Metal casting is an ancient and valuable process that finds applications in various industries, including fine art and manufacturing. It involves transferring molten metal into a mold to create metal-cast components.
After cooling, the metal component is extracted from the mold and finished. There are several metal casting techniques, such as sand casting, die casting, plaster mold casting, and lost-wax casting, which are typically carried out in a foundry.
Metal casting processes have been utilized for thousands of years, proving indispensable in the creation of tools, weapons, transportation, jewelry, sculptures, and more. The first recorded use of metal casting dates back to 3200 BCE with the creation of a copper frog, which can still be found in Iraq.
Metal casting gained popularity during the Bronze Age due to the strength and workability of bronze compared to gold. Stone molds were used to cast weapons and tools during this time.
China employed sand molds for metal casting during the Shang Dynasty, while India is credited with being the first civilization to cast copper and silver coins around 1000 BCE. Iron casting was introduced by the Zhou Dynasty around 500 BCE.
Lost wax casting was widely used in West Africa and the Middle East throughout history. In the 20th century, metal casting technology experienced a significant boom, laying the foundation for modern techniques that continue to evolve today.
What are the Different Objects Produced by Metal Casting?
Metal casting has a rich historical background and has been utilized for the production of weapons, tools, and religious objects. It offers an affordable method of creating intricate and complex designs, while allowing for the replication of multiple objects with the same design.
The applications of metal casting are extensive, particularly in the fields of manufacturing, transportation, and technology. Metal casting products can range from lightweight items like cast rings to heavier objects such as diesel engines. Furthermore, the shapes of casting products vary widely, from simple to highly intricate designs.
While a significant portion of castings is used in heavy equipment and transportation, metal casting is a versatile process with diverse applications.
Metal casting components can be found in farming equipment, electrical components, construction machinery, household appliances, machining tools, and various artistic and sculptural objects.
Metal-cast objects are also prevalent in different modes of transportation, including shipping, railways, aerospace, and automobiles. Additionally, they play a vital role in the production of defense tools, weapons, and equipment.
What are the Different Types of Metal Casting?
There are two major categories of metal casting – techniques that require expendable molds and techniques that use reusable molds. In both techniques, the metal material is melted in the crucible and then poured into the mold. Once the mold and the material have cooled down and solidified, the casting will be removed from the mold.
Metal Casting with Expendable Mold
Metal casting with expendable mold is a process that uses temporary or single-use molds. Generally, these molds are created from foam, plaster investments, ceramic shells, or resin-bonded sand. Creating expendable mold is fast and inexpensive and ideal for small-volume manufacturing.
Metal Casting with Non-expendable Mold
Metal casting with non-expendable mold uses permanent and reusable molds. They are much stronger; hence, they can endure the hot temperature of the melted metal.
Usually, permanent molds are created from metals such as cast iron or steel due to their high resistance to heat, low porosity, and high strength. Non-expendable molds are best suited for producing multiple products with the same object.
How Does the Metal Casting Process Work?
Basically, the metal casting process requires a mold to create the design and a molten metal which will be poured into the mold. Once the metal has hardened and cooled down, it will be taken from the mold and finished. This process will greatly depend on the type of metal casting, as well as its size, shape, and other factors.
Make A Pattern
Before you can proceed with making your mold, it is necessary to create a pattern that determines the shape of the mold. This pattern can be a three-dimensional model of the desired metal cast, which can be crafted from materials such as wood, plastic, sand, or wax.
While some molds are made from silicone or plaster, these materials cannot withstand the high temperatures of molten metal and are typically used in expendable mold casting.
When designing your pattern, it is important to account for any shrinkage that may occur as the metal cools. Additionally, incorporating sprues in your patterns facilitates the smooth flow of the molten metal into the mold.
Create the Mold
Once you are done with your pattern, the next thing to do is to create your mold. As stated above, you could either use a single-use mold, which is created from ceramic shell, plaster, or sand, or a reusable mold, which is created from metal.
Both techniques for creating molds are optimized depending on the pattern’s complexity and the casting material. If you are using a plastic or wax pattern, you could place the pattern inside the kiln and let it burn out.
Select a Metallic Alloy
Metal casting components are created by using either non-ferrous or ferrous alloys. Alloys are a combination of various elements that include effective mechanical properties to be used for the metal cast.
Some examples of ferrous alloys are gray iron, malleable iron, and steel. While the most used non-ferrous alloys are copper, bronze, and aluminum. Oftentimes, the most precious metals that are used in jewelry studios are platinum, gold, copper, and silver.
Melting of the Alloys
Different alloys have different melting processes since the melting temperatures of these alloys vary. Generally, melting the metal can be accomplished by placing the alloy in a crucible and heating it either inside a furnace or in an open flame.
Pouring of the Molten Metal
Once the alloy has melted, it is ready to be poured into the mold. For small metal castings, you can directly pour the molten metal from the crucible into the cavity. However, for larger castings, it is advisable to have assistance from others.
This involves melting the metal in a furnace, transferring it into a larger crucible, and then pouring it into the mold cavity. When handling molten metal, it is essential to strictly follow recommended safety measures.
This includes wearing appropriate protective clothing such as safety goggles, insulated gloves, long pants and sleeves, and fire-resistant attire. Working in a well-ventilated area is crucial to mitigate risks from harmful fumes.
It is important to have a chemical fire extinguisher readily available and ensure sufficient clearance between the mold and the furnace. Always wait for the mold to properly harden before proceeding to the next step.
Extract the Casting from The Mold
Once the metal has solidified and cooled down, it’s time to take it from the mold. If you are using a single-use mold for your casting, you can simply break the mold.
In case of a plaster investment, you can submerge this into the water so the mold can break. On the other hand, for reusable molds, ejector pins might be needed to remove your casting.
Finish Your Casting
Finally, you will have to file and polish your metal casting. You can clean your metal casting objects by removing any excess metal to make it smooth.
SEI Castings manufactures customized metal casting products. If you require aluminum die-cast products, then you can call us at (408) 374-10.