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A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal into a mold, and removing the mold material after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminium and cast iron. However, other metals, such as bronze, brass, steel, magnesium, and zinc, are also used to produce castings in foundries. In this process, parts of desired shapes and sizes can be formed.
In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process. Casting is most often used for making complex shapes that would be difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods.
Melting is performed in a furnace. Virgin material, external scrap, internal scrap, and alloying elements are used to charge the furnace. Virgin material refers to commercially pure forms of the primary metal used to form a particular alloy. Alloying elements are either pure forms of an alloying element, like electrolytic nickel, or alloys of limited composition, such as ferroalloys or master alloys. External scrap is material from other forming processes such as punching, forging, or machining. Internal scrap consists of gates, risers, defective castings, and other extraneous metal oddments produced within the facility.
The process includes melting the charge, refining the melt, adjusting the melt chemistry and tapping into a transport vessel. Refining is done to remove harmful gases and elements from the molten metal to avoid casting defects. Material is added during the melting process to bring the final chemistry within a specific range specified by industry and/or internal standards. Certain fluxes may be used to separate the metal from slag and/or dross and degassers are used to remove dissolved gas from metals that readily dissolve in gasses. During the tap, final chemistry adjustments are made.
Several specialised furnaces are used to heat the metal. Furnaces are refractory-lined vessels that contain the material to be melted and provide the energy to melt it. Modern furnace types include electric arc furnaces (EAF), induction furnaces, cupolas, reverberatory, and crucible furnaces. Furnace choice is dependent on the alloy system quantities produced. For ferrous materials EAFs, cupolas, and induction furnaces are commonly used. Reverberatory and crucible furnaces are common for producing aluminium, bronze, and brass castings.
Furnace design is a complex process, and the design can be optimized based on multiple factors. Furnaces in foundries can be any size, ranging from small ones used to melt precious metals to furnaces weighing several tons, designed to melt hundreds of pounds of scrap at one time. They are designed according to the type of metals that are to be melted. Furnaces must also be designed based on the fuel being used to produce the desired temperature. For low temperature melting point alloys, such as zinc or tin, melting furnaces may reach around 500 °C (932 °F). Electricity, propane, or natural gas are usually used to achieve these temperatures. For high melting point alloys such as steel or nickel-based alloys, the furnace must be designed for temperatures over 1,600 °C (2,910 °F). The fuel used to reach these high temperatures can be electricity (as employed in electric arc furnaces) or coke. The majority of foundries specialize in a particular metal and have furnaces dedicated to these metals. For example, an iron foundry (for cast iron) may use a cupola, induction furnace, or EAF, while a steel foundry will use an EAF or induction furnace. Bronze or brass foundries use crucible furnaces or induction furnaces. Most aluminium foundries use either electric resistance or gas heated crucible furnaces or reverberatory furnaces.
Degassingis a process that may be required to reduce the amount of hydrogen present in a batch of molten metal. Gases can form in metal castings in one of two ways:
Hydrogen is a common contaminant for most cast metals. It forms as a result of material reactions or from water vapor or machine lubricants. If the hydrogen concentration in the melt is too high, the resulting casting will be porous; the hydrogen will exit the molten solution, leaving minuscule air pockets, as the metal cools and solidifies. Porosity often seriously deteriorates the mechanical properties of the metal.
An efficient way of removing hydrogen from the melt is to bubble a dry, insoluble gas through the melt by purging or agitation. When the bubbles go up in the melt, they catch the dissolved hydrogen and bring it to the surface. Chlorine, nitrogen, helium and argon are often used to degas non-ferrous metals. Carbon monoxide is typically used for iron and steel.
There are various types of equipment that can measure the presence of hydrogen. Alternatively, the presence of hydrogen can be measured by determining the density of a metal sample.
In cases where porosity still remains present after the degassing process, porosity sealing can be accomplished through a process called metal impregnating.
In the casting process, a pattern is made in the shape of the desired part. Simple designs can be made in a single piece or solid pattern. More complex designs are made in two parts, called split patterns. A split pattern has a top or upper section, called a cope, and a bottom or lower section called a drag. Both solid and split patterns can have cores inserted to complete the final part shape. Cores are used to create hollow areas in the mold that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. Where the cope and drag separates is called the parting line.
When making a pattern it is best to taper the edges so that the pattern can be removed without breaking the mold. This is called draft. The opposite of draft is an undercut where there is part of the pattern under the mold material, making it impossible to remove the pattern without damaging the mold.
The pattern is made of wax, wood, plastic, or metal. The molds are constructed by several different processes dependent upon the type of foundry, metal to be poured, quantity of parts to be produced, size of the casting, and complexity of the casting. These mold processes include:
In a foundry, molten metal is poured into molds. Pouring can be accomplished with gravity, or it may be assisted with a vacuum or pressurized gas. Many modern foundries use robots or automatic pouring machines to pour molten metal. Traditionally, molds were poured by hand using ladles.
