Die Cast Tooling 101

Die Cast Tooling 101

The key to a successful die casting is a good tool design, so it is vital that both the die caster and the customer are well-versed in die casting capabilities and how they fit with project requirements.

A die casting die is a custom-engineered, multi-part piece of equipment made from high quality, heat-treated steel.  The tool is composed of two halves – a cover die (which is stationary) and the ejector die (which the die casting machine moves to meet the cover die).  As soon as the two halves meet, the molten metal is injected into the tool, where it is held under pressure until it solidifies.  After solidification, the metal is ejected, creating a nearly net shaped part within seconds.

Before a die is built, the customer first presents a concept or existing part to a die caster.  A die cast engineer will assess the project from design to end product and work with the customer to optimize the part design for die casting.   An initial discussion with the die caster may include topics such as: functional and cosmetic requirements, tolerances, annual and lifetime volume, alloy choice, mating parts, project timing, optimizing wall thickness, adding ribs, draft, and radius, etc.  Download a checklist of common considerations from CWM’s Die Cast Design Center (DC²):  NADCA Tooling Checklists for Die Casting Dies (2015).

Types of Die Casting Dies

Prototyping Dies

CWM Prototype Die Casts

A fully-featured, custom production die is a significant investment, so a prototype die is often used to make a small number of castings to test the part in several different scenarios (with the end product, dimensional accuracy, etc.).   Prototyping strategies include 3D printed parts, machined hogouts, or gravity castings, but these involve tradeoffs on the design, tolerances, and properties.  A high pressure die casting prototype die is the best approach if you want the same properties, alloy, geometry, and process that will be in place for production.

Prototype die casting dies can be produced in shorter lead times and at less cost because they can utilize standardized components (such as an existing die base and other components), and pre-hardened, uncoated tool steels.  They also require less engineering and may employ less efficient cooling or ejection techniques compared to other production methods.   The tool will not last as long and the die will not run as efficiently as a typical production die, but this is a non-issue when you only need a small quantity of parts (1,000 or less).    Design changes can be made faster and at less cost with a prototype die than would be the case on a custom, hardened/coated steel production die.   Parts made from a prototype die are generally hand cleaned of flash, avoiding the lead time and cost of a trim die.

Production Dies

Production dies are used when all designs are finalized, approved, and the program is ready to “launch” into an actual run.  These dies can have single or multiple cavities and the option of slides, depending on the design.  Read more about slides below, under “Casting Features and Die Considerations”.

Trim dies: In addition to the production die cast die, CWM employs trim dies for high volume production.  The trim die “trims” off the runner, overflows, and flash from the part, immediately after it is cast.  Some trim dies only require an open/close function, and others need multiple stations, cam, or hydraulically-operated motions to successfully remove all of the flash.   Occasionally, part geometry precludes the ability to completely remove flash with a trim die.  In that case, custom trimming devices, mechanical or hand de-flashing strategies will be employed.

Unit Dies

A unit die is a special type of production die.  A common die-caster owned unit holder keeps the customer-owned cavity block or unit die with cavity insert intact.   Single and double unit holders are common and come in a variety of sizes.   Typical sizes of the cavity blocks that they hold are 8”x10”; 10”x12”; 12”x15”; or 15”x18”.  Since unit dies employ generic components, they are often used for smaller, less complex parts with lower volume.   Larger, multiple slide, complex geometry, and higher volume parts are generally better served with a complete custom die that is engineered specifically for that part and allows for maximum efficiency and control.

Die Components and Terms

Some of the more common die components and terms include cavities (or cavity inserts), parting lines, cores or core pins, slides or slide cores, ejector plates and ejector pins.   A brief description of each follows:

Cavity Blocks or Cavity Inserts

These are the portions of the die casting die into which the part geometry is formed.   There is the ejector cavity (sometimes called the core cavity) and the cover cavity.   The cavity blocks are made of premium grade tool steel and are normally heat-treated to a very high hardness, then coated for lubricity and long life.   Water cooling lines pass through the cavity blocks as do the ejector pins that are used to push the part off of the die.   The cavity blocks are where most of the cost comes from, as generally this is where most of the custom design, engineering, and detailed machining is done.

Parting Lines

When the two die halves close, metal is injected into the cavity blocks and cooled in order to create the part.  There is a line that forms on the part where the cover half and the ejector half meet called the “parting line.”

