Die casting is a manufacturing process that can produce geometrically complex metal parts through the use of reusable molds, called dies. The die casting process involves the use of a furnace, metal, die casting machine, and die. The metal, typically a non-ferrous alloy such as aluminum or zinc, is melted in the furnace and then injected into the dies in the die casting machine. There are two main types of die casting machines – hot chamber machines (used for alloys with low melting temperatures, such as zinc) and cold chamber machines (used for alloys with high melting temperatures, such as aluminum). The differences between these machines will be detailed in the sections on equipment and tooling. However, in both machines, after the molten metal is injected into the dies, it rapidly cools and solidifies into the final part, called the casting. The steps in this process are described in greater detail in the next section.
Investment casting requires the use of a metal die, wax, ceramic slurry, furnace, molten metal, and any machines needed for sandblasting, cutting, or grinding. The process steps include the following:
The wax patterns are typically injection molded into a metal die and are formed as one piece. Cores may be used to form any internal features on the pattern. Several of these patterns are attached to a central wax gating system (sprue, runners, and risers), to form a tree-like assembly. The gating system forms the channels through which the molten metal will flow to the mold cavity.
This “pattern tree” is dipped into a slurry of fine ceramic particles, coated with more coarse particles, and then dried to form a ceramic shell around the patterns and gating system. This process is repeated until the shell is thick enough to withstand the molten metal it will encounter. The shell is then placed into an oven and the wax is melted out leaving a hollow ceramic shell that acts as a one-piece mold, hence the name “lost wax” casting.
The mold is preheated in a furnace to approximately 1000°C (1832°F) and the molten metal is poured from a ladle into the gating system of the mold, filling the mold cavity. Pouring is typically achieved manually under the force of gravity, but other methods such as vacuum or pressure are sometimes used.
After the mold has been filled, the molten metal is allowed to cool and solidify into the shape of the final casting. Cooling time depends on the thickness of the part, thickness of the mold, and the material used.
After the molten metal has cooled, the mold can be broken and the casting removed. The ceramic mold is typically broken using water jets, but several other methods exist. Once removed, the parts are separated from the gating system by either sawing or cold breaking (using liquid nitrogen).
Often times, finishing operations such as grinding or sandblasting are used to smooth the part at the gates. Heat treatment is also sometimes used to harden the final part.
Disclaimer: All process specifications reflect the approximate range of a process’s capabilities and should be viewed only as a guide. Actual capabilities are dependent upon the manufacturer, equipment, material, and part requirements.