Manufacturers agree constant innovation is necessary to achieve a competitive advantage. Finding ways to innovate, particularly for solving a specific design or production problem, can become a bigger challenge. That's why the North American Die Casting Assn. (NADCA) has been collaborating with OEMs and suppliers for the last several years with several programs to help them overcome design obstacles.
The programs range from NADCA's Value Analysis Seminars — a new venture started in 2006 to help OEMs identify possible opportunities for using die casting to replace existing processes — to Design for Die Casting seminars tailored for OEMs or existing die casting operations.
In the past 18 months, NADCA has assisted nearly 30 companies in industry ranging from heavy equipment and material handling manufacturers to appliance makers and electronics companies. Several of these companies have benefited from “Creating Value with Die Casting,” which offers OEMs free value analysis reviews at their location. The process typically includes an on-site evaluation of current production methods to determine how the OEM might benefit from a switch to a near net shape process such as die casting.
A good example of the benefit is our work with a major rail transportation manufacturer. Our design analysis helped them convert a locomotive gear cover from 120 lb weldment to 17 lb aluminum die casting for significant weight savings and improvement in product design.
Our “Design for Die Casting” seminars are often the next step for OEMs that want a more in-depth review of die casting fundamentals and specific design considerations. In one recent case, we assisted a materials' handling company with the redesign of a fork lift transmission housing. NADCA was able to simplify the production process by reducing the tooling complexity and the number of slides for the aluminum die casting.
Other times, our support may be less formal. As one manager operating a captive die casting operation for a manufacturer explains, “I can't begin to think how many times I've called NADCA with questions on everything from heating processes to line sizes.”
In addition to this sort of specific design assistance, NADCA works with several renowned universities, including Case Western Reserve University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to sponsor and collaborate on die casting research.
Other collaborations include working with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to present design seminars that would count as credit toward the ASME “Professional Member Development” for attendees at ASME chapter meetings.
Looking to the future, NADCA expects to continue helping manufacturers with a specific design website that is under development. We also plan to expand the NADCA Capabilities Directory with comprehensive profiles on all member companies, including alloys cast, machine size ranges, markets served and similar information that will help OEMs pinpoint qualified suppliers.
There's no question the extensive industry support for these programs shows the benefits of combining the efforts of industry groups, OEMs and suppliers. This type of collaboration helps OEMs solve problems while keeping jobs and production in North America, which is one of NADCA's primary goals.