A highly modern industry with ancient roots, metalcasting is the backbone of the manufacturing economy. It is a $48 billion industry that provides nearly 490,000 U.S. jobs. The industry is central to a growing economy, modern infrastructure, and national defense. Moreover, metalcasting provides excellent careers for those with the right skills.
Highly engineered castings are part of 90 percent of durable goods. They are found in cars, trucks, aerospace, trains, mining and construction equipment, oil wells, appliances, pipes, hydrants, wind turbines, nuclear plants, medical devices, defense products, toys, and more. Most people are rarely more than 10 feet away from a casting.
Metalcasting is the process in which high-temperature molten or liquid metal is poured into a mold made of sand, metal or ceramic, to form geometrically complex parts. All major metals can be cast. The most common are iron, aluminum, magnesium, zinc, steel and copper-based alloys.
The Original Leaders in Industrial Recycling
The metalcasting industry is one of the largest contributors to the manufacturing recycling movement. Metalcasters are primary markets for the reuse of scrap metal, recycling millions of tons of scrap metal every year. Moreover, many foundries use sand in their molding process. These foundries often use, recondition, and reuse sand, which is another form of recycling. One U.S. metalcasting company, for example, reuses more than 800,000 tons of sand every year.
Metalcasting offers tremendous careers for those with the right skills. Visit our Careers page to learn more.
- 1,750—Number of metalcasting facilities in the U.S. Reflecting industry consolidation over time, in 1991 there were 3,200 plants and in 1955, 6,150 plants.
- 75%—Percentage of firms that are small businesses (less than 100 employees).
- Nearly 490,000 —Number of people employed by the U.S. metalcasting industry.
- 90 percent of all manufactured goods contain some metal castings.
- The U.S. is the global leader in casting applications and third in production behind China and India.
- You are rarely more than 10 feet from a metal casting in the United States.
Production & Applications
- 10.7 million—Total U.S. tonnage of castings produced in the U.S. in 2017.
- $44.3 billion—Total value of all castings projected to be produced in the U.S. in 2019.
- 3200 BC--The first castings are produced in Mesopotamia.
- 645 BC--Earliest known sand molding.
- 1646—Saugus Pot is the first casting produced on U.S. soil, near Lynn, MA.
- 1776—Seven metalcasters sign the Declaration of Independence: Philip Livingstone, George Taylor, James Smith, George Ross, Stephen Hopkins, Charles Carroll and James Wilson.
- 1794--First use of cupola for iron melting in England.
- 1830s--Foundries play essential role in emerging railroad era.
- 1862--Metalcasters produce the first ironclad warship, the Monitor.
- 1876--William Frishmuth in Philadelphia poured the first authenticated aluminum casting in the U.S.
- 1881--Castings are an essential part of the first Naval submarine.
- 1884--An aluminum pyramid made by William Frishmuth is placed at the top of the Washington Monument.
- 1896--American Foundryman's Society (forerunner of AFS) is established in Philadelphia.
- 1897--Investment casting is rediscovered in Iowa.
- 1900--The growth of the auto industry coincides with increased demand for casting.
- 1900--The first exclusively aluminum foundry in the U.S. opens in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
- 1907--Patent issued for first high-pressure die casting machine.
- 1907--First AFS student chapter is established at University of Minnesota.
- 1916--American Foundry Association first begins funding casting research.
- 1938--Predecessor magazine to Modern Casting is first published.
- 1941-1945: Foundries play an enormous role in defense-related production, helping to win World War II.
- 1946--President Truman thanks the American Foundry Association for contributions to the war effort.
- 1947--Shell molding is brought to the United States by the military from Europe.
- 1948--Ductile iron is developed.
- 1990--Two organizations merge to form the current AFS.
- 2018--U.S. metalcasting reaches $33 billion in projected sales.
- 2020--U.S. metalcasting reaches $44.3 billion in projected sales.
Spotlight On the Modern Metalcasting Industry
The documentary Spotlight On the Modern Metalcasting Industry is produced by AFS and the Foundry Educational Foundation and aired nationally on PBS. The five-minute documentary provides an overview of metalcasting and the importance cast components play in our society. View Spotlight On the Modern Metalcasting Industry here.
Metalcasting Terms--This Glossary of Metalcasting Terms provides the casting designer and purchaser with practical definitions of common metalcasting phrases and terms.