The solidified metal component is then removed from its mold. Where the mold is sand based, this can be done by shaking or tumbling. This frees the casting from the sand, which is still attached to the metal runners and gates — which are the channels through which the molten metal traveled to reach the component itself.
Degating is the removal of the heads, runners, gates, and risers from the casting. Runners, gates, and risers may be removed using cutting torches, bandsaws, or ceramic cutoff blades. For some metal types, and with some gating system designs, the sprue, runners, and gates can be removed by breaking them away from the casting with a sledge hammer or specially designed knockout machinery. Risers must usually be removed using a cutting method (see above) but some newer methods of riser removal use knockoff machinery with special designs incorporated into the riser neck geometry that allow the riser to break off at the right place.
The gating system required to produce castings in a mold yields leftover metal — including heads, risers, and sprue (sometimes collectively called sprue) — that can exceed 50% of the metal required to pour a full mold. Since this metal must be remelted as salvage, the yield of a particular gating configuration becomes an important economic consideration when designing various gating schemes, to minimize the cost of excess sprue, and thus overall melting costs.
Heat treating is a group of industrial and metalworking processes used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material. The most common application is metallurgical. Heat treatments are also used in the manufacture of many other materials, such as glass. Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve a desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, tempering, and quenching. Although the term "heat treatment" applies only to processes where the heating and cooling are done for the specific purpose of altering properties intentionally, heating and cooling often occur incidentally during other manufacturing processes such as hot forming or welding.
After degating and heat treating, sand or other molding media may remain adhered to the casting. To remove any mold remnants, the surface is cleaned using a blasting process. This means a granular media will be propelled against the surface of the casting to mechanically knock away the adhering sand. The media may be blown with compressed air, or may be hurled using a shot wheel. The cleaning media strikes the casting surface at high velocity to dislodge the mold remnants (for example, sand, slag) from the casting surface. Numerous materials may be used to clean cast surfaces, including steel, iron, other metal alloys, aluminium oxides, glass beads, walnut shells, baking powder, and many others. The blasting media is selected to develop the color and reflectance of the cast surface. Terms used to describe this process include cleaning, bead blasting, and sand blasting. Shot peening may be used to further work-harden and finish the surface.
The final step in the process of casting usually involves grinding, sanding, or machining the component in order to achieve the desired dimensional accuracies, physical shape, and surface finish.
Removing the remaining gate material, called a gate stub, is usually done using a grinder or sander. These processes are used because their material removal rates are slow enough to control the amount of material being removed. These steps are done prior to any final machining.
After grinding, any surfaces that require tight dimensional control are machined. Many castings are machined in CNC milling centers. The reason for this is that these processes have better dimensional capability and repeatability than many casting processes. However, it is not uncommon today for castings to be used without machining.
A few foundries provide other services before shipping cast products to their customers. It is common to paint castings to prevent corrosion and improve visual appeal. Some foundries assemble castings into complete machines or sub-assemblies. Other foundries weld multiple castings or wrought metals together to form a finished product.
More and more, finishing processes are being performed by robotic machines, which eliminate the need for a human to physically grind or break parting lines, gating material, or feeders. Machines can reduce risk of injury to workers and lower costs for consumables — while also increasing productivity. They also limit the potential for human error and increase repeatability in the quality of grinding.
In metalworking and jewellery making, casting is a process in which a liquid metal is somehow delivered into a mold that contains a negative impression of the intended shape. The metal is poured into the mold through a hollow channel called a sprue. The metal and mold are then cooled, and the metal part is extracted. Casting is most often used for making complex shapes that would be difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods.
An ingot is a piece of relatively pure material, usually metal, that is cast into a shape suitable for further processing. In steelmaking, it is the first step among semi-finished casting products. Ingots usually require a second procedure of shaping, such as cold/hot working, cutting, or milling to produce a useful final product. Non-metallic and semiconductor materials prepared in bulk form may also be referred to as ingots, particularly when cast by mold based methods. Precious metal ingots can be used as currency, or as a currency reserve, as with gold bars.
Die casting is a metal casting process that is characterized by forcing 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, aluminium, magnesium, lead, pewter, and tin-based alloys. Depending on the type of metal being cast, a hot- or cold-chamber machine is used.
Sand casting, also known as sand molded casting, is a metal casting process characterized by using sand as the mold material. The term "sand casting" can also refer to an object produced via the sand casting process. Sand castings are produced in specialized factories called foundries. Over 60% of all metal castings are produced via sand casting process.
An electric arc furnace (EAF) is a furnace that heats charged material by means of an electric arc.
In foundry work, the terms cope and drag refer respectively to the top and bottom parts of a two-part casting flask, used in sand casting. The flask is a wood or metal frame, which contains the molding sand, providing support to the sand as the metal is poured into the mold. In flaskless molding, the same terms are used, cope for the top or upper piece and drag for the bottom or lower piece.