More information on the parting line can be found in the following blog, “Read Between the Lines: Parting Line Placement in Metal Die Casting Design”.

Cores or Core Pins

A “core” is the separate and replaceable part of the die that forms an internal feature of the casting.   A core can be any shape, though circular is the most common (usually referred to as a “core pin”).   A core may be fixed to the die cavity or to a slide, actuated through the mechanical opening/closing of the die, or by hydraulic cylinder or other means.

Slides or Slide Cores

A slide (or slide core) is the portion of the die that forms a feature of the casting, that cannot be made with the normal opening and closing of the die, but is required to move at some angle relative to the parting line (with the most common orientation being parallel to the parting line).   The “slide” is the general term for the entire moving section, but a slide consists of multiple pieces (such as the slide front or tip, the wear plates, gibs, locks, carriers, etc.) and is generally water cooled.   Slide core is the general term used for either a simple core pin that is moving in and out on some angle to the parting line or a pin within the larger slide mechanism (for example: a replaceable “slide pin” can be mounted in the slide to form a specific hole, where the rest of the slide face forms the outside surface of the part).

Angle pins and hydraulic cylinders are the most common motion sources that activate slides.  Both sources of motion need to be designed into the tooling to avoid interference with part ejection/removal.

Angle pins are the more economical option because it is activated by the opening and closing of the die, and does not require hydraulics or switches, but is limited to shorter movements.   The hydraulic method offers a wider range of options including pull direction, timing of the pulling, and length of pull.   A die cast engineer can recommend the appropriate option based on the project.

Ejector Plates and Ejector Pins

Once a part has been cast and cooled, the halves open up and reveal the cast part.  The part typically shrinks in size as it cools, remaining in the ejector half of the die.   Ejector pins that are driven by a moving ejector plate are activated and used to push the casting off the die.

The ejector pin leaves a slight imprint on the casting, which indicates the placement of the pin should be in a non-cosmetic surface area of the casting that is not critical to the design (overflow, boss, bottom of a deep pocket, bottom of a rib, etc.).  Ultimately, the number of pins, pin locations, and pin sizes are dependent on the configuration and size of the part, along with other requirements.

Contact a CWM Die Cast Engineer.

Our engineering team is prepared to answer any questions you may have about the die casting process, as it pertains to your project.  Feel free to contact us directly at 630-595-4424, or e-mail us at sales@cwmtl.com in order to get in touch with the appropriate specialist.

CWM Adds New Idra Die Casting Machine, Full Implementation Planned for Q4 of 2020

Chicago White Metal is extremely proactive in the research of advanced technology and innovation, and their implementation into the die casting process. These efforts are put forth by the company in order to improve and enhance quality, efficiency, measurability, and overall cost savings for existing and future projects.

CWM leadership encourages an environment of cultivating innovative ideas where process improvement is concerned, granting members of the team an opportunity to take an active role in examining and suggesting alternatives to either modify or drastically change current techniques. The team is excited to implement these innovations into the workflow in both traditional and non-traditional ways. 

New Idra Die Casting Machine (2019)

A new Idra Die Casting machine was purchased last year. Extensive planning by the Chicago White Metal team was thoughtfully executed, with full implementation planned for the beginning of Q4 in 2020. This new die casting machine has a 900-ton capacity, which gives Chicago White Metal the opportunity to accommodate substantially larger applications. Although the machine is being installed into the magnesium department, it will initially be used to cast aluminum parts. 

CWM Update: New Website Design and Subscription-Free DC2

Chicago White Metal Homepage

We are proud to announce the re-launch of our company website, www.cwmdiecast.com! In an effort to create a better, more user-friendly experience for our visitors, we made some significant upgrades. The website is now fully responsive and features a much more modern look and feel to better showcase our products and educational content.

Now that the website is responsive, it’s compatible with any device, i.e. desktops, laptops, tablets, and all mobile devices. We always strive to stay ahead of the curve and offer not only the most innovative die cast solutions to our customers, but a great user experience online for anyone who visits our website too.

Last but not least, we want to provide you with easily accessible, valuable resources so you can learn more about our products and company. That’s why we removed the need to subscribe to our Die Cast Design Center and added educational materials from the DC2 to their corresponding pages (see the bottom of the Die Casting page for example). You can now view CWM’s Design Guides, Case Studies, Webinars, and much more at the click of a button! The Design Center and Blog will be updated consistently, so be sure to check back regularly for the latest in CWM news!

