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Advanced 2D ultrasonic analysis leads to new high-tech pistons

Federal-Mogul Corporation is using a novel 2D ultrasonic analysis system to produce high performance pistons that enable a substantial further step in diesel engine downsizing. In its first application, the supplier says that the greatly improved cooling capability of the company’s raised gallery piston allowed a customer to introduce a series of measures that achieved a CO2 reduction of up to 30% compared with the previous generation engine that didn’t feature the raised gallery pistons. The first production application of Federal-Mogul’s raised gallery piston also delivers a specific power increase of 25%, keeping the piston at temperatures much lower than the acceptable limit of 400°C. In the same conditions, a standard piston’s bowl rim stresses are 43% higher and its temperature reaches 440°C, close to the metal’s melting point.

“Diesel downsizing increases specific power output in order to improve fuel economy and CO2 emissions and also increases the thermal and mechanical loads that diesel pistons must withstand,” says Gian Maria Olivetti, Federal-Mogul’s vice president for technology and innovation. “With the development of new highly-loaded engines, the risk of piston failure has increased substantially as past improvements in materials, design and cooling concepts have reached their physical limits. Federal-Mogul’s innovation in advanced testing techniques, materials science and manufacturing processes greatly reduces the limitations placed on diesel downsizing strategies.”

Modern diesel pistons have a cooling gallery, through which oil flows continuously. The position and design of the gallery have a significant impact on the component’s operating temperature and durability. The closer the gallery is to the piston bowl, the more heat that can be removed, allowing engine manufacturers to increase combustion temperatures and pressures to improve fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

Standard, 1D ultrasonic testing can identify defects but cannot quantify their size and position. Federal-Mogul’s says that its 2D ultrasonic process, however, provides 125,000 data points in 30 seconds. The technique enables Federal-Mogul engineers to accurately determine the size and position of defects, providing valuable data for casting process development. The detailed information provided also ensures consistent quality in the finished high-precision components.

“In the past, it was very difficult to cast gallery pistons with such precise control of the size and location of the cooling gallery,” states Dr. Frank T.H. Doernenburg, Federal-Mogul director of technology, pistons and pins. ”Federal-Mogul’s new 2D ultrasonic test has removed that barrier. Our process is non-destructive, completely controls casting process quality and aids advanced casting process development, giving engine designers substantially more freedom to increase engine efficiency.”

Federal-Mogul validated its 2D ultrasonic technology by dissecting and sampling hundreds of pistons, correlating the ultrasonic images against destructive testing methods. The research resulted in the development of software tools as well as a number of key physical parameters such as probe geometry, wave length, beam geometry and focus.

31 May 2012


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