Equipment Highlight: CWM’s new 1000-Ton Die Casting Machine

In September of 2020, Chicago White Metal’s maintenance team took on the task of installing a brand new aluminum 1000-ton die casting machine. Under the leadership of Max Golovin, CWM’s Director of R&D, the installation of a new IDRA-900 Xpress Die Casting Machine was completed in the spring of 2021. CWM produced the first official casting from the new machine on March 24, 2021.

The purchase of the IDRA Xpress 900 Series Die Casting Machine gives CWM the ability to expand our already extensive capabilities. Bill Erbacci, CWM’s Customer Care/Fulfillment Manager, said, “The new IDRA machine gives CWM increased capacity and scheduling flexibility. As a result, CWM can run a broader mix of parts in the new IDRA. This translates into shorter die casting lead times for our customer’s orders.”

Benefits of the IDRA Xpress 900

The IDRA Xpress 900 Series Die Casting Machine features a state-of-the-art design with a 900 Metric (1000 US) ton clamping force capacity and a larger platen than other CWM machines. In addition, the Xpress Series from IDRA offers a Rigid Toggle System, which gives the machine the closing force necessary to produce larger, thin wall, complex parts.

The Xpress Series from IDRA was an ideal choice for CWM because it offers excellent efficiency and long-lasting precision – it also provides:

  • Fast and reliable injection of the molten metal
  • Longevity, because it’s built to last in heavy-duty conditions
  • Easy maintenance
  • Low energy consumption
  • Full automation

One of the most significant benefits of adding the IDRA Xpress 900 Series Die Casting Cell to CWM’s fleet of equipment is that it is a complete Die Casting Cell. Meaning, it’s equipped with its own melting furnace, two robots, an automatic sprayer, hot-oil heating units, water-cooling system, part cooling conveyor, and trim press. One robot loads ingots into the furnace, while the other extracts the part from the die and places it on the conveyer.

What the Future Holds

CWM has already produced many parts in the new machine, and the results have been excellent. The IDRA Xpress 900 Series Die Casting Machine allows CWM to push the boundaries because we can now produce larger parts while still maintaining the highest quality possible.

Contact the CWM Team today if you or your team have a part that you think might be a good fit for CWM’s high pressure die casting process. Click here to visit our contact page or fill out a quote request.

Preparing for Installation

After installation:

CWM & Waygate Technologies Win Prestigious IMA Award

The International Magnesium Association has awarded Chicago White Metal in conjunction with Waygate Technologies with its 2021 IMA Award of Excellence in its Commercial (non-automotive) Cast Product!

The end product for this magnesium casting is a Remote Videoscope that is used to inspect hard-to-reach areas. It offers HD Video and 3D measurements, and it features a military-grade portable design for ease of use in any industrial environment. The handheld device is used in several industries, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Energy
  • Oil and Gas
  • Research and Development

The award was given to both teams for demonstrating significant advancements over current practices and it was well deserved! Congratulations to the Chicago White Metal Engineering Team along with Waygate Technologies Engineering team for coming together to create this award-winning part. 

Equipment Highlight: FANUC Robots

Benefits of using Robots

At Chicago White Metal Casting, we strive to have the most advanced technologies available to assist with die casting, CNC machining, and other operations. For example, CWM has two FANUC robots in our CNC department – the M10iA and the M-20iB. The M-10/20 series robots offer increased load capacity and extended reach. These robots are small, but they are the perfect automation solution for many applications, especially when it comes to handling, assembly, material removal, and machine tending.

In addition to its increased load capacity and reach, the M-10/20 series robots use considerably less energy than older models; they also boast a cost-efficient modular design. Furthermore, the M-10/20 series robots offer integrated cable routing, making them considerably easier to maintain – ultimately saving time and money.

Robot Use at CWM

At CWM, we use the FANUC M-10/20 series robots to load/unload the CNC machining center for some of CWM’s higher volume parts. The robots that CWM employs can work with several different part numbers and utilizes camera-based vision systems to accomplish the following:

  • Verify the presence and location of holes
  • Determine the orientation of the part
  • Load and unload parts onto a CNC fixture
  • Install special clamping inserts
  • Confirm the clamping is correct
  • Sequence part unloading/loading from conveyor

One of the most significant advantages of utilizing these robots is that several hours’ worth of material can be loaded/unloaded into side-by-side input/output conveyors integrated into the cell and tied into the robot’s logic. This system allows the robot/CNC cell to work continuously, resulting in a steady flow of parts. In addition, the robot incorporates several camera-based inspection steps using a 2D vision verification system that stimulates the eyes, further assuring that parts will meet CWM’s and the customer’s quality standards.

FANUC M-10iA Robot.

Camera to confirm part integrity.

Loading conveyer.

Unloading conveyer.

CNC machine where the part is loaded.

Why Did CWM Choose FANUC?