Lost-foam casting (LFC) is a type of evaporative-pattern casting process that is similar to investment casting except foam is used for the pattern instead of wax. This process takes advantage of the low boiling point of polymer foams to simplify the investment casting process by removing the need to melt the wax out of the mold.
Spin casting, also known as centrifugal rubber mold casting (CRMC), is a method of utilizing centrifugal force to produce castings from a rubber mold. Typically, a disc-shaped mold is spun along its central axis at a set speed. The casting material, usually molten metal or liquid thermoset plastic, is then poured in through an opening at the top-center of the mold. The filled mold then continues to spin as the metal solidifies.
In metallurgy, a ladle is a vessel used to transport and pour out molten metals. Ladles are often used in foundries and range in size from small hand carried vessels that resemble a kitchen ladle and hold 20 kilograms (44 lb) to large steelmill ladles that hold up to 300 tonnes. Many non-ferrous foundries also use ceramic crucibles for transporting and pouring molten metal and will also refer to these as ladles.
Investment casting is an industrial process based on lost-wax casting, one of the oldest known metal-forming techniques. The term "lost-wax casting" can also refer to modern investment casting processes.
Aluminium recycling is the process by which scrap aluminium can be reused in products after its initial production. The process involves simply re-melting the metal, which is far less expensive and energy-intensive than creating new aluminium through the electrolysis of aluminium oxide (Al2O3), which must first be mined from bauxite ore and then refined using the Bayer process. Recycling scrap aluminium requires only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminium from the raw ore. For this reason, approximately 36% of all aluminium produced in the United States comes from old recycled scrap. Used beverage containers are the largest component of processed aluminum scrap, and most of it is manufactured back into aluminium cans.
In casting, a pattern is a replica of the object to be cast, used to prepare the cavity into which molten material will be poured during the casting process.
Permanent mold casting is a metal casting process that employs reusable molds, usually made from metal. The most common process uses gravity to fill the mold, however gas pressure or a vacuum are also used. A variation on the typical gravity casting process, called slush casting, produces hollow castings. Common casting metals are aluminium, magnesium, and copper alloys. Other materials include tin, zinc, and lead alloys and iron and steel are also cast in graphite molds.
A cupola or cupola furnace is a melting device used in foundries that can be used to melt cast iron, Ni-resist iron and some bronzes. The cupola can be made almost any practical size. The size of a cupola is expressed in diameters and can range from 1.5 to 13 feet. The overall shape is cylindrical and the equipment is arranged vertically, usually supported by four legs. The overall look is similar to a large smokestack.
Full-mold casting is an evaporative-pattern casting process which is a combination of sand casting and lost-foam casting. It uses an expanded polystyrene foam pattern which is then surrounded by sand, much like sand casting. The metal is then poured directly into the mold, which vaporizes the foam upon contact.
Plaster mold casting is a metalworking casting process similar to sand casting except the molding material is plaster of Paris instead of sand. Like sand casting, plaster mold casting is an expendable mold process, however it can only be used with non-ferrous materials. It is used for castings as small as 30 g (1 oz) to as large as 45 kg (99 lb). Generally, the form takes less than a week to prepare. Production rates of 1–10 units/hr can be achieved with plaster molds.
Shell moulding, also known as shell-mould casting, is an expendable mold casting process that uses a resin covered sand to form the mold. As compared to sand casting, this process has better dimensional accuracy, a higher productivity rate, and lower labor requirements. It is used for small to medium parts that require high precision. Shell molding was developed as a manufacturing process during the mid-20th century in Germany. It was invented by a German engineer Johannes Croning. Shell mold casting is a metal casting process similar to sand casting, in that molten metal is poured into an expendable mold. However, in shell mold casting, the mold is a thin-walled shell created from applying a sand-resin mixture around a pattern. The pattern, a metal piece in the shape of the desired part, is reused to form multiple shell molds. A reusable pattern allows for higher production rates, while the disposable molds enable complex geometries to be cast. Shell mold casting requires the use of a metal pattern, oven, sand-resin mixture, dump box, and molten metal.
A core is a device used in casting and moulding processes to produce internal cavities and reentrant angles. The core is normally a disposable item that is destroyed to get it out of the piece. They are most commonly used in sand casting, but are also used in die casting and injection moulding.
A casting defect is an undesired irregularity in a metal casting process. Some defects can be tolerated while others can be repaired, otherwise they must be eliminated. They are broken down into five main categories: gas porosity, shrinkage defects, mold material defects, pouring metal defects, and metallurgical defects.
Uddeholms AB is a multinational producer of high alloyed tool steel with production in Hagfors, Sweden. Since 1991, the company is part of the Austrian Böhler-Uddeholm group which in turn is part of the voestalpine AG group since 2007. Uddeholms AB has 800 employees in Sweden. Globally, the Uddeholm group employs 3000 people.
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