Manufacturers are aware of the benefits of machining: trained machine shops can produce complex parts with tight tolerances and all critical surfaces to spec. However, many manufacturers are learning that investment casting can produce cast parts to near-net shape, resulting in a host of benefits.
The machining process is often seen as the only way to manufacture a part with highly demanding specifications. Operating under this assumption, manufacturers sometimes choose to machine default without exploring other options. It’s also common for parts to be ‘over-toleranced,’ meaning they’ve been designed with tighter tolerances than the application actually calls for.
Eagle CNC Technologies (ECT) is thrilled to announce a new addition to our management team. Jason Clark has joined Eagle CNC as Vice President and General Manager of Operations, a position newly created to support the Eagle Group’s plans for growth.
With more than 27 years of manufacturing experience, Jason has spent his career supporting West Michigan manufacturing. After spending four years in the U.S. Navy performing avionic maintenance for electronic counter measures and comm/nav/radar on EA6B aircraft, he returned to Michigan to work in manufacturing. In 2001, and with experience at two prestigious automotive companies under his belt, Jason joined Port City Group, a Muskegon manufacturer. Here he began in metalcasting as a Quality Systems Manager in Port City’s die casting division, and steadily rose in the ranks to become General Manager for Port City as well as VP of Operations for Michigan Wheel.
In this article, we’ll discuss how experienced machine shops like Eagle CNC think about the complex relationship between heat treatment and machinability. Determining where heat treatment fits into the CNC machining process is a vital consideration for machining parts to net shape quickly and cost-effectively.
Eagle CNC is the Eagle Group’s state-of-the-art machine shop, specializing in CNC machining of both ferrous and nonferrous castings, forgings, bar stock and burn outs. At Eagle CNC, we machine new parts directly from raw stock, or from parts that have been shell cast or investment cast by our sister companies, Eagle Alloy and Eagle Precision. While our workpieces start in a variety of states, nearly every product we machine undergoes heat treatment before delivery.
The Eagle Group is not the kind of manufacturing partner that turns away a challenge. When we were approached with a design that could revolutionize the American water industry, we pulled together our entire suite of knowledge, resources, and experience to turn a brilliant idea into a viable product.
The case of Hydrant Guard demonstrates a strong example of inter-company cooperation between Eagle CNC Technologies, Eagle Alloy, Eagle Precision Cast Parts and our customers. By leveraging the best of what each company has to offer, the Eagle Group was able to take the Hydrant Guard design to the next level, ensuring not only that it would work as required, but that it would stand head and shoulders above competitors.
Eagle Alloy provides a wide range of metalcasting services. In addition to casting hundreds of alloy grades that can be formed into virtually any castable shape, our foundry is fully equipped to heat treat the majority of parts we manufacture. In this blog, we’ll be opening the doors to our heat treatment facilities. You’ll get to know what kind of heat treat equipment we utilize to deliver superior products that consistently meet performance expectations.
Casting a part into its required shape does not fully prepare it for a life of service – only heat treatment can ensure a part performs exactly how it should. With the exception of a handful of nickel-based specialty alloys, Eagle Alloy heat treats just about every part that is cast in our facilities. From annealing and normalizing to stress relieving and quenching, we have the furnaces, quench tanks, data and expertise to take a product from inception to delivery.
Metal manufacturers utilize a number of tools to control the mechanical and physical properties of raw materials. An alloy’s chemistry is only one part of the equation: obtaining the final properties can only be achieved through heat treatment. In this introduction, we'll cover the following topics:
- Why heat treatment is important for metalcasting
- Heat treatment for carbon steel vs heat treatment for stainless steel
- The importance of using ASTM standards
- Key heat treatment processes used by foundries and machine shops
Heat treatment is a broad term describing a range of thermal processes used to control an alloy’s properties. These processes ensure a finished product carries the mechanical and physical properties demanded by its application. Encompassing both heating and cooling, heat treatment incorporates a few distinct and equally important phases:
- Ramp-up: heating the metal;
- Soak: maintaining the metal at a desired temperature for a specified amount of time;
- Cooling: cooling to a specified temperature at a controlled rate and in a controlled environment.
Our investment casting foundry, Eagle Precision, makes use of robotics in two steps of the casting process. We started with a robotic dipping cell and expanded into two, followed by a third robotic cell that specializes in after-cast grinding. While robotic cells like these do require a large up-front investment, we’re already seeing company-wide benefits resulting from our use of robotics in investment casting.
Robots are becoming more and more common throughout the manufacturing industry, and investment casting is no exception. According to John Scott, VP of Sales at Buntrock Industries, the investment casting industry is seeing increased demand for robotics for three reasons: “lack of workforce availability, desire for increased process control and productivity, and improved health and safety.”
“Hardness” is a concept we use every day to compare objects: fresh bread vs. stale bread, a baseball vs. a softball. In manufacturing the definition is a bit more specific: hardness is a measure of a material’s ability to resist localized scratching or deformation by indentation at a specific loading location.
Our understanding of hardness and relative hardness between materials is key to manufacturing metal products. The correlation of hardness with other mechanical properties also makes it possible for us to predict, with a high degree of accuracy, the strength and ductility of a material without submitting it to destructive testing.
Ductility describes a metal’s amenability to being drawn or stretched without breaking. It is one of the crowning mechanical properties of a metal. Without a sound understanding of the science of ductility, manufacturers would be unable to guarantee the safety of their machinery.
In this blog, we’ll explain why manufacturers rely on ductility to guide them in casting parts that uphold integrity in service while protecting machinery against catastrophic failure.
Past civilizations had practical reasons for caring about metal properties. They asked questions like “Can I break my enemy’s sword before he breaks mine?” or “How thick does my armor need to be to provide enough protection?” These warriors had a vested interest in material strength.