Die Castings

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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 molds 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.

The casting equipment and the metal dies represent large capital costs and this tends to limit the process to high volume production. Manufacture of parts using die casting is relatively simple, involving only four main steps, 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.

Two variants are pore-free die casting, which is used to eliminate gas porosity defects; and direct injection die casting, which is used with zinc castings to reduce scrap and increase yield.

Die casting equipment was invented in 1838 for the purpose of producing movable type for the printing industry. The first die casting-related patent was granted in 1849 for a small hand operated machine for the purpose of mechanized printing type production. In 1885, Otto Mergenthaler invented the linotype machine, an automated type casting device which became the prominent type of equipment in the publishing industry. Other applications grew rapidly, with die casting facilitating the growth of consumer goods and appliances by making affordable the production of intricate parts in high volumes.

Die-casting is similar to permanent mold casting except that the metal is injected into the mold under high pressure of 10-210Mpa (1,450-30,500) psi . This results in a more uniform part, generally good surface finish and good dimensional accuracy, as good as 0.2 % of casting dimension. For many parts, post-machining can be totally eliminated, or very light machining may be required to bring dimensions to size.

Die-casting can be done using a cold chamber or hot chamber process:

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  • In a cold chamber process, the molten metal is ladled into the cold chamber for each shot. There is less time exposure of the melt to the plunger walls or the plunger. This is particularly useful for metals such as Aluminum, and Copper (and its alloys) that alloy easily with Iron at the higher temperatures.
  • In a hot chamber process the pressure chamber is connected to the die cavity is immersed permanently in the molten metal. The inlet port of the pressurizing cylinder is uncovered as the plunger moves to the open (unpressurized) position. This allows a new charge of molten metal to fill the cavity and thus can fill the cavity faster than the cold chamber process. The hot chamber process is used for metals of low melting point and high fluidity such as tin, zinc, and lead that tend not to alloy easily with steel at their melt temperatures.

Die casting molds (called dies in the industry) tend to be expensive as they are made from hardened steel-also the cycle time for building these tend to be long. Also the stronger and harder metals such as iron and steel cannot be die-cast

Die Casting