Be Converted

It can not be overstated how valuable casting conversions can be to a manufacturer. Reducing a multiple piece assembly or fabrication to a single-piece casting often results in lower part cost, reduced lead time, reduced weight, improved part design,  and fewer finishing operations, such as machining or drilling. But you don’t have to take our word for it. There is no shortage of casting conversion case studies. A quick browse around this website will turn up several examples of different applications using different materials. Below is a small sampling:

--The 2010 Casting of the Year produced 48% cost savings after it was converted from a steel weldment to a ductile iron heavy equipment part.

--A 28-lb. cast aluminum marine engine manifold was converted from two gray iron parts for a weight savings of 38 lbs. per motor.

--This aluminum casting conversion from a multi-piece assembly eliminated external tubing, hydraulic lines and passageways by casting them into the design of this 200-lb. part for an amphibious military vehicle.

--An in-depth look at steel fabrications vs. steel castings tells you, “If the desired component is mostly steel and the costs involved are mostly material, a fabrication should be used. However, the more components, the more linear inches of welding required, the more machining required per individual component, the more attractive casting becomes.”

For a brief on getting started on converting to casting, read through “Identifying a Candidate for Conversion to Casting.”

Mag-Nanimous Decision

We’ve published a number of articles on trends in the magnesium industry over the past several years, and they all point to one inalienable truth—magnesium is an expensive material for North American designers to specify. But the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) could change that.

According to an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the ITC has voted to “conduct a full review of 5-year-old tariffs imposed on imported magnesium.”

The newspaper says the decision was in no small part owed to the efforts of Spartan Light Metal Products, Sunset Hills, Mo., which produces die castings in various nonferrous materials.

Nothing has been decided by ITC yet, but this could be the first step in helping magnesium gain a firmer foothold in the metal component marketplace. That would mean good things for designers interested in light-weighting initiatives.

Casting Found Just in Time

While driving to the Birmingham airport a day after touring a ductile iron pipe casting plant in Alabama, one of our editors spotted this flatbed truck rolling down the highway.

Yep, those are the company’s very products on delivery to a customer. (And yep, our editor risked life and limb to snap this photo while driving.)

While this isn’t your typical found casting, this is about as close to “in the field” as you will find these centrifugally cast wonders. Once they find their way to the intended customer and are pulled off this truck, they’ll be buried in the ground to play an integral role in the water transport system for at least the next 50 years. 

Future Metalcasters Earn Their Badge

The metalcasting industry is well aware of the need for young talent. Some would argue you can’t start the search too soon. The Univ. of Northern Iowa’s Metal Casting Center recently held three workshops for more than 50 Boy Scouts in which each scout participating in the molding, fabricating and melting of Dutch ovens commemorating the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th anniversary. During the six-hour workshops, UNI metalcasting students and area metalcasters instructed the scouts on the casting process and safety.

According to UNI professor Jerry Thiel, donations of materials came from Ashland Casting Solutions, American Pattern, Fairmount Minerals, HA International, John Deere Waterloo Foundry, UNIMIN and Viking Engineered Castings.

Kudos to UNI and the participating businesses for sharing the industry with potential metalcasting leaders.

Casting Simulation Provides Further Proof of Da Vinci’s Genius

For 17 years, Leonardo Da Vinci researched how to produce Il Cavallo, a huge equine statue to be made out of bronze in a single pour. But when he finally had the clay model built and ready to be cast, all the needed bronze was taken to be used for a war against France. The mold and model were destroyed, and the statue was Da Vinci’s “horse that never was.” Despite Da Vinci’s confidence in the design, however, many engineers believed the casting would never have been successful any way. Recent advances in casting simulation technology provided a way to prove Da Vinci right.

The Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy, sought to test DaVinci’s design and worked with XC Engineering (an Italian associate of Flow Science, Santa Fe., N.M.) to conduct a casting simulation for the artwork. The result: Da Vinci’s 24-ft.-high, 70-ton bronze horse would have been successfully cast in a single pour in 165 seconds.

