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Different Strokes: Factors That Determine Appropriate Metal Manufacturing Processes

Oct 13th 2015 at 10:02 PM

It all depends

There are many metal manufacturing methods including fabricating, forging, machining and powder metallurgy among others. Each has its own advantages but metal casting has been shown to have the widest range of capabilities based on the geometry, alloy components and size of the metal. As a result, it is a favorite among design engineers for various components.

However, even within the metal casting process, there are plenty of options depending on what works best for that part. Choosing one can be rather intimidating but we have a checklist that you can use to help you make an informed (and near-expert) decision.

How big is it?

Most metal casting manufacturers will ask you how big the part you are having made will be. This can be determined while designing the part based on what you will be using it for. If you plan on making a part weighing 1,000lbs or more then investment casting should be ruled out.

Even with large investment castings, there are complexities in this process that are better suited for specific net shapes or geared towards solidification integrity and surface finish. Alternatives can be found, however, to offer some advantages of investment casting.

What is it made of?

Here you’re looking at the alloy’s microstructure. It affects the properties of the cast, particularly solidification, which will determine how well the part turns out. For instance, faster solidification is a good thing for aluminum because it makes smaller dendrites that add strength to the part. On the other hand, rapid solidification for iron damages its machinability. Microstructure of your alloy is something you should certainly consider when looking for casting solutions.

Can it be casted?

Seems like an obvious question but it is important. The choice of your metal will determine how much elongation and yield strength can be attained vis-à-vis geometry of the part. It could actually limit your casting options.

However, sand casting and investment casting are quite broad spectrum as far as the type of metal but plaster, permanent mold and die-casting are rather specific in their metal types.

Environmental Impact

Each process will have a certain effect on the environment. What you want to do is mitigate that impact as much as possible. Most metal casting companies have an industrial waste reduction policy and you need to check it out. You can also discuss with your designer which metal and which design will have the smallest impact on the environment.

There are other considerations such as cost, dimensional needs, surface finishes and other special considerations but at least you now know what it takes to make this decision.

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