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Debunking 4 Die Casting Misconceptions

Die casting is a common manufacturing process used in various industries, including: automotive, alternative energy, recreational, medical/dental, lawn & garden, lighting, electronics, power tools, and many others. Despite its widespread use, several misconceptions surround it that often cloud its true potential. In this blog, Chicago White Metal (CWM) aims to debunk these myths and shed light on die casting’s realities.

Misconception 1: Limited Complexity, Size, & Finishing Options

Some believe die casting is only suitable for producing simple shapes and designs. However, advancements in die casting technology allow for producing highly complex parts with intricate geometries and thin walls. CWM utilizes die casting machines of various sizes, allowing for the production of parts ranging from a few grams to eight pounds – we cast parts in aluminum, magnesium, and zinc.

In the past, there were limited finishing options available for die castings. Today, through both internal advancements and an established network of finishing suppliers, die castings can be polished, coated, plated, painted, impregnated, powder coated, silkscreened, and pad printed with a variety of colors, textures, or performance characteristics.

Misconception 2: Die Casting is an Outdated Manufacturing Method

Contrary to popular belief, die casting is far from being an outdated manufacturing method. Die casting has evolved significantly over the 87 years CWM has been in business, incorporating cutting-edge technologies and innovations to meet the demands of modern industries.

From computer-aided design (CAD) and simulation software to specialized die coatings, advancements in lubricants, cooling and vacuum systems, and the implementation of robotics and automation, die casting has embraced technological advancements to improve efficiency, precision, and quality. As a result, die casting remains a cornerstone of modern manufacturing, offering unparalleled capabilities and versatility.

CWM’s fully automated DCM

Misconception 3: Die Casting has a High Initial Cost

While die casting does involve significant upfront tooling costs, it can be cost-effective for high-volume production runs due to its efficiency and low per-unit costs. Die casting offers unparalleled precision, repeatability, and efficiency, reducing per-unit costs.

Furthermore, advancements in die casting technology have led to faster cycle times, reduced material waste, and improved yield rates, all of which ultimately contribute to cost savings. When considering the overall value and quality that die casting provides, the perceived expense is outweighed by the benefits it offers.

Misconception 4: Die Casting is Not Environmentally Friendly

There is a misconception that die casting harms the environment due to its energy-intensive processes. However, the die casting industry has made significant strides in recent years to minimize its environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Through initiatives such as recycling and energy-efficient practices, die casting facilities have reduced waste, conserved resources, and lowered their carbon footprint. Additionally, using eco-friendly materials and processes – such as the recycling of wastewater and investing in high-efficiency equipment – further contributes to die casting’s environmental friendliness. At CWM, we are an open-book when it comes to our environmental impact – check out our Environmental Practices page.

CWM’s High-Efficiency Aluminum Furnace

The Potential of Die Casting

Die casting is a highly efficient, versatile, and sustainable manufacturing process which has been unfairly plagued by misconceptions. By debunking these myths and highlighting the realities of die casting, Chicago White Metal is showcasing its true potential as a cornerstone of modern manufacturing. Whether for large-scale production runs or small-batch manufacturing, die casting offers unparalleled capabilities and benefits, making it an indispensable tool for industries worldwide.

To learn more about CWM, check out our Design Center where we offer an abundance of technical articles and information. If you think your component is a good fit for die casting, Request a Quote here.

The Benefits of High-Volume Production in Die Casting

CWM building logo
Chicago White Metal’s High Pressure Die Casting process is the perfect solution for high-volume manufacturing projects – especially if you are concerned with cost, efficiency, repeatability, and producing high-quality parts. High-volume manufacturing, via the high-pressure die casting process, involves an investment in tooling, but the benefits are that parts can be converted from raw material to finished part very quickly, with minimal part-to-part variation and significant cost savings. Because manufacturers can produce parts more efficiently, high-volume production decreases the cost of production per unit. In the case of high-pressure die casting, parts can be converted from raw material to finished part in seconds.
High-volume production is also the most efficient way to turn around a large order of parts or products in a short amount of time, allowing products to get to market faster and for organizations to stay on the leading edge of innovation. In a competitive economy where companies continually introduce new items, the time and money saved with high-volume production can set an organization up for success.

Past vs. Present

In the past, a manufacturer might have only been able to produce a small number of parts per day. Machinery advancements enabled output to increase. For example, the first documented use of the die casting process was in the mid-19th century. It involved manually pouring molten metal into a die that opened and closed using a primitive machine. Today’s manufacturers, when employing state-of-the-art machinery and a skilled team, can produce thousands of units per day, if not more.

