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.
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.”
In order to maintain efficient and successful operations in the manufacturing industry, quality control is extremely important. At Eagle Precision, we have developed a thorough quality policy that governs how we do business, from customer onboarding to product delivery. A big part of our dedication to quality is our adherence to ISO standards. Eagle Precision has been ISO certified since 2006, and we recently went through a re-certification process–and passed with flying colors.
Metal manufacturing professionals are a close-knit community, and just like any specialized group, we've developed our own way of speaking. To outsiders, many of whom are our friends, family and customers, metalcasting & machining lingo might seem like another language entirely. Here, we aim to demystify metalcasting & machining jargon so anyone can join the conversation.
Modern metal manufacturing offers a wide range of choices to bring designs into reality. Metalcasting has been around for millennia, and it's undergone its fair share of innovation over the years. Casting facilities can now handle almost any alloy, and can cast intricate designs with complex inner cavities that wouldn't have been possible even a few decades ago.
This year the Steel Founders' Society of America (SFSA) introduced a national competition to engage students with steel casting and help foundries connect with the next generation of manufacturing professionals. Inspired by History Channel's Forged in Fire, the Cast in Steel competition brings teams of engineering students from around the country together to find out who can cast the best Viking axe. Testing, judging and awards took place prior to CastExpo in Atlanta, GA.
The rise of CAD/CAM software largely defines the current era of manufacturing. While blueprints and dimensional charts are still widely used as reference guides, modern manufacturers rely on software to design prototypes and simulate casting processes. One of the first steps in the cast part development process is to create a 3D model. From there, engineers can improve the part shape, simulate a variety of casting processes and materials, and troubleshoot difficult manufacturing scenarios.
When done right, CAD/CAM software enables foundries to solve all the problems of casting in the virtual world, before pouring any metal. The results are cost savings for the customer, time savings for everyone, and reduction of overall waste.
Clockwise from top left: Globe valve, butterfly valve, gate valve, ball valve
Valves are employed in just about any situation involving the flow of liquid or gas. A valve controls the flow of water through your kitchen sink. A different valve brings propane gas into the burners of a gas stove. Outside the home, industrial valves are built to handle high pressure, either from fluid or gas, and to last through years of use in harsh environments. Most utilities, from water to oil and gas, wouldn't be able to function without heavy duty, industrial-strength valves.
Because many components of industrial valves are cast, foundries and machine shops like the Eagle Group often supply valve manufacturers with the parts they need to assemble finished products. The following valve types represent the most commonly seen valves for industrial applications around the world.
All metal casting processes have their own unique characteristics. When designing a new part for casting, the most appropriate process should be determined by a number of factors, including:
- Tooling costs
- Labor costs
- Design characteristics
- Desired appearance
The goal of the manufacturer and the supplier should be to find the optimal balance that produces the lowest per-part cost at a given quantity, while meeting or exceeding all quality requirements.
Here, we compare investment casting to three metal casting processes: shell mold casting, greensand casting and permanent mold casting.