Feel free to browse the new design and contact us by filling out one of the forms throughout the website or by calling (630) 595-4424.

CWM and Aerosonic Take Flight with NADCA Award

Eric Treiber, CWM President and CEO, accepts NADCA Award

Congratulations to the Chicago White Metal Casting and Aerosonic Engineering teams for winning yet another North American Die Casting Association (NADCA) award for design excellence in 2019!

NADCA Die Casting Submission

The NADCA Award for Design Excellence is a prestigious die cast engineering award which enlists a committee chosen by NADCA  to review hundreds of submissions from various die casters and then carefully select the best of the best in the industry.

Chicago White Metal and Aerosonic worked on an Aircraft Altimeter housing, which is a die cast housing that attaches to another cup-shaped housing, protecting the gears and mechanics of the altimeter.  The “serrated” edge of the circular part of the component works in conjunction with the gears, with all parts responding to the barometric pressure of the atmosphere.

Aircraft Altimeter housing

The design came to Chicago White Metal as a concept – this was a new part which was collaboratively designed by both engineering teams.

The high pressure die casting process was used to create a net shape product with the gears included in the as-cast design.  This process allowed Chicago White Metal to produce parts at a rate of 130 casting per hour, which is faster and therefore less costly than any other process that could have been chosen for this project.

Chicago White Metal Invests in Robotics and Automation

FANUC CNC Robot die casting
FANUC CNC Robot die casting

Chicago White Metal remains very proactive in the research and implementation of advanced technology into the die casting process, added value and finishing operations. CWM leadership encourages an environment where team members can examine and suggest alternatives to current techniques in order to improve and enhance quality, efficiency and measurability.  This ultimately leads to an overall efficiency for existing and future projects.  The team is always excited at the prospect of taking an original idea and watching it grow into a reality.

One idea that came to life in 2018 is the implementation of robotics and automation technology in the CNC department. There are currently 6 active robot implementations: 4 Universal Co-bots and 2 Fanuc Robot Cells.  These robots were commissioned quickly in the past 12 months, calling for the promotion of Daniel Lechuga to Automation Specialist in order to keep up with the equipment maintenance and wiring.

The Fanuc Robot Cells are dedicated to several tasks such as facilitating added value and finishing operation checks, leak testing several parts at a time, and tending to CNC machinery.  This allows team members to tend to other machines and focus on performing more critical tasks.  The Fanuc robots were the first to be integrated into the CNC department and can be seen on the shop floor with cages around them.  They are currently facilitating parts for an archery riser and an automotive ECU housing.

The Universal Co-bots are collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans.  The robots themselves have sensors that detect when someone is near or approaching the robot, triggering the mechanism which slows down and stops the machine.  Chicago White Metal implemented four co-bots, which are currently handling parts for two different models of portable oxygen concentrators, a crossbow riser, an electronic housing, and a medical device handle.

CWM Takes Recycling to New Levels

CWM Recycles AL, ZN, and MG
CWM Recycles

As a further refinement to our environmentally responsible culture, CWM has launched a new Recycling Initiative to help take our focus on environmentally friendly manufacturing and overall stewardship to a new level. One of our key objectives is to encourage similar programs with our suppliers, neighbors, and customers.

CWM Recycles Magnesium Scrap

CWM’s recycled materials, such as plastic, steel, cardboard, electronics, etc. are typically sent to a certified recycling vendor. CWM, however, as part of our new Recycling Initiative, is taking the extraordinary step of requiring our recycling vendors to provide a full manifest/certification and/or a detailed process map that illustrates exactly how recyclables are processed. We are finding that not everything is being recycled as we thought. Plans are underway to deal with this issue transparently, and to determine what improvements can be made.

We are also asking our suppliers to provide the recycled content of products sold to CWM. As an example, we asked our food/beverage provider to see if plastic stirrers, lids, utensils, and containers can be replaced with something more environmentally friendly. That effort resulted in eliminating plastic soda bottles (cans and cartons only), changing coffee stirrers from plastic to wood, and replacing foam coffee cups with biodegradable ones.