Modern high-volume die casting takes advantage of automation, including robotics, sophisticated controls, camera systems, sensors, and other technical advancements. These innovations offer many benefits, including repeatability, higher quality products, and lower (and more predictable) long-term costs of operation. However, successfully scaling to high-volume manufacturing requires foresight and planning to streamline the production process and minimize changes.

Scaling – Best Practices

Scaling up a product from the prototype or low-volume production stage (such as a machined part) to a high-volume manufacturing environment (such as high-pressure die casting) can be one of the most exciting stages of the production process. The decisions made during this transition will have significant implications for all aspects of a product, from tooling and manufacturing process control, to packaging and user documentation. That’s why it’s crucial to have an experienced team around you to help guide you through the process.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before considering scaling up to a high-volume manufacturing process such as high-pressure die casting:

  • Are you confident you’ll need enough parts to justify the tooling investment required for high-pressure die casting?
    • The typical quantity for high-pressure die casting is 5,000 pieces per year for several years (often much higher). There are exceptions, but the higher the volume, the more likely the high-pressure die casting process would be the right choice for your product.
  • Will the alloy offered by the die caster be suitable for your application?
    • Some of the more common die casting alloys include A380 aluminum, AZ91D magnesium, and Zinc #3.
    • Ferrous alloys are not an option for high-pressure die casting.
  • Is your design appropriate for high-pressure die casting?
    • Die casting is more likely to be the right choice if the design is three-dimensional and not easily stamped or extruded.
  • Is the design optimized and stable?
    • In order to maximize the payback from the tooling investment, it’s crucial to optimize the design and be sure that it is relatively stable before building tooling, as making changes to tooling after it is constructed can be expensive.

Partnering with the Right Die Caster

If you think your part is eligible for high-pressure die casting, it’s vital to seek out a reputable die caster who has enough experience to guide you through the process of selecting an appropriate alloy, optimizing the design, building robust high-quality tooling, and developing an optimized set of processing parameters. There are numerous areas where an experienced die caster can help your organization ramp up to higher-volume production.

Engineering Design Services, for example, offers tremendous value to the customer because the greatest opportunity for cost savings comes in the design phase before the tooling is built. As part of their design service, CWM uses sophisticated modeling and simulation tools such as Magmasoft and SolidWorks – a solid modeling computer-aided design and engineering application – to help design parts and tooling of the highest quality and lowest cost.
CWM building logo

When you collaborate with a die caster who utilizes this state-of-the-art technology, it ensures that your part is manufactured efficiently over the entire product lifecycle – that’s why it’s essential to have a team of experts available to work with you throughout the process.

CWM & High-Volume Production

CWM’s approach to high-volume production is the same in all we do: Excellence is expected. Our engineering and manufacturing processes are streamlined to benefit our customers’ needs. For example, if high-pressure die casting makes sense, we will provide accurate estimates of the cost of tooling and parts, including complete finishing, coatings, etc., and we will work with your team to make sure the part is a success.

Chicago White Metal specializes in high-volume production of Aluminum, Magnesium, and Zinc die cast parts. We supply numerous industries with parts that are used in everyday products across the world. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to learn more about our high-volume die casting services.

CWM 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 2021 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.

Comparing Aluminum, Magnesium, and Zinc Alloys

Aluminum, Magnesium, and Zinc are the most common alloys used in the die casting process. But how much do we really know about these alloys? To start, Aluminum and Magnesium are “lightweight” metals, while Zinc alloys provide higher precision and longer tool life.

If you are at the point where you’re considering die casting for your project, the next step is determining which alloy is best suited for a specific application of your part. That’s typically based on the design specifications – as the alloy provides the physical and mechanical properties that are required by the end product application. Therefore, you need to seek a die casting supplier that understands each type of alloy offered and what benefits are involved so they can lead you in the right direction.

Aluminum Die Cast Alloy

Aluminum is easily the most frequently used metal in die casting. The most common Aluminum die casting alloy is A380 because it offers the best combination of material properties and castability. Aluminum alloy die castings are used in a wide variety of industries. It is common to see this alloy in electronics, communications equipment, automotive components, lawnmower housings, and many other products.

Aluminum Die Casting

Aluminum alloys for die casting have superior machining characteristics, especially when compared to iron, steel, and titanium.