The FANUC M-10/20 robots are designed for various light material handling applications. They are considered high-speed robots and can be used in many scenarios, including assembly, CNC machine tending, and even in the die casting process. In addition, this robot simplifies applications and floor plans because it is more compact than other robots while maintaining the highest axis speeds and best repeatability. 

Another benefit of using these robots is they can be mounted at any angle on the floor, wall, or ceiling. They are also very small, which means they can fit into tight workspaces. At Chicago White Metal, we currently have six active robots in our CNC department – four universal co-bots and two FANUC Robot Cells. Co-bots, or collaborative robots, are different from robots because they can work with humans to accomplish tasks while robots work independently and run with no human intervention.

To learn more about the equipment that we have here at CWM, visit this page. If you would like to contact our team here at CWM, call (630) 595-4424, or you can request a quote here.

How CWM Assures Critical Cosmetic Success

At Chicago White Metal, we are constantly investing in advanced technologies to improve the die casting process. While Magmasoft® has been used in the industry for years, it’s still considered a revolutionary technology because it reduces lead time, improves quality assurance, and saves money. The engineering team at Chicago White Metal has been using Magmasoft® software for a little over a decade, and it’s made a big difference when it comes to producing quality castings. 

There are numerous projects that have seen success at CWM thanks in large part to  Magmasoft® and the hard work of our engineering team. Recently, CWM was given the opportunity to cast a magnesium housing for a handheld camera. The combination of the part specifications and the shape meant it would be challenging to create an optimum part. 

After our engineering team created the tooling design for the project, they used the advanced Magmasoft® process simulation software. Doing so enabled the CWM engineers to predict the effects of the final metal flow for the part. After a series of precise tooling design iterations and repeat simulations, the design was released for die tooling construction—the final result: a strong, well-cast part.

This is a good example of the metal flow simulation provided by the Magmasoft® software.

As illustrated in the animation above, Magmasoft® allows rapid analysis of a product’s design, tooling, and process variables before die construction. Magmasoft® is designed specifically for metal casting manufacturers. The advanced software provides incredibly realistic and detailed mapping of all involved processes.

CWM engineers believe that the Magmasoft® system is the best predictor of a die casting die design’s performance. It provides the best estimate of the metal flow results that can be expected in the final cast part.

Contact CWM today to learn more about Magmasoft® and how it can help reduce lead time, improve quality assurance, and lower manufacturing costs. You can also request a quote from our sales team to see if your project is suitable for die casting.

Equipment Highlight: Investment in Energy-Efficient Furnace Pays Off

energySMART Aluminum Furnace

Chicago White Metal is always looking for ways to improve the die casting process while decreasing energy usage. Back in 2014, CWM determined that one of the best ways to accomplish both of those goals was to replace our old reverberatory furnace from the 1970s with a modern central stackmelter aluminum furnace.

CWM worked with energySMART, a Nicor Gas program, to replace our underperforming furnace with a high-efficiency one. After much deliberation, CWM chose the StrikoMelter furnace from StrikoWestofen America because it offered the lowest energy consumption of any furnace in its class.

Energy Efficiency & Improved Performance

When CWM chose the StrikoWestofen energy-efficient aluminum melting furnace, we immediately received energySMART incentives in return for reducing our carbon footprint. With the new furnace, CWM cut the amount of natural gas we used in the melting process substantially. And even though the StikoMelter came with a smaller holding capacity, the melting capacity significantly increased to 4,400 lbs. per hour instead of 1,400 lbs. per hour with the old furnace.

By acquiring the modern furnace, CWM qualified for the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, an energy-purchase rebate program funded by Nicor Gas Company. The incentives from this program enabled CWM to make the investment, which saw immediate returns.

How it works:

The new furnace came with Striko’s patented ETAmax® system, which combines preheating, heating, and melting phases efficiently in a single melting shaft. While return material and ingots are melted quickly in the lower section, the material preheats in the shaft area above it.

The molten metal is then transferred to a holding bath, reducing waste and maintaining preset holding temperature. This simple but effective recuperative concept resulted in significant fuel consumption savings and a dramatic reduction in metal loss due to oxidation or dross. Other benefits of having a modern, energy-efficient furnace include:

  • Easy to load: The furnace’s shaft is more expansive and can easily accept returns of up to 2.5m². Extra-large charging bins also mean there’s no need to “cut to fit,” saving precious time, resources, and money.
  • Less energy wasted: Shortened metal melting, reduced natural gas consumption, and an improved material yield to increase efficiency.
  • Cleaner metal: The design of the furnace limits the amount of dross and oxide production resulting in cleaner metal and less waste.

Looking back almost seven years to the date, we can say that it was well worth the investment when it comes to energy savings and improving CWM’s overall product. When asked about the furnace, Jim Reitenbach, Production Manager at CWM, said, “This was one of the best equipment investments CWM has ever made.”

