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Technical Information 36

Inoculation of Heavy Section Castings


1. General
The important benefits of inoculation are to eliminate the formation of hard, brittle iron car-
bides (cementite) in the structure and promote the formation of graphite during eutectic
solidification. In grey irons benefits include improvements in machinability and mechanical
properties, and also a reduction in the variability of properties caused by differences in
casting section.
In ductile iron, an increase in the number of graphite nodules produces more uniform
structures over a range of section thicknesses. Such structures promote improved mecha-
nical properties, a reduction in the segregation tendency of some alloying or trace ele-
ments in the iron and give better machinability.
Note that certain base iron conditions, such as the initial sulphur content (grey iron), tem-
perature and total “fade” time will affect the selection of a proprietary inoculant. Reference
should be made to Elkem Technical Information Sheets Nos. 15 and 16 to optimise the
selection of an inoculant.

2. Inoculation practices, heavy sections


Inoculants should generally be added to cast iron in at least two of three stages during the
casting procedure:
• To the pouring ladle during filling from the furnace or holder (ladle inoculation)
• To the stream of metal as it enters the mould (late-stream inoculation)
• Using an inoculant insert placed strategically in the mould runner system.
A two-step inoculation has shown great benefits.
As it may be difficult to inoculate in the stream when casting heavy section castings, step
two in the inoculation system could then be to place an insert of correct size in the mould.
For two step inoculation of heavy section castings, it would be preferable to use a barium
containing inoculant, such as Barinoc® inoculant in step 1 and an Al-Ca rich insert,
Elcast® insert in step 2.

3. Inoculation to the ladle


Due to the unavoidable lengths of time involved in handling ladles, it is necessary to add
relatively large amounts of inoculant to offset the fading losses that occur. Addition rates
vary from 0.2% for the majority of grey irons to 0.75% for the most critical ductile irons.
The size grading of the inoculant should be based on the ladle size.
In order to obtain the highest efficiency from the inoculant, simple addition rules should be
followed:
• Add the inoculant to the stream of metal entering the ladle.
• Trickle the inoculant into the metal stream as the ladle is 25% to 75% full.
• Ensure that the metal is slag free before tapping into the ladle.
• When several transfers of metal between ladles are involved, add the inoculant
during the last transfer before pouring to minimise fade.
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Technical Information 36 2

4. Inoculation in the mould


When late metal stream inoculation is not possible, an insert of cast inoculant should be
used in the mould / casting system as the secondary inoculant in order to give the maxi-
mum possible inoculation effect.
The inserts are made with defined dimensions as cast-to-shape inoculant pieces that may
be added either inside the mould runner system, or in certain cases as an integral part of
the pouring basin. Optimum performances are obtained by an addition of only 0.05 – 0.15
wt%.
Reference should also be made to Elkem Technical Information Sheets No 5 and 6.

5. Insert dimensions
Available insert dimensions are as follows (mm).
Insert L W H l w
D2kg 164 74 76 134 42
D5kg 222 100 110 172 52
D10kg 266 130 132 220 80
D20kg 312 170 166 260 116

6. Inserts placed in pouring basin


Medium and large sized mould castings are ino-
culated with the Elcast® inserts in the pouring
basin. The pouring basin should have a
capacity of at least 20% of the total melted iron
required and should always be kept full in order
to avoid turbulence or splashing during rapid
pouring. The size of the pouring basin is also
important in order to have a successful mould
inoculation. A combination of several inserts
can be made when pouring larger castings.

7. Inserts placed in gating system


Placing of the inserts in the gating system for
medium-sized castings. The inserts are placed
in a reaction chamber in the gating system
below the sprue. The design of the runners is
trapezoidal whilst the ingates are rectangular.
The distance between the reaction chamber
and the first ingate should be at least 120 mm.
The dimensions of the reaction chamber are that of the insert, but multiplied by 1.5 for the
height and with a factor of 2 for the other measurements.

8. Dissolution time

Inserts are required to dissolve within a specific time, governed by the pouring time of the
casting and influenced by the temperature of the cast iron. As an example, for a D2kg the
dissolution time will be 40 s at a temperature of 1370 ± 40 °C.