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Procedia Engineering 200(2010)
(2009) 759765
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Fatigue 2010

Fatigue Properties and Micromechanism of Fracture of an


AlSiMg0.6 Cast Alloy Used in Diesel Engine Cylinder Head
MATTOS, J.J.I.a, UEHARA, A.Y.b, SATO, M.b, FERREIRA, I.b, *
a
MWM-International, Canoas, RS, CEP 92420-000, Brazil
b
Department of Materials, College of Mechanical Engineering, University of Campinas (UNICAMP),Campinas, SP, CEP 13083-970, Brazil

Received 3 March 2010; revised 10 March 2010; accepted 15 March 2010

Abstract

The increase usage of casting aluminumsilicon alloys in the automotive industry is due to reduce weight, fuel consumption, and
emission levels. It includes the aluminum-silicon cast alloy EN AlSiMg0.6 (ASTM A357.0) which is used to make diesel engine
cylinder head. It is important to know the impact on the integrity and reliability of this component in the presence of intrinsical
defects of conventional casting parts produced on permanent mold process. Such defects, as porosity and oxide film, when
located on the surface or subsurface of casting parts, can be fatigue crack initiators. In this paper, the fatigue strength and
micromechanisms of fracture is analyzed using 7x14x60mm specimens machined from cylinder head drew from production
assembly line, and submitted to fatigue three point bending tests. Fracture surface of the fatigue specimens were analysed by
SEM to characterize the micromechanism and the initiation fracture local. The average fatigue strength, based on 106 cycles, was
about 140MPa. It was observed on the fracture surface of fatigue test specimens, a clear contrast between the micromechanism of
fatigue zone (striations) and the final fracture zone (dimples), and fatigue crack initiation occurs at the porosities near the surface.
c 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Keywords: Aluminum-silicon alloy; Fatigue; Engine cylinder head.

1. Introduction

Recently, the automotive industry has passed through some changes due to a tendency in the substitution of the
components made of steel and cast iron by metal alloys that present some specific advantages, such as: reduced
weight, improved mechanical properties and consequent fuel saving (improved energetic efficiency and reduced
greenhouse gas emissions). In this context, diesel engine cylinder head made of aluminum alloy is included, and
when compared with cast iron, these alloys present higher corrosion resistance, better thermal efficiency and easier
casting processing due to its lower melting point and higher fluidity, which enables to obtain more complex
geometric shapes.
In the manufacturing of cylinder heads for diesel engine the most used materials are the aluminum alloys and cast
iron, due to their excellent casting properties [1]. The casting process of aluminum alloys are associated some
defects as porosities and oxide inclusions, which can be crack initiators with great potential, reducing the life service

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +55 19 3521 3312; fax: +55 19 3289 3722.
E-mail address: itamar@fem.unicamp.br (I. Ferreira).

1877-7058 c 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2010.03.082
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of the component and even lead to its final rupture. Defects related to oxide inclusion have more importance when
there is no presence of porosities, because they present two-dimensional morphology and they have higher
dependence on the loading direction (on the other hand, porosities present three-dimensional morphology - cavities).
Thus, the influence of oxide inclusions on fatigue life is reduced when compared to porosities, especially when one
considers the critical size and location of defects [2].
Porosities are formed by hydrogen precipitation in the liquid solution, contraction during the solidification
process, mold-metal reaction, high temperature oxidation, blowholes (cavities, essentially spherical, often not
contacting the external casting surface, produced because of gas entrapped in the metal during the course of
solidification), and usually by the combination of these effects [3]. Because it is the most common defect in cast
components, affect the strength of the material and specially ductility, porosities become critical in applications
involving cyclic loadings (fatigue) as in the cylinder head case [4]. Some researchers indicate that such porosities
are the main factor controlling fatigue properties of the aluminum alloys [5]. This may be more pronounced when
size and quantity of such defects exceed some certain values [6]. There is a good accordance among researchers in
the literature about the role of porosities in the study of fatigue crack propagation in aluminum alloys, because it was
found that crack initiates at pores located on the surface of the specimens or in the vicinity of the surface,
associating the notch effect with maximum cyclic loadings, see [5, 7-12].
The aim of this work is to determine and analyze the fatigue properties and fracture micromechanisms of the
aluminum-silicon cast alloy EN AlSiMg0.6 (T61) which is used to make diesel engine cylinder head.