Inside CWM: Winter 2020 – Vol. 16 No. 3

In the Winter 2020 edition of Inside CWM you can learn about:

  • A look back over the last 60+ years in the Die Cast industry by CWM Chairman, Walter Treiber
  • Recognition of CWM’s Outstanding Performers of the Month & Year
  • CWM Pet Superlatives
  • CWM employee service awards from 2020
  • “Employee Bragging Rights” – an update on some CWM’ers and their families
  • “CWM Gives Back” – Toys-for-Tots and CWM
  • CWM does #TBT
  • CWM Word search
  • Health Fair 2020

Click here to read Inside CWM: Winter 2020

Die Cast Prototyping – Benefits and Types

In addition to Chicago White Metal’s advanced part design and DFM assistance, CWM offers various prototyping options to bridge the gap between design and production tooled high pressure die casting. CWM’s prototyping process offerings include:

  • 3D printing (resin)
  • CNC machining
  • Gravity casting via the sand, rubber-plaster mold, or investment casting processes
  • Prototype die casting

Reasons to Use Prototyping

Prototyping offers the opportunity for design verification – a chance to identify design flaws before committing to production level tooling. And while it is not necessary to prototype every design, sometimes doing so saves time and money. Generally, the further along in the developmental cycle a design error is discovered, the greater its cost.

When tooling needs to be scrapped or reworked, the impact is evident in terms of costs and delays. However, reworking a die cast die also adds cost in decreased die life and potential negative quality impacts. Using today’s prototyping technologies can help manufacturers avoid these stressful situations.

There are several prototype methods from which to choose. Selecting the best option for your application comes down to tradeoffs. For example, some options, such as 3D printing of a plastic model or machining from billet, are relatively inexpensive for low quantities because no tooling is required. But the mechanical properties of a plastic or machined part are quite different than the properties of a die casting. Assessing what prototype process is best for your needs requires consideration of quantity, timing, mechanical properties, dimensional accuracy, surface finish, wall thickness, cosmetic requirements, etc. A good high pressure die casting supplier should be able to guide you toward the appropriate option.

Prototype Methods

(click image to enlarge)

3D Printed Prototypes

3D printing enables the production of rapid prototypes in many types of plastic, directly from STL design files. Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) is one form of 3D printing that builds parts layer-by-layer, from resin, directly from 3D computer data. An FDM machine can produce geometrically complex shapes to tolerances of +0.005 in (+.127 mm).

At CWM, we use FDM prototypes for every new die casting project to expedite production and shorten total lead-times. These prototypes give our suppliers and our engineering, production, and quality teams a chance to see parts in advance, ensuring that the part and die cast design is robust. They are also used to develop fixtures, tools, racks, etc., for inspection, machining, assembly, painting, plating, etc. FDM models ensure that the part design results in an efficient manufacturing process and helps reduce overall project lead-time by allowing simultaneous construction of downstream process tooling.

Machined Prototypes

Machined prototypes are widely used because they offer product designers a good combination of physical and mechanical properties, generally short lead-time, and zero to minimal tooling investment. Prototype parts can be machined from billet via CNC machining by working directly from customer CAD files. After transferring a machined prototype to a CAM program interfacing with CNC workstations, we can produce these prototypes in just a couple of days.

CNC machining can produce parts to almost identical part weights and hold exceptional tolerances such that validation of form and fit is assured; we can then perform many functional tests. However, properties are not identical to die castings and parting line conditions, and sometimes the draft required in a die casting is not represented in a machined prototype.

Gravity Cast Prototypes

Sand casting, investment casting, and rubber plaster-mold castings are some of the gravity cast processes used for prototyping. Because of longer solidification times and alloys specific to those processes, various heat treatments are used to approximate a high pressure die casting alloy’s properties.

Compared to high-pressure die casting, sand cast prototypes require thicker walls and larger tolerances, so features that might be “as-cast” in a die casting may need to be machined in a sand casting. These processes utilize lower-cost tooling than high-pressure die casting but have much higher piece prices. These design, property, and cost tradeoffs have to be considered when evaluating the best prototype approach.

Die Cast Prototypes

For those who want a prototype with the same properties, alloy, and geometry designated for production and larger quantities, a high pressure die cast prototype is often the best approach. Prototype die casting dies can be produced in shorter lead-times and at less cost because they utilize standardized components – like an existing die base – and pre-hardened, uncoated tool steels that do not require post machining heat treatment.

The tool will not run as efficiently as a typical production die, and flash will need to be removed by hand instead of with a production trim die, but part costs will be much less than machined or gravity cast prototypes. A prototype tool can provide 1000 or more high-quality pieces that can be used for prototype or even initial production.  

The CWM Difference

Chicago White Metal offers all of these prototype options that you read about today. If you are interested in more information about prototyping or if you would like to speak with one of our team members, email sales@cwmtl.com or call (630) 595-4424.

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.