3 Quick Tips for Buying Cast Parts
Whether you're looking to produce a new product or save money on products you're already manufacturing, cast parts can be a great option. Metalcasting has been around for over 5,000 years, and today's processes, along with cnc machining, can produce just about any part imaginable.
Purchasing cast parts can be a long and difficult process, and there are many variables to consider. Overall, you want to make sure that you find the right balance between quality and cost.
Before you dive right in and start choosing the right manufacturer, here are three things to keep in mind when purchasing cast parts.
1. Know How Your Product Works
If you're bringing a new product to market, it's OK not to know everything about how it will work, and your supplier can help you figure out the details. In order to choose the right supplier, however, you need to know at least the basics about the shape and function of your product.
For example, is it a standalone part, or does it interact with other parts? Is it a new part, or an improvement on an old part? How will it move, and where will the friction points be?
While engineers at a foundry or machine shop can help you finalize your design, they won't know the whole story right away. It's up to you to decide what's most important in terms of your part's shape, size, stength and function.
2. Know Your Product's Tolerances
Almost as important as the part's functionality are its tolerances. Before shopping around for casting quotes, you need to know where your design can change, and where it can't.
Most parts require machining in the finishing stage, but some casting methods can meet tight tolerances without additional machining. To complicate things even more, different types of metal are more machinable than others.
Knowing where your part is more (or less) flexible in terms of tolerances will help you decide on the best process and material to use farther down the road.
3. Know Where Your Product Will Go
A logical extension of knowing how your product works is knowing where it will be used. One of the most important factors in determining the right materials and process for a casting is knowing what kinds of physical hardships it will be exposed to during its lifetime.
Every part–whether it goes in a car antennae or holds up a crane arm–will experience stresses, strains and exposure to the elements. Parts that stay outside are much more prone to oxidation, and will either have to be made of corrosion-resistant materials or painted. Day-to-day use can push and pull a part until it exceeds its tolerances, and can no longer be used. Some materials are more susceptible to this type of wear than others.
Choosing the Right Supplier
These three tips are really meant to help you choose the right supplier, or the right manufacturer for your product. Foundries and machine shops around the country–and around the world–offer a wide variety of capabilities, specializations and expertise. The best companies will work with you to determine the most cost-effective way to produce your product, while also ensuring that each part meets or exceeds its requirements.
Knowing how your product should work, its tolerances and where it will be put to use can help you narrow down the list of suppliers. Last but not least, look for companies with an emphasis on customer service. You want to make sure you choose a supplier that's helpful, cooperative and responsive every step of the manufacturing journey.
Ready to learn more? Our free Buyer's Guide to Purchasing Raw and Machined Cast Products offers a comprehensive resource for anyone thinking about bringing a cast part to market.
Tags: Metalcasting, Machining, Buyer's Guide, Tips
Written by AJ Menefee
AJ Menefee is VP of Technical & Engineering at Eagle Precision Cast Parts in Muskegon, MI.