The more complex a design's shape, the more machining will be required to complete the job. This can make die casting a better option. With the development of new technologies, die casting is able to take even the smallest part design and turn it into a strong, three-dimensional, closely toleranced part. Though die castings cannot match the physical attributes of wrought alloys, most parts are able to compensate for any compromise in material strength with minor design alterations.
Along with the fiscal and production benefits, die casting is also a great environmental option. The industry as a whole is based on recycling. After the trim die removes excess metal from a part, the scraps are re-melted in a central furnace and redistributed to the die casting machine. Alternatively, scraps can be sent to a local recycler to be cast into certified alloy ingots.
While there are a number of situations where machined parts are a good option, it is clear that even with fairly low volumes, die casting is something that should be considered and is often the better option. The conversion is simple as long as you have a professional, reliable caster. Chicago White Metal has perfected the machining to die cast conversion process. Through our years of experience, we've seen a spike in manufacturing efficiencies coupled with a drastic cost reduction. Expert design services coupled with the best die casting practices is the key.
Jon Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for Chicago White Metal, contributed to this report. Dan Jacobson is a senior at Western Illinois University where he studies communications and journalism. He is currently an intern in the marketing department at Chicago White Metal.
I agree that converting machined parts to die casting usually makes sense. Because die casting tools can be expensive, it is important to first do a pay-back analysis and see if the volumes justify this change over.
In many cases we use both processes during the life of the product. When the initial design is likely to change and we need to enter the market quickly, we may start with a machined part. Then, as the design becomes stable and production volumes increase, we plan for a smooth cut-over to die cast tooling.
In most cases, casting a part versus machining it from bar stock is a no-brainer. In my career, I've only come across one part that made more sense as a screw-machined part than as a die casting. In that case, the geometry of the part made it extremely easy to screw machine. Also, screw machining allowed the part to be made out of a much stronger wrought alloy. It wound up being an 80% cost savings (from $4 to about 80¢), along with a more than 50% increase in strength.
But this is far from the norm, and as this article shows, casting is almost always much cheaper. A more interesting comparison would be between die casting and powder metallurgy. It would also be worthwhile to compare different casting processes (die casting, semi-solid processing, permanent mold, investment casting, lost foam, etc.). In addition to cost, these processes also vary in terms of the mechanical properties and dimensional accuracy that can be achieved.
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