Magnesium Die Cast Alloy

Magnesium alloys are very light but still offer high levels of strength. Magnesium alloy AZ91D is the strongest and most castable of the commercial Magnesium die casting alloys available, and it is also the most widely used for that reason.

AZ91D Magnesium is a high purity die casting alloy which provides the following qualities:

Magnesium Die Casting
  • Good Corrosion Resistance
  • Excellent Castability
  • Superb Strength
  • Lightweight (1/3 less weight than aluminum)
  • Longer tool life (perhaps 3X that of aluminum)

Corrosion resistance is achieved by enforcing strict limits on three metallic impurities: Iron, Nickel, and Copper. While there are special precautions to take when machining or grinding Magnesium die castings, Magnesium alloys machine easily, requiring less power to machine than the other die casting alloys.

Magnesium’s durable properties and lightweight make it an ideal alloy for the automotive industry. Magnesium die castings are also used for electronic casing and housings, and more recently, it’s become popular in the aerospace industry.

Zinc Die Casting Alloys

CWM casts two different Zinc alloys: Zamak #3 and ZA-8. Both offer the ability to cast with intricate detail and close dimensional tolerances at high production rates. The first Zinc alloy, ZAMAK #3, contains approximately 4% Aluminum and a smaller percentage of Magnesium to achieve strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance properties. The second, ZA-8, has approximately 8% Aluminum and less copper content. It offers higher strength, superior wear resistance, superior creep resistance, and slighly lower density.

Mini Zinc Die Casting

Zinc alloys are commonly used for smaller die castings or die castings that require thinner sections. This is because Zinc alloys have superb castability, generally allow more significant variation in section thickness and can maintain closer tolerances. Also, the impact strength of Zinc die cast components is higher than the other common metal alloys and zinc provided the longest tool life of any die cast alloy. That makes zinc ideal for the automotive industry and numerous other small customized industrial parts.

The CWM Difference

At Chicago White Metal Casting, we custom produce Aluminum, Magnesium, Zinc, and Miniature Zinc die castings. Our experienced sales and engineering teams will work with your company from start to finish to deliver high-quality castings that meet even the highest standards.

Contact us here if you think your project could be a good fit for Aluminum, Magnesium, or Zinc die casting. You can also request a quote on this page.

How to Select the Right Die Caster

When you’ve designed a part and are ready to partner with a die caster, you need to know that you’re working with the best. Unfortunately, unless you have an existing relationship with a reputable die casting supplier already established, finding the right partner to cast your part can be difficult.

When choosing a die caster, whether for aluminum, magnesium, or zinc die cast metals, most believe it simply comes down to cost. While cost carries a great deal of weight in the decision-making process, a good die caster will offer much more than a competitive price. They’ll provide you with a full range of services and post-production capabilities that can save you time and money in the long run.

Services like design engineering, mold flow simulation, and a wide variety of post-casting processes such as CNC machining, deburring, painting, plating, assembly, and total quality management, can sometimes be overlooked, but these services can prove very valuable. So when you work with a full-service die caster, make sure that these additional services and operations are part of the quote – that way, there are no surprises when you’re ready to move forward with the production of your part.

Benefits of working with a Full-Service Die Caster

Choosing to go with a single full-service die caster versus managing multiple processes and vendors on your own helps free up your company’s resources, decrease lead times, streamline logistics and inventory management, and saves money. In addition, it can result in improved designs and lower total cost because the full-service die caster will look for ways to add value across all of the processes.  

Before building a tool for your metal die casting design, be sure that your engineering team and the die caster are on the same page. At Chicago White Metal, our die casting engineers will engage with you to fully understand your product, its cosmetic and performance requirements, and its intended environment. With that understanding, our engineers can help optimize your design for maximum performance and overall value. In addition, the die casting engineer’s preplanning and analysis can recommend cost-saving measures — or prevent costly mistakes over the project life.

Another important question to ask during this process is whether or not the die casting supplier utilizes advanced technology such as process simulation software (e.g., Magmasoft®) before the tool is built? Using your CAD file, CWM can use the software to predict and optimize metal flow, air entrapment, metal velocity, thermal balance, hotspots, etc., during the die casting process. This will assure a quality die casting design, shorten lead times, and lower production costs.

Trust is the Name of the Game

The final question that your team should ask before choosing a die casting partner is whether or not you can trust that they will be there for you and your team throughout the process to produce the best possible part. Many factors contribute to the success of your project. Even the alloy choice (CWM offers aluminum, zinc, and magnesium) is an important decision because each has its unique properties with advantages and disadvantages. If your product requires post-finishing, it’s even more important to choose the right alloy because the physical properties of each alloy may or may not work with each type of finish.

