be higher than those of backing sand.

3. Properties of Molding sand

The basic properties required in molding sand and core sand are adhesiveness, cohesiveness, collapsibility, flowability, dry strength, green strength, permeability, refractoriness described as under.

3.1 Adhesiveness

Adhesiveness is a property of molding sand to get the stick or adhere to foreign material such sticking of molding sand with the inner wall of molding box.

3.2 Cohesiveness

Cohesiveness is property of molding sand by virtue which the sand grain particles interact and attract each other within the molding sand. Thus, the binding capability of the molding sand gets enhanced to increase the green, dry and hot strength property of molding and core sand.

3.3 Collapsibility

After the molten metal in the mould gets solidified, the sand mould must be collapsible so that free contraction of the metal occurs and this would naturally avoid the tearing or cracking of the contracting metal. In absence of collapsibility property the contraction of the metal is hindered by the mold and thus results in tears and cracks in the casting. This property is highly required in cores.

3.4 Dry strength

As soon as the molten metal is poured into the mould, the moisture in the sand layer adjacent to the hot metal gets evaporated and this dry sand layer must have sufficient strength to its shape in order to avoid erosion of mould wall during the flow of molten metal. The dry strength also prevents the enlargement of mould cavity cause by the metallostatic pressure of the liquid metal.

3.5 Flowability or plasticity

Flowability or plasticity is the ability of the sand to get compacted and behave like a fluid. It will flow uniformly to all portions of pattern when rammed and distribute the ramming pressure evenly all around in all directions. Generally sand particles resist moving around corners or projections. In general, flowability increases with decrease in green strength and vice versa. Flowability increases with decrease in grain size of sand. The flowability also varies with moisture and clay content in sand.

3.6 Green strength

The green sand after water has been mixed into it, must have sufficient strength and toughness to permit the making and handling of the mould. For this, the sand grains must be adhesive, i.e. they must be capable of attaching themselves to another body and. therefore, and sand grains having high adhesiveness will cling to the sides of the molding box. Also, the sand grains must have the property known as cohesiveness i.e. ability of the sand grains to stick to one another. By virtue of this property, the pattern can be taken out from the mould without breaking the mould and also erosion of mould wall surfaces does not occur during the flow of molten metal. The green strength also depends upon the grain shape and size, amount and type of clay and the moisture content.

3.7 Permeability

Permeability is also termed as porosity of the molding sand in order to allow the escape of any air, gases or moisture present or generated in the mould when the molten metal is poured into it. All these gaseous generated during pouring and solidification process must escape otherwise the casting becomes defective. Permeability is a function of grain size, grain shape, and moisture and clay contents in the molding sand. The extent of ramming of the sand directly affects the permeability of the mould. Permeability of mold can be further increased by venting using vent rods.

3.8 Refractoriness

Refractoriness is defined as the ability of molding sand to withstand high temperatures without breaking down or fusing thus facilitating to get sound casting. It is a highly important characteristic of molding sands. Refractoriness can only be increased to a limited extent. Molding sand with poor refractoriness may burn on to the casting surface and no smooth casting surface can be obtained. The degree of refractoriness depends on the SiO2 i.e. quartz content, and the shape and grain size of the particle. The higher the SiO2 content and the rougher the grain volumetric composition the higher is the refractoriness of the molding sand and core sand. Refractoriness is measured by the sinter point of the sand rather than its melting point.

3.9 Miscellaneous properties of molding sand

In addition to above requirements, the molding sand should not stick to the casting and should not chemically react with the metal. Molding sand need be economically cheap and easily available in nature. It need be reusable for economic reasons. Its coefficients of thermal expansion need be sufficiently low.

Reference and further reading:

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