Die Casting Specialists since 1920
Die casting is a metal casting process that forces molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity. The mold cavity is created using two hardened tool steel dies which have been machined into shape and work similarly to an injection mold during the process. Most die castings are made from non-ferrous metals, specifically zinc, copper, aluminum, magnesium, lead, pewter and tin based alloys. Depending on the type of metal being cast, a hot- or cold-chamber machine is used.
The casting equipment and the metal dies represent large capital costs and this tends to limit the process to higher volume production. Manufacture of parts using die casting is relatively simple, which keeps the incremental cost per item low. It is especially suited for a large quantity of small to medium sized castings, which is why die casting produces more castings than any other casting process. Die castings are characterized by a very good surface finish (by casting standards) and dimensional consistency.
Advantages and Disadvantages
➤ Excellent dimensional accuracy (dependent on casting material, but typically 0.1 mm for the first 2.5 cm (0.005 inch for the first inch) and 0.02 mm for each additional centimeter (0.002 inch for each additional inch).
➤ Smooth cast surfaces (Ra 1–2.5 micrometers or 0.04–0.10 thou rms).
➤ Thinner walls can be cast as compared to sand and permanent mold casting (approximately 0.75 mm or 0.030 in).
➤ Inserts can be cast-in (such as threaded inserts, heating elements, and high strength bearing surfaces).
➤ Reduces or eliminates secondary machining operations.
➤ Rapid production rates.
➤ Casting tensile strength as high as 415 megapascals (60 ksi).
➤ Casting of low fluidity metals.
The main disadvantage to die casting is the very high capital cost. Both the casting equipment required and the dies and related components are very costly, as compared to most other casting processes. Therefore to make die casting an economic process a large production volume is needed. Other disadvantages include: the process is limited to high-fluidity metals and casting weights must be between 30 grams (1 oz) and 10 kg (20 lb). In the standard die casting process the final casting will have a small amount of porosity. This prevents any heat treating or welding, because the heat causes the gas in the pores to expand, which causes micro-cracks inside the part and exfoliation of the surface.
There are two basic types of die casting machines: cold-chamber machines and hot-chamber machines. These are rated by how much clamping force they can apply. Typical ratings are between 400 and 4,000 tons (2,500 and 25,000 kg).
A schematic of a cold-chamber die casting machine. These are used when the casting alloy cannot be used in hot-chamber machines; these include aluminum, zinc alloys with a large composition of aluminum, magnesium and copper. The process for these machines start with melting the metal in a separate furnace. Then a precise amount of molten metal is transported to the cold-chamber machine where it is fed into an unheated shot chamber (or injection cylinder). This shot is then driven into the die by a hydraulic or mechanical piston. This biggest disadvantage of this system is the slower cycle time due to the need to transfer the molten metal from the furnace to the cold-chamber machine.
Advance Die Casting has 16 Cold Chamber Die cast machines from 400 to 1200 Tons.
A schematic of a hot-chamber die casting machine.
Hot-chamber machines, also known as gooseneck machines, rely upon a pool of molten metal to feed the die. At the beginning of the cycle the piston of the machine is retracted, which allows the molten metal to fill the "gooseneck". The pneumatic or hydraulic powered piston then forces this metal out of the gooseneck into the die. The advantages of this system include fast cycle times (approximately 15 cycles a minute) and the convenience of melting the metal in the casting machine. The disadvantages of this system are that high-melting point metals cannot be utilized and aluminum cannot be used because it picks up some of the iron while in the molten pool. Due to this, hot-chamber machines are primarily used with zinc, tin, and lead based alloys.
Advance Die Casting no longer die casts in Hot Chamber machines. We do however have partner die casters that can. We will be happy to provide a quote for metal alloys produced in Hot Chamber machines. We pride ourselves on a one stop source for castings
The Ejector Die Half
Two dies are used in die casting; one is called the "cover die half" and the other the "ejector die half". Where they meet is called the parting line. The cover die contains the sprue (for hot-chamber machines) or shot hole (for cold-chamber machines), which allows the molten metal to flow into the dies; this feature matches up with the injector nozzle on the hot-chamber machines or the shot chamber in the cold-chamber machines. The ejector die contains the ejector pins and usually the runner, which is the path from the sprue or shot hole to the mold cavity. The cover die is secured to the stationary, or front, platen of the casting machine, while the ejector die is attached to the movable platen. The mold cavity is cut into two cavity inserts, which are separate pieces that can be replaced relatively easily and bolt into the die halves.