While alloy recommendation is crucial for the success of your project, finishing options are equally important. It’s vital to ensure that your die casting supplier understands all the finishing options available and can guide you to the right finish. The die casting engineer must know all these variables from the project onset, avoiding costly quality issues later. These are things that our team at CWM takes into consideration with every project.

Experience matters, and with 84 years of experience and counting, CWM sets the industry standard for excellence. If you have any questions about the high-pressure die casting process, don’t hesitate to contact Chicago White Metal today. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help guide you in the right direction!

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. 

Electric Vehicles: Component Manufacturing Using the High-Pressure Die Casting Process

The automobile industry is the largest market for high pressure die casting components. The demand for electric vehicles has been rapidly growing thanks in large part to changes in emission norms worldwide and a shift in consumer preferences. These changes have pushed automakers to replace heavier components with lightweight, environmentally-friendly options made from alloys like Magnesium or Aluminum.

Reducing weight is significant for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles, where battery efficiency is critical. Aluminum and Magnesium die cast components can dramatically reduce vehicle weight, which improves overall vehicle performance, increases fuel or battery efficiency, and extends driving range. Chicago White Metal is helping to fuel this evolution by casting complex shapes at near-net shape in high volumes and within tight tolerances using lightweight alloys.

Aluminum

Automakers who make electric or hybrid cars are increasingly turning to Aluminum due to its combination of excellent mechanical and physical properties at an attractive cost. In addition to weight reduction, high-pressure die cast aluminum alloys have added dimensional accuracy and stability – not to mention the added strength and high-speed production capabilities.

Lighter Weight and Good Malleability

While not as light as Magnesium, Aluminum is still 1/3 the weight of steel, which goes a long way when it comes to reducing the weight of a vehicle. That’s why Aluminum die castings are replacing steel in structural and cosmetic body parts (i.e., vehicle bodies, hoods, doors, bumpers, crash boxes) in modern vehicles.

Malleability is also a significant factor as to why automakers are turning to Aluminum. It can be easily rolled into a sheet, formed as a stamping or extrusion, or welded. And it can be a high-pressure die cast, which allows for the rapid conversion of molten metal to a net shape 3-dimensional complex shape.

Aluminum is excellent for automotive applications when there’s a need for high visibility and structural integrity, such as in A-B-C pillars. While Aluminum is lighter than steel, it absorbs more energy, providing an extra layer of safety for the vehicle as well. Utilizing aluminum components can help reduce vehicle weight by as much as 40% without compromising the safety of the vehicle.

Magnesium

Magnesium was initially used in race cars in the 1920s to gain a competitive edge because of how lightweight it is. Now automakers use this lightweight alloy for applications like mirror housings, steering columns, driver’s airbag casings, seat frames, and dash encasings.

The auto industry’s quest for greater battery and fuel efficiency, along with demand for improved performance, has driven an increased interest in high-pressure die cast Magnesium alloys. These alloys include AZ91D with its excellent combination of mechanical properties and the highest strength to weight ratio of any structural metal.

Mg is 75% Lighter than Steel, 33% Lighter than Aluminum 

Magnesium provides a drastic weight difference that supports its use as a durable metal alternative to steel and plastic. Unlike plastic, Magnesium’s properties do not degrade with temperature and UV light, and Magnesium is 100% recyclable. With its superior dampening capacity and low-mass inertia, Magnesium is well suited for parts designed for frequent and sudden changes in motion direction – making it ideal for car part design. Many part designers also prefer working with Magnesium because they can produce parts that are more complex than steel, without sacrificing strength.

Zinc

Although Zinc products are heavier than their Aluminum and Magnesium-based counterparts, they do have the highest yield strength of all three alloys. Zinc can also be cast thinner than any other metal and can hold extremely tight tolerance requirements. While Zinc might not be the best option when it comes to the light-weighting strategy, several Zinc-made applications are ideal for automotive design and structure.

The CWM Difference

Chicago White Metal Casting can cast all three families of alloys; Aluminum, Magnesium, and Zinc. Our technical expertise, combined with full-service capabilities and engineer design services, can provide automakers or part designers with die casting solutions that meet the challenges of their hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicle part design.

Contact us today by filling out the form on this page or call +1 630-595-4424 to speak with a member of our team.

Click here to download the White Paper .PDF.

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.”