CWM takes environmental stewardship seriously. We’ve been a leader in our industry in this regard, having had recycling programs in place for more than 30 years. And though we can’t completely overhaul the entire recycling industry on our own, our team will do what we can to initiate changes. We are confident that this renewed Recycling Initiative will have a very positive impact on CWM and our community of suppliers, customers, and neighbors. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months!

CWM and Crossbow Manufacturer Hit the Target with a NADCA Design Award!

CWM CEO and President Eric Treiber accepts NADCA Award
CWM CEO and President Eric Treiber accepts NADCA Award

Chicago White Metal collaborated with a crossbow maker to get a bullseye win for a riser part!  Eric Treiber accepted the award on behalf of CWM for the 2018 North American Die Casting Association (NADCA) Excellence in Design Award, winning the “Aluminum 1 to 10 lbs.” category.

The crossbow manufacturing company was focused primarily on two things: safety and quality.  The riser is a safety-critical part that is the “heart” of the crossbow, so the strength of the part was vital to the success of the end product.  The crossbow was designed to be narrow and made for pinpoint accuracy.  It is one of the lightest crossbows on the market, weighing in at only 6.3 lbs.

Crossbow riser piece cast by CWM

This was the manufacturer’s very first die cast part, which enabled them to convert the “machined from extrusion” approach that they typically do for crossbow risers to a high pressure die casting process.  The design was modified to incorporate as-cast pockets in order to eliminate additional assembly.  Ultimately, the cost was reduced by 1/3 simply by converting to the high-pressure die casting process.

“The Aluminum 1 to 10 lbs category is typically a more competitive category.  That makes the win even more of an honor,” Marketing Coordinator Roseann Rimocal says.

CWM’s internal marketing showcase will display the parts, the end product, and the award for a couple weeks.  The plaque will then be transferred to its new home in the Research & Development wing, along with a number of other design awards Chicago White Metal has taken home over the course of many years.

Die Casting Industry Spotlight: Medical Devices Manufacturing

Die Casting Industry Spotlight: Medical Devices Manufacturing

The medical industry is breaking through technological barriers at a rapid rate. This perpetual state of change has revolutionized the way the medical profession delivers healthcare. The way in which surgical procedures are done, replacement parts are made, medical data is obtained or analyzed, and various other aspects of healthcare is changing rapidly. As new ideas are developed and marketed, traditional methods are giving way to new approaches. All industries that are involved with the medical device market today have to be ready to adapt to this “moving target.” Project managers need to place more emphasis on shortening design and launch cycles so that products take advantage of the new technologies and get to market sooner.

While the medical manufacturing industry, in general, has made amazing technological advancements, the demand for these products also increases every year. The 2018 revenue projections are $41 billion and continued strong growth of roughly 12% is anticipated so long as the supply can keep up with the demand.

The increasing demand is most likely due to the following factors:

1)  More advanced and personalized treatment (i.e. portable oxygen concentrators, chemotherapy travel kits, heart monitors, etc.)
2)  An increase in the availability of healthcare (healthcare insurance reform includes those with a pre-existing condition, covering certain items within their treatment)
3)  An aging population
4)  An increase in device recalls (urges medical manufacturers to proactively invest in additional testing and validation for parts)

Since devices are increasing in demand, the industry has many medium to higher volume applications, ideal for using high pressure die casting as an efficient, high quality solution. When searching for a die caster, it is important to select a company that has a certified quality management system in place and an approach that allows all engineering teams to work collaboratively on the part design.

Want to read more on how the High Pressure Die Casting process can be used for mass production?  Click here to view the .PDF.

CWM Gets “Klever” and takes Home a 2017 NADCA Die Casting Award!

CWM Director of Engineering Rob Malarky Accepts NADCA Award for Klever Xchange Plus Handle
CWM Director of Engineering Rob Malarky Accepts NADCA Award for Klever Xchange Plus Handle

Chicago White Metal collaborated with Klever Innovations to “cut” out the competition and take home a win for the Klever Xchange Plus Handle!  Both teams were honored with a 2017 North American Die Casting Association (NADCA) Excellence in Design Award, winning the “Magnesium under 0.5 lbs.” category.

