When it comes to manufacturing goods or products, a variety of processes are used to create items. One of the most common — and arguably most useful — is die casting.
Die casting, if you don’t already know, is a process achieved by pouring molten materials — usually metal — into a reusable die or cast. It is beneficial because it allows manufacturers to create accurately dimensioned, defined and smooth textured parts or components. The term “die casting” actually refers to the finished piece, which is available after cooling.
The die casting market is expected to grow to $80 billion by 2022, according to Mordor Intelligence, so it’s without a doubt an incredibly lucrative and influential industry.
While the die casting process itself is incredibly important for creating a successful mold, it all begins with the actual design of the mold and the related item or component. The best practice of factoring the manufacturing process in during the design phase is called DFM or Design for Manufacturing.
Parts or components designed without DFM guidelines and the die casting process in mind can come out shoddy, cause expenses to balloon and create similar problems, as noted in a Machine Design article. That’s why, if you’re a designer, it’s beneficial for you and your partners to stay up to date with industry trends. More importantly, you need to ensure you’re factoring in the manufacturing process while you design a component.
Die Cast Industry Trends Affecting Designers
Here are some of the growing or existing trends in the die cast industry that you’ll want to know for the coming year:
1. Die Ownership
In the US, the customer of a mold or die commission usually owns the die, which they can subsequently use to produce and deliver the related products. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the “owner” has the die in their possession. Often, the die will remain with the “die-caster,” or the party tasked with creating the necessary components.
Possession of the die or mold is important because over time, a die will deteriorate through natural use. It’s required to either be maintained, repaired, or replaced entirely. It is a designer’s job to create a durable, accurate, and reliable die from the get-go, but it also falls on them to create something worth replicating. Therefore, the actual design of the die is just as important as the die itself.
Designers can profit on the design or concept of an injection mold, die, or similar item. It’s important that you stay current with industry trends to be sure you understand when it’s time to exercise ownership or rights to a die.
2. Avoiding Defects
The wall thickness, dimensions, material and even shape of a mold or die can have a significant impact on the quality of the finished product. In fact, not paying attention to these elements during design can result in some pretty serious defects for the final goods.
It’s as important for designers to adhere to industry standards and best practices as it is for those filling the die and creating the related components. According to Leonard Cordaro, President of Premier Die Casting and 2015 Herman H. Doehler Award Winner, “The recent improvements in die cast machines enables the designer to reduce wall thickness and improve internal porosity on parts that have a pressure or leak test requirement.” Additional things designers need to account for include special attachments for machines. Cordaro continues, “Another big improvement in die casting is the use of die temperature controls… [which] keep the die at a constant temperature.”
Since temperature plays a crucial role in die casting, designers should even consider the metal or material flow pattern, as well as the fill time for all dies and molds. A fast-drying material — even metal — is going to change the way the finished product turns out. Thus, the actual design should account for fast-drying or fast-setting materials.
3. New Technologies
Similar to minding dimensions and molding properties, it’s also crucial that designers take into account the technologies and systems that will be used to facilitate printing or casting. Robotic and autonomous machines, especially in aluminum-based die casting, are incredibly popular. The way in which these systems work has a direct impact on the finished product and can be further optimized through the design phase.
Setting up and laying the design of a cast that is convenient and usable by these systems is an important step in the conceptualization process. Can the die you’re creating be monitored, reached, and adjusted by the machines in question? Is it too big, or are the outer dimensions out of the machines’ reach? Can the overall design be cleaned or scraped easily? Robots usually do the cleaning and blasting after a fill.
Vacuum-assisted die casting is another growing trend in the industry, used to create highly accurate and reliable moldings. While a die is being filled, it is drawn tight using a vacuum for both the shot sleeve and mold cavity. This process creates a loyal fill area for used materials. But the way it works means the mold or die in question is going to change shape and dimension a bit after getting taut. That leaves the design and layout of such a die to the actual creators who must now factor in the final shape of the die along with the initial state.
All in all, designers want to stay on top of current trends to ensure they can create and maintain their dies and molds to meet the new and updated specifications.
4. Growing Applications
When die casting first appeared, only a small handful of materials were used. Today, that’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Many new molding materials and fill tools are being used and introduced that never were in the past, according to CWM Casting. Some of the most common — and newer — elements include zinc, aluminum, and magnesium.
Many growing applications and usage scenarios for dies and molds will be further employed to create components using uncharted materials. As a designer, you’ll want to understand what materials are in the pipeline, how they differ regarding fill time and patterns, and what that means for the final product. Is a particular material fragile just minutes after being filled and created, for example? You’ll want your mold to be rigid and protective in that case.
5. Lower Costs
As is always the case with repeated printings and redesigns, factoring in the manufacturing process when coming up with a concept, layout, or new design can cut down on the number of times you’ll have to reboot. You won’t have to redesign a mold or die to fix defects that cropped up, and you won’t have to start over because a design simply didn’t work.
The DFM process calls for regular collaboration and communication with partners along the chain, including the mold party, customer, and more. You need to understand the full requirements of the die you are creating in order to produce something viable. The costs will remain lower and more manageable if you do all this before coming up with a die. Plus, it will save you a lot of time in the long run, which you’ll certainly appreciate.
Die Cast Industry: Full Speed Ahead
You want to be at the forefront when you can — it means remaining competitive and desirable. Now that you understand the upcoming trends, you can better position yourself to be a skillful leader in the industry, particularly when it comes to creating reliable, efficient, and in-demand dies and molds.