2. Materials and Methods

To perform this experiment, it was chosen a diesel engine cylinder head of aluminum-silicon cast alloy EN
AlSiMg0.6-T61 which weight and dimensions are 12.7 kg and 460 x 210 x 128 mm, respectively. This component
was previously subjected to a solution heat treatment and artificially aged (T61). The chemical analysis of the
material was performed by optical spectrometry using Spectrolab LVO M3, showing that the material of the
cylinder head corresponds to AlSi7Mg0.6 alloy according to BSI 169:1986 [13] as shown in Table 1.
Mechanical properties including tensile strength, yield strength and elongation were determined from specimens
machined from some diesel engine cylinder heads, after heat treatment. The Brinell hardness test was performed
according to ASTM E 10-08, using load of 250 kg, steel ball of 5mm (HBS 10/250), durometer Emco Test, model
MSC 030 G3.
Tensile test was performed according to ASTM E8M-08. Values of 281 MPa for the tensile strength ( TS ), 254
MPa for the yield strength ( YS ), and 3.8% for the elongation, were determined and are in accordance with the
specification of the alloy EN AlSiMg0.6-T61.
Three point bending fatigue tests were conducted according to ASTM 466-07 [14]. These fatigue tests of
7x14x60 mm specimens (machined from some cylinder heads) and bending support span of 54 mm were performed
in a MTS (Material Testing System), model Teststar II, with capacity of 10 tons (100kN), frequency of 25 Hz, and
load ratio of 0.1. The fatigue strength was determined by using thirteen specimens and the starcase method.

Table 1. Chemical composition of the used material - EN AlSiMg0.6. Minimum and maximum values from three analysis.

Element Si Cu Zn Sn Ni Fe Mg Pb Ti Sn Sr
%min 6.89 0.083 0.031 - 0.020 0.145 0.464 0.027 0.100 - -
Determined values
%max 7.38 0.088 0.033 0.008 0.022 0.179 0.489 0.028 0.103 0.008 0.13
%min 6.5 - - - - - 0.50 - 0.10 - -
Reference (BSI 169)
%max 7.5 0.10 0.10 0.05 0.050 0.20 0.75 0.05 0.20 0.05 -
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The fractography was performed using a scanning electron microscope JEO/JXA 840 A and the characterization
of pores was carried out using the Image J 1.41 and the area measurement was performed by color contrast based on
a program guide from Abdalla [15].
More details of the materials and methodology can be found in Mattos [16].

3. Results and Discussion

For the metallographic analysis, samples were taken from the cross section of the fourth cylinder head prepared
in accordance with ASTM E3, etched with Kellers solution and observed by Reichert-Jung, Polyvar Met model,
microscope. It was observed an homogeneous microstructure, where the matrix is composed of solid solution and
the eutectic fiber solid solution (spheroidized silicon particles) as shown in Fig. 1.
Several pores, typical of the end of solidification and also others caused by gas, were identified irregularly
distributed on the sample surface, as shown in Fig. 2. These defects are responsible for the reduction of fatigue life
of components depending on the size and their location.

(a) (b)

Fig. 1. (a) Micrograph showing the microstructure of the used material: matrix composed of solid solution (Al dendrites) and eutectic with Si
particles in globular form (fibrous structure); (b) More detailed micrograph showing the microstructure: Al dendrites ( solid solution) and
spheroidized Si particles of the eutectic. Kellers etchant.

(a) (b)

Fig. 2. (a) Micrograph showing the presence of interdentritic porosity caused by gas with dimensions of 0.2x0.14mm and 0.5x0.2mm; (b)
Micrograph of oxide inclusion with 0.5mm of length and 0.09mm of width. Kellers etchant.
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Thirty four Secondary Dendrites Arm Spacing (SDAS) measurements were performed and calculated by Eq. (1).
These data were analysed by Minitab version 15.1, 2006, resulting in an average value of 48.6m and standard
deviation of 24.9 m. Moreover, the boxplot obtained from these values reveals that 75% of them are below 60 m.

