Metal casting is thousands upon thousands of years old and its history is the history of civilization. From art to oil rigs, the science of creating and shaping metal is intrinsic to almost all industries.
But relatively few of us know the process which has such a major impact on our lives and livelihoods. This is a short guide to some of the ideas and applications of metal casting, and things you could consider if your business can make use of metal casting services.
At its earliest inception, metal casting was used for artwork, weaponry, and homeware. This is still true today. If one takes a look through art galleries, we see a huge variety of bronze, gold or silver work which can fetch vast sums of money at auction. In the defence industry, where there were once swords and axes, we now see tanks and aircraft. Homeware has changed surprisingly little, though the use of pewter has diminished considerably since the early modern period.
Since the industrial revolution, the use of metal casting has been intrinsic to heavy machinery. Farm equipment uses hard-wearing metals and warehouse manufacturing would not function without the use of elaborate and well-crafted machines to automate the processes.
Most castings make heavy use of molds. Molds give the metal its shape and need to be robust and hard-wearing. If you do have a business that requires metal casting, it is wise to do some research into what kind of mold you need to get the job done.
Many metal casting companies will have specific or niche molds that fit in particular industries. A metal caster that is working creatively will have very different molds to those who produce hardware for plumbing or tool manufacturers. Whatever your needs it is important to look for casters who have the right range of molds.
It is also important to take into account what kind of materials will be required for any given casting. Soft metals are malleable and easily cast but not particularly hard-wearing. This is why metals such as gold and brass are used in artwork or jewellery. Conversely, cast iron and Tungsten Carbide are very strong which is why they are often used in building materials or tool work.
The strength of a metal is measured in four different ways:
Tensile strength: The measurement of how difficult it is to pull the metal apart;
Compressive strength: The measurement of how resistant under pressure the metal is;
Yield strength: How the metal resists bending or permanent deformation;
Impact strength: How the metal copes with impact without shattering.
Using these measurements is a great way of understanding what material is need for a particular casting.
Bulk and quantity
The size and quantity of casting molds are very dependent on the industry the caster works for. For artworks, they are often required to create a singular mold to preserve the unique quality of a particular piece. At the other end of the scale, casters who produce instruments for widespread use in manufacturing will employ larger quantities of molds to speed up the process.
Part of the considerations of quantity and bulk also affect the delivery method and cost of castings. Machinery and equipment that is large and bulky will need some serious transportation, which can come with some very serious prices.