Should you use aluminum for your die casting? There are a number of advantages in doing so. Aluminum is lightweight, corrosion resistant, has high thermal and electrical conductivity and is durable.
Aluminum remains strong even at high temperatures, and it retains high dimensional stability even with thin walls and in complex shapes. It also has good mechanical properties and is a popular die casting metal alternative to steel and iron, especially in the automotive industry.
Benefits of Aluminum Die Casting
Because of its high melting point, aluminum needs to be processed as cold chamber die casting. Additionally, aluminum die casters make one mold or die and use it repeatedly for the aluminum product — rather than destroying it once it has served its purpose as they may often do with other die cast metal processes like sand or investment casting.
Aluminum is extremely popular in die casting because it is economical and durable. You will find a wide variety of household items cast in aluminum due to its many useful properties.
Aluminum Die Casting and Die Life
When working with aluminum die casting, it’s important to understand the issues surrounding the maintenance, repair or replacement of aluminum die cast molds (dies). It is impossible to accurately predict the life of any die since die life is affected by the design of the part, the type of tool steel you use for the die, the configuration of the mold, expectations for part quality, heat treatment and even the type of alloy you are using.
This doesn’t mean you should expect your die to have a short life, though. Some dies last a surprisingly long time. NADCA, the North American Die Casting Association, has done extensive research on dies and die life. There are now specific tool steel specifications and heat treatment specifications you can use as guidelines when trying to extend your die life.
Certain die coatings you can apply after the heat treatment can slow heat checking and prolong tooling life in the gate areas. These coatings come at some cost, but it may be worth it for the extended die life they offer. The heat treat process is one of the most important considerations in tool construction when it comes to die life. It’s crucial to pay attention to the type of heat treat furnace you use, the number of final temperings you apply to the die blocks and the quench rate during the heat treat process.
The Importance of Quality Aluminum Die Casting
When building your die for aluminum die casting, it will be to your benefit to refer to the NADCA specifications. NADCA recommendations include ways to relieve stress during machining and removing the white layer after EDM operations, among others. If you are building a die without knowing the proper considerations for aluminum die casting, you can expect a shorter than desirable die life. When obtaining your die cast tooling, you should only use a tool builder that is experienced both with aluminum die casting and with the NADCA steel and heat treatment recommendations.
It may be tempting to go with a cheaper builder who is not as experienced, or who insists that their experience will translate easily to aluminum die casting, but in the long run, this could cost you. A die that is not made up to specifications will likely fail at an inopportune moment, shutting down production and forcing you to replace the die anyway.
Although the short-term cost is greater, it’s important for the experienced die caster to contribute their knowledge during product design, making sure optimal practices and measurements are used with respect to drafts, gating, ejector pin locations, radii and so on. Using cheaper tooling and getting a lower-quality tool will almost certainly result in greater costs over the life of the die and a shorter die life.
Premier Engineered Products for High-Quality Aluminum Die Casting and Other Die Casting Services
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Contact Premier Engineered Products Today
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