Spatially and temporally resolved microstructure simulations have reached a level of maturity that allows not only to address fundamental aspects of microstructure formation, but also to address problems of technological relevance. In contrast to computational thermodynamics, spatially resolved phase-field models predict not only integral quantities, e.g. phase fractions, but also the solidification morphology and the distribution of alloying elements or secondary phases within the microstructure.
We will discuss various examples for Al and Mg alloys demonstrating how microstructure simulations on the dendritic length scale contribute to a better prediction of the material behavior during solidification and the potential formation of casting defects. Phase-field simulations linked to thermodynamic databases i) lead to refined criteria for the estimation of hot tearing susceptibility, ii) provide the microsegregation of alloying and impurity elements and iii) thus supports the development of energy saving homogenization heat treatments.