The dies are designed so that the finished casting will slide off the cover half of the die and stay in the ejector half as the dies are opened. This assures that the casting will be ejected every cycle because the ejector half contains the ejector pins to push the casting out of that die half. The ejector pins are driven by an ejector pin plate, which accurately drives all of the pins at the same time and with the same force, so that the casting is not damaged. The ejector pin plate also retracts the pins after ejecting the casting to prepare for the next shot. There must be enough ejector pins to keep the overall force on each pin low, because the casting is still hot and can be damaged by excessive force. The pins still leave a mark, so they must be located in places where these marks will not hamper the castings purpose.
The Cover Die Half
Other die components include cores and slides. Cores are components that usually produce holes or opening, but they can be used to create other details as well. There are three types of cores: fixed, movable, and loose. Fixed cores are ones that are oriented parallel to the pull direction of the dies (i.e. the direction the dies open), therefore they are fixed, or permanently attached to the die. Movable cores are ones that are oriented in any other way than parallel to the pull direction. These cores must be removed from the die cavity after the shot solidifies, but before the dies open, using a separate mechanism. Slides are similar to movable cores, except they are used to form undercut surfaces. The use of movable cores and slides greatly increases the cost of the dies. Loose cores, also called pick-outs, are used to cast intricate features, such as threaded holes. These loose cores are inserted into the die by hand before each cycle and then ejected with the part at the end of the cycle. The core then must be removed by hand. Loose cores are the most expensive type of core, because of the extra labor and increased cycle time. Other features in the dies include water-cooling passages and vents along the parting lines. These vents are usually wide and thin (approximately 0.13 mm or 0.005 in) so that when the molten metal starts filling them the metal quickly solidifies and minimizes scrap. No risers are used because the high pressure ensures a continuous feed of metal from the gate.
The most important material properties for the dies are thermal shock resistance and softening at elevated temperature; other important properties include hardenability, machinability, heat checking resistance, weldability, availability (especially for larger dies), and cost. The longevity of a die is directly dependent on the temperature of the molten metal and the cycle time. The dies used in die casting are usually made out of hardened tool steels, because cast iron cannot withstand the high pressures involved, therefore the dies are very expensive, resulting in high start-up costs. Metals that are cast at higher temperatures require dies made from higher alloy steels.
Die and component Material and Hardness for various Cast Metals
Tin, Lead & Zinc | Aluminum & Magnesium | Copper & Brass
The main failure mode for die casting dies is wear or erosion. Other failure modes are heat checking and thermal fatigue. Heat checking is when surface cracks occur on the die due to a large temperature change on every cycle. Thermal fatigue is when surface cracks occur on the die due to a large number of cycles.
The following are the four steps in traditional die casting, also known as high-pressure die casting, these are also the basis for any of the die casting variations: die preparation, filling, ejection, and shakeout. The dies are prepared by spraying the mold cavity with lubricant. The lubricant both helps control the temperature of the die and it also assists in the removal of the casting. The dies are then closed and molten metal is injected into the dies under high pressure; between 10 and 175 megapascals (1,500 and 25,400 psi). Once the mold cavity is filled, the pressure is maintained until the casting solidifies. The dies are then opened and the shot (shots are different from castings because there can be multiple cavities in a die, yielding multiple castings per shot) is ejected by the ejector pins. Finally, the shakeout involves separating the scrap, which includes the gate, runners, sprues and flash, from the shot. This is often done using a special trim die in a power press or hydraulic press. Other methods of shaking out include sawing and grinding. A less labor-intensive method is to tumble shots if gates are thin and easily broken; separation of gates from finished parts must follow. This scrap is recycled by remelting it. The yield is approximately 67%.
The high-pressure injection leads to a quick fill of the die, which is required so the entire cavity fills before any part of the casting solidifies. In this way, discontinuities are avoided, even if the shape requires difficult-to-fill thin sections. This creates the problem of air entrapment, because when the mold is filled quickly there is little time for the air to escape. This problem is minimized by including vents along the parting lines, however, even in a highly refined process there will still be some porosity in the center of the casting.
Most die casters perform other secondary operations to produce features not readily castable, such as tapping a hole, polishing, plating, buffing, or painting.
Advance Die Casting is fully capable of providing most secondary processes to send to a completed ready to assemble part.
ISO 9001:2008 Certified Die Casting Company. Certificate No. 0092207 Expiry date 09/2018