2 =L/nM (1)

where 2 is the SDAS, L is the length of a straight line, M the ampliation of the micrograph, and n the number of
dendritic arms intercepted by the straight line.
The program Image J 1.41 was used to determine average silicon particle size using the method F equivalent
diameter showing an average diameter of 6 m and a standard deviation of 2.6 m.
Thirteen specimens were submitted to fatigue tests using the staircase method to determine the fatigue strength of
the aluminum alloy AlSi7Mg0.6. It can be observed, from Figure 3, that the value of average fatigue strength for 106
cycles is in the stress range from 130 to 144 MPa, resulting a fatigue strength (S N ) value of 140 MPa.
Values obtained for maximum stress and number of cycles to fracture are in accordance with the characteristic
aluminum curves since it does not have the limit level and the increase of the applied stress decreases the number of
cycles to fracture, as can be seen in Fig. 3.
Figures 4(a) and 4(b) show the fracture surface of the bottom region of the fatigue test specimen under tensile
stress. It is possible to observe the approximated region where the crack initiated. Moreover, it is possible to observe
the pore, which has equivalent diameter of 334 m. Figure 5 shows that fatigue zone is characterized by the fracture
micromechanism of fatigue striations; on the other hand, Fig. 6 shows that the fracture micromechanism of the final
fracture zone is characterized by dimples.

Fig. 3. Maximum stress versus the number of cycles to fracture (S-N curve) from the fatigue test for the AlSi7Mg0.6 alloy.

Porosities that initiated cracks are on the surface of the specimen that is subjected to the maximum normal tensile
stress. Besides larger pores were found inside the material they did not initiate cracks due to their remote
localization from the region of maximum tensile stress. Figures 7(a) and 7(b) show porosities due to contraction and
caused by gas, respectively, located far from the region of maximum tensile stress.
Oxide inclusions were not found at surface fracture of the specimens that could initiate fatigue cracks which is
important because the presence of oxide inclusions is also linked with premature failure of engine cylinder head.
Other factors such as silicon particles size, SDAS size and intermetallic iron particles did not influence the
fatigue life in this test due to the preponderance of pores that initiate fatigue cracks.
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The characterization of pores size measured in three specimens by the equivalent diameter method showed as
average equivalent diameter of 422.8 m and standard deviation of 147.4 m, where the smallest pore had 171 m
and the largest 808 m.

(a) (b)

Fig. 4. (a) Fracture surface of the fatigue test specimen. Bottom surface subjected to tensile loads at the fatigue tests. Dashed line reveals
approximately the interface between the fatigue zone and final fracture zone. The arrow shows the pore / crack; (b) Probable fatigue cracking
initiation local - pore and secundary crack with about 334 m.

Fig. 5. Fatigue zone of the fatigue test specimen showing fatigue striations.
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Fig. 6. Final fracture zone of the fatigue test specimen showing dimples.

(a) (b)

Fig. 7. (a) Porosity due to contraction; (b) Porosity caused by gas.

5. Conclusions

The diesel engine cylinder head analyzed in this paper, made of AlSi7Mg0.6 alloy, obtained by permanent mold
casting and subjected to heat treatment T61, showed homogeneous microstructure with matrix and spheroidized
silicon particles in the eutectic with equivalent diameter of 6 m and standard deviation of 2.6 m.
The S-N curve of this alloy represents the typical behavior for aluminum alloys, with an average fatigue strength
value of 140MPa for 106 cycles to fracture.
In the fatigue tests, the surface porosity at the region of maximum tensile stress was the main factor to initiate the
fatigue crack. On the other hand, it was observed bigger pores at the fracture surface, but they did not initiate the
fatigue crack due to their localization far from the maximum tensile stress region. Other factors as oxide inclusions,
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silicon particle size, SDAS size, and intermetallic iron particles did not influence the fatigue life due to the
preponderance of pores that initiate fatigue cracks. Finally, the fracture micromechanism of the fatigue region was
striations and the final fracture region was dimples.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the MWM International, Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul Sate, Brazil and the
University of Campinas, So Paulo Satate, Brazil for the support for this work.

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