How castability analysis can save time and money
Does your foundry conduct a castability analysis of new and existing parts? It’s an opportunity to identify tweaks to your casting design that can save you a significant amount of time and money. It can also improve the quality of your parts.
State Line Foundries relies on proven processes to help maximize castability and provide tailor-made, affordable solutions to its customers.
What specific steps does State Line take to ensure exceptional castability? First, it gathers a wealth of information about the part and the tooling used to produce it. Next, it puts this data to work to optimize them for the best results.
While the process may sound elementary, success is in the details. Here’s a closer look.
Ask questions internally
State Line’s management team meets every morning. New business prospects are discussed to ensure the sales and production teams agree on the best way to approach and execute the potential work.
This team includes three engineers – including the production engineer – as well as the quality manager, the sales manager and the person in charge of quotes.
“We have 100 to 120 years of foundry experience in those meetings,” reveals Jesse Milks, president of State Line Foundries. “We get everyone’s input up front so we’re able to go back and ask the right questions of the customer, as needed. Everyone has a chance to provide input early in the process. Later on, it can be more difficult to make adjustments.”
Existing business is reviewed, too. Is there a way to enhance the castability of an existing OEM’s parts? Can the casting successes of one customer be applied to another? Questions like these help the management team identify opportunities for continuous improvement.
Ask questions externally
State Line is eager to take on new business. But first, it seeks to understand why a prospective customer needs to switch foundries. Its goal is to ensure that the prospect is a good match for State Line’s capabilities.
“We ask a ton of questions when a customer is transferring a tool,” Milks says. “Why do they want to move it? Typically, it’s because the previous foundry was struggling, went out of business or couldn’t hit goals for timeliness or quality.”
Their answers help ensure the new relationship with State Line starts on a positive footing. “We want to know the quality history, where the defects are,” Milks details. When possible, State Line reviews photos of the previous foundry’s scraps and defects.
“We tend to over-communicate with our customers because we don’t want to repeat those issues. You need to think way ahead of them. Anyone can come up with a quote and say, ‘Yes, we can do it.’ But you need to make sure you’re taking steps to increase your odds of success – both for the foundry and the customer.”
The meetings are also important because State Line rarely sees the final assembly in which the casting is used. This knowledge gives the foundry critical insights into the environment where the casting must live and perform. The more customer input upfront, the better the result.
“The discussions are mostly design related: How are we going to make the castings? What areas of the parts are critical?” Milks explains. “Sometimes they tell us, ‘No porosity or defects in this area,’ and maybe other areas aren’t as critical. Those conversations help us develop the best process to produce the part.”
State Line also maintains ongoing communication with existing clients, too. “We’re always looking for ways to improve their castings,” Milks offers.
Putting the information to work
Leverage the software
State Line’s use of advanced casting design and process software differentiates it from other foundries. This highly technical mold flow analysis software simulates how molten metal behaves inside the sand mold, enabling State Line to prevent issues before pouring any iron.
“We can run different designs through MAGMA to help us determine the best final option,” Milks asserts. “It’s a huge tool for us and it ultimately benefits the customer. Not every foundry has it or uses it for every job. We’ve been using it for about 10 years now.”
Milks says the software is “very powerful” by itself. But it becomes exponentially more valuable when a casting specialist is at the helm.
“The combination of the software and our expertise is what makes it so special,” Milks clarifies. “This software requires someone with a great deal of casting knowledge and experience.”
Comparing the software simulation to the real-world results adds significant value. “We align the simulations to what’s happening in the foundry such as sand grain fineness, iron chemistries, pouring temperatures and many other factors,” Milks points out.
Some designs that arrive at State Line need an overhaul. Once again, years of know-how help put the team on the right track from the very beginning. With State Line’s low-volume niche, its team sees a high volume of new and different designs that they continue to learn from.
In many other cases, OEMs have extremely effective designs – but opportunities for improvement remain. Parting lines are an example. “Parting-line placements can sometimes be changed to make the molding process simpler,” Milks offers. State Line may be able to offer design options that save the customer time and money.
MAGMA also helps optimize the use of risers and chills. “Calculating riser sizes, in-gate dimensions, flow rates and whether chills are needed is the science behind making a good, sound casting,” Milks explains. “The software helps us to compute, optimize and proof an ideal casting process layout.”
Casting designs with unique features and undercuts may also be tweaked. “Sometimes we can eliminate or add a core in a certain area,” Milks says. “If there is a heavy section that the customer knows will be machined out, we might suggest a core. Then they have an option that requires less machining time and less iron.”
Design optimization reaps real-world benefits
Milks offered two recent castability innovations implemented by State Line.
“We just poured a new casting for a 1,000-pound pump adapter,” he explains. “It was originally designed with three or four cores. We tweaked the design and suggested a new approach that only required one core. That reduced the tooling and casting cost.”
Another complex casting had a heavy center section. Iron had to travel through a thin area to reach it. “We asked to increase the thickness in that area of the casting to improve the flow of iron inside it and the OEM agreed,” Milks says. “The MAGMA results showed a big improvement, and castings have passed X-ray inspection 100 percent from the beginning.”
The software helped implement these changes much faster than a traditional trial-and-error approach – and at a greatly reduced cost.
“We can run designs to help us determine the best final option,” Milks states. “If we’re on the edge of what the final decision should look like, we can easily fine-tune and optimize it to an ideal design.”
Perfect yields and reduced scrap
The software – and the expertise State Line adds to it – impacts yields, too. “We can improve yields through the mold flow model,” Milks details. “Someone without the software would have to go through this analysis by trial and error.”
The software simulation also has a positive impact on iron costs. “We’re melting less iron to get the same casting,” Milks adds.
Often, the scrap rate declines, too. “Our goal is to make a good casting the first time and every time,” Milks declares. “The first time we pour that casting, the percentage of success is high because we’ve already run it through the software and added our own expertise to it.”
The optimized procedure benefits the OEM. “If we’re efficiently making good castings, the customer gets a better price,” Milks affirms. “That’s also true when we make a gain such as eliminating a core. Then the cost of the casting goes down – and the price to the customer does, too.”
The message Milks conveys to both existing and prospective clients is simple: “I like to let them know that we’re not just a casting house – we also provide solutions that can help them save them time and money and improve the quality of their parts.”
Milks emphasizes that involving State Line especially early in the casting development process can have a significant impact on quality and cost savings: “No matter what the experience level of the OEM is, we’re here to help and support them and to present ideas and options,” he concludes.
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