Klever Xchange Plus Handle

Klever Innovations is a company that makes safety their top priority and is committed to developing the most innovative safety equipment and utility cutting knives in the industry. Klever manufactures and designs all of their products within the United States, and the safety knives are built to the highest quality and efficiency, helping to reduce costs associated with on-the-job injury claims and employee downtime. They have developed a full line of cutters and safety knives that satisfy different needs in the workplace, utilizing an innovative replacement blade system which protects employees when they are changing out the blades.

CWM Wins NADCA Award for Klever Xchange Plus Handle

Chicago White Metal spent a great deal of time and care ensuring the engineering of this part maintained the Klever reputation. Both engineering teams discussed the challenge, which was how to make as many of the features castable and eliminate additional processes. The previous end product (Klever Xchange) was a multi-part assembly, which was primarily plastic with steel and rubber features. CWM worked closely with the Klever team to create a design that involved consolidating this part into a single magnesium casting for a more cost- and time-efficient die cast solution.

NADCA is a die casting association that sets quality standards and checkpoints for die casters throughout North America.  The prestigious Award of Excellence is an annual award that is given to the companies involved in the design of a die cast part which shows the highest level of die casting innovation and overall efficiency.

Congratulations to the CWM Engineering Team and Klever for a 2017 Win!

CWM Industry Spotlight: Robotics

CWM Industry Spotlight: Robotics
CWM Industry Spotlight: Robotics

Industry Outlook

Due to the increasing popularity of automation, the robotics industry continues an upward trend in today’s economy.  Robots take necessary operations and create measurable tasks, which can accurately estimate project timelines.  Robots also perform tasks at a lower cost and allow very little room for error, working in a way that cannot be replicated by a human manufacturing team.  New robot technology is constantly being researched and implemented, allowing rapid growth in capabilities.  Though the robotics industry is generally known for great success in automotive manufacturing, it has given various other industries the benefits of automation.

For example, service robotics are being utilized in government initiatives for military/defense sectors to reduce human involvement.  This would increase the number of unmanned ground vehicles deployed into the front lines, reducing the number of casualties in the face of danger.

The medical industry is another example.  Medical service robots work with MRI, CT scans, fluoroscopy and ultrasound imaging, increasing productivity and decreasing malpractice liability, human error, and the exposure of radiation to human staff.

Robot Usage Chart

Service robotics are estimated to reach $21.7 billion by 2022, with growth over 17.8% from 2015 to 2022.  Medical service robotics sales were just over $2.1 billion in 2014 and are expected to exceed $6 billion by 2022, growing 15% during the forecast period.

The Role of Die Casting in Robotics Products

There are many parts inside of a robot which are ideal candidates for the die casting process.  Aluminum, magnesium, and zinc are the most common alloys in die casting and all three can be used in any type of robotic equipment based on part requirements.  CWM die casts durable components that withstand the wear of repeated tasks, exposure to harsh environments as well as office settings, and protect the delicate electrical work in a robot.

How CWM Contributed Die Castings to the Industry

Chicago White Metal manufactures thousands of parts that have been incorporated into robots.  The CWM engineering team collaborates with customers to produce castings at reduced costs.  These parts are generally high in quality and in strength to protect the delicate electrical work in a robot.

Aluminum for Robotics

ReThink Robotics and CWM

Aluminum A380 is the most frequently used alloy in die casting, offering the best combination of material properties and castability.  Aluminum die castings are used in various industries, including the robotics industry.  CWM casts several components, including housing in the arm, wrist, base, “elbow”, and several other parts of industrial robots.  CWM offers an aluminum alloy data sheet, available for download here.

Aluminum is the ideal choice when the strength-weight ratio is important.  It is about 1/3 the weight of steel and higher tensile strength than cast iron, which are other popular metals used in robot manufacturing.  Of the three, aluminum is the most abundant resource, providing a cost-efficient product.  Aluminum is also an excellent non-magnetic, non-sparking conductor, which makes it suitable for robotic construction.

Magnesium in the future?

Magnesium AZ91D is known for its lightweight properties as a metal.  AZ91D can also be designed for robotic components, when the requirements call for a weight reduction and portability without compromising on material strength and rigidity.  Chicago White Metal can use magnesium in various robotic applications.  For more information on the Magnesium alloy AZ91D, download the white paper here.

If you would like to learn more about the capabilities of die casting and the robotics industry, e-mail us at sales@cwmtl.com or give us a call at 630-595-4424.