A video about the project can be viewed on the Discovery Channel’s website: http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/leonardo-davinci-cavallo-statue.html.


Metalcasting Helps Haiti

There’s been no shortage of media coverage of the earthquake that recently rocked Haiti. And as touching and heart wrenching as much of it is, it can become a little repetitive and go unnoticed.

But when the news involves metalcasting, our attentions are always aroused.

Apparently, the metalcasting process recently helped Alfred Univ., Alfred, N.Y., earn more than $5,000 for the Haitian relief effort. According to an article in the school’s newspaper, the Alfred Univ. Foundry Guild sold $10 sand molds to locals, allowed them to scratch designs into the molds and poured them off, producing original sculptures for all of the would-be philanthropists. The funds, augmented by a silent auction of artwork, were donated to a Haitian family with ties to the school and Doctors Without Borders.

It may seem incongruous, metalcasting for charity, but to us it makes perfect sense. The industry that has been rebuilding things for hundreds of years—taking what has been scrapped and reforming it into something useful—is now helping to rebuild a nation.

Casting Sets Another Tone

It’s official. Metalcasting rocks.

When we waxed melodically about the metal castings found in musical instruments in 2007, we hit the cymbals, drums, piano and hand bells. Now, castings are adding a decorative touch to the most ubiquitous of instruments—the guitar.

DBZ Guitars, Chicago, is using jewelry-style castings to adorn a new line of its handmade axes. You can see the intricate inlays and read more about the company’s guitars in an article on www.guitargearheads.com.

The article reports that the castings are produced in the hand casting process, which uses permanent molds to produce products with enhanced surface finishes. According to the article, the casting “is designed in high detail and finished in 24k gold and nickel.”

Metallurgists Aren’t the Only Ones Who Dig Microstructure

Gray cast iron is beautiful. Don’t agree with us? Take a look at an image by McMaster University research technologist Doug Culley. Culley used a Nikon Eclipse LV 100 microscope to show students the microstructure of gray cast iron and teach them how to identify the pearlite structure orientation and the color contrast for the different grains.

The resulting image was so unique and artistic, Culley submitted it to Nikon’s 2009 Small World Photomicrography Competition and earned image of distinction honors.

You can view the microstructure sample here.

Found Casting: Smithsonian Ground Squirrel

As you can see, the inscription below this sculpture, found in the Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., indicates you’re looking at a cast version of a hibernating ground squirrel.

In the museum, the casting is used for its ability to reach cold temperatures. The sculpture is tucked inside a nook that is refrigerated to mimic the sort of environment a ground squirrel is capable of withstanding while hibernating for the winter. Visitors to the museum are invited to reach into the nook and touch the casting to see just how cold the environment is.

What struck us as amusing was that the museum curators felt the need to announce in the inscription that the ground squirrel was cast. Apparently, this piece was so detailed and lifelike they had to ensure everyone that the exhibit was indeed not a live ground squirrel in order to get them to reach out and touch it. Now that’s precise casting.


Metalcasters on Wheels

Ah, metalcasting. Tis like a relaxing picnic on a warm fall day.

Now that’s probably not a statement you ever expected to read. But the Sculpture Trails, Solsberry, Ind., can make it a reality. Don’t believe us? Check out this video and tell us you don’t feel a sense of tranquility you never thought possible in association with the metalcasting industry.

To paraphrase its most recent press release, Sculpture Trails offers to bring its “traveling foundry” to whatever setting you desire. The company will “travel to your high school, art museum, general public workshop or festivals” and give all participants a small block of sand and the tools they need to scratch a design into the cured surface. Next, Sculpture Trails pours aluminum into the block, and voila, the “artist’s” design comes out as a metal casting.

This is more than just a cute idea. It also reminds us that the metalcasting process not only produces many of the engineered components we take for granted in our everyday lives, it can also be a fun craft, a clever way to create and even a relaxing day in the sun.

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