With increasing technology development, an increasing emphasis is placed on the precision of products, but cannot be guaranteed without a stable production process. To ensure the stability of the production process, it is necessary to monitor it in detail, find its critical locations and eliminate or at least control it. With such a precise manufacturing method as investment casting, such a process is a must. This paper therefore deals with monitoring the production process of wax models of large turbine blades using infrared thermography. The aim was to evaluate the critical locations of this production and to propose recommendations for their elimination or, at the very least, significant mitigation of their impact on the final quality of the large turbine blade casting.
The dimensional accuracy of a final casting of Inconel 738 LC alloy is affected by many aspects. One of them is the choice of method and time of cooling the wax model for precision investment casting. The main objective of this work was to study the initial deformation of the complex shape of a rotor blades casting. Various approaches have been tested for cooling a wax pattern. When wax models are air cooled and without clamping in the jig for cooling, deviations from the ideal shape of the casting are very noticeable (up to 8 mm) and most are in extreme positions of the model. When the blade is cooled in the fixing jig in a water environment, the resulting deviations compared to those of air cooling are significantly larger, sometimes up to 10 mm. This itself does not mean that the final shape of the casting is dimensionally more accurate with the usage of wax models, which have smaller deviations from the ideal position. Another deformation occurs when the shell mould is produced around the wax pattern and further deformations emerge while cooling the blade casting. This paper demonstrates the first steps in describing the complex process of deformations occurring in Inconel alloy blades produced with investment casting technology by comparing results of thermal imagery, simulations in foundry simulation software ProCAST 2010, and measurements from a CNC scanning system using a Carl Zeiss MC 850. Conclusions are so far not groundbreaking, but it seems that deformations of the wax pattern and deformations of the castings do in some cases cancel each other by having opposite directions. Describing the whole process of deformations will help increase the precision of blade castings so that the models at the beginning and the blades in the end are the same.