Cutting Lead Times by Converting to Casting

Shannon Wetzel

Lead-time constraints can be damaging to your bottom line, and there are more than a few ways to increase your speed to market or improve delivery times on an existing product line. Collaborating with your casting supplier can help identify ways to reduce manufacturing time and improve market readiness. 

3D Printed Cores Help to Deliver Ahead of Deadline

AFS Corporate Member Waupaca Foundry leveraged 3D printing to provide an improved iron casting design two to three weeks ahead of the customer’s lead time. This solution offered the customer flexibility to test the design faster, mitigated risk, and provided a cost savings. 

Engineers at a global agricultural equipment OEM initiated a redesign of a tractor steering column support and needed immediate turnaround. The interior of the 111-lb. gray iron casting was formed by a series of three cores with features that were required to improve critical airflow. In addition to the time constraints, there remained questions concerning the exact geometry of the part’s interior.

Waupaca Foundry recommended that the cores for the gray iron casting be 3D printed to reduce the timeline and avoid the risk of uncertain geometry. The OEM could also avoid the cost of corebox tooling. 

Another advantage Waupaca Foundry presented by using 3D printed cores was the ability to make multiple iterations of the part. This allowed the customer the option to request a run of several designs in tandem, again without the hard tooling costs.

From the time of purchase order, the 3D printed cores were completed and delivered in eight days—an exceptional turnaround considering the complexity, size, and weight of the 79-lb. core assembly. As a result of using 3D printed cores and the responsiveness of Waupaca Foundry, the OEM was able to test its rapidly prototyped iron castings quickly. 

The OEM also realized a 20% costs savings on the project.

Cutting Time in the Shop

Ground Up Ag found itself struggling to keep up production on a ductile iron pivot arm that was part of its seed boot system used by farmers to maximize seed yield.  
The pivot arm was a six-piece weldment that took up valuable fabrication time, which was scarce during surge demand in the spring.

AFS Corporate Member Pier Foundry (St. Paul, Minnesota) worked with Ground Up Ag to convert the weldment to a casting. Simple changes to the part’s geometry aided iron flow and solidification. In the end, the cast pivot arm saved the customer 71 minutes of shop capacity per unit and reduced cost by 60%. 

Using Printed Patterns to Meet Aggressive Prototype Schedule 

Known for its quick prototype turnarounds, AFS Corporate Member Aristo-Cast (Almont, Michigan) was contacted by an OEM for a redesign of a steering wheel armature. The piece consisted of an outside ring machined from 304 stainless steel billet with the armature over-molded around the ring in AZ91E magnesium using the investment casting process. This gave the customer the strength needed while reducing the overall weight.

The OEM needed two armatures that simulated the diecast design for testing purposes while the tooling was being built. The sample armatures would be fully heat treated, X-ray inspected, and machined to be used for proving out the additional steps in the steering wheel manufacturing process.

Aristo-Cast used its in-house Voxeljet VX1000 printer to produce sample patterns quickly while also machining the 304 stainless steel rings from billet. The patterns for the armature were printed, processed, and cast around the billet in less than five days. The prototype has since moved toward production.

Applying Improvements to Family of Parts Saves Time

A major OEM manufacturer of commercial and residential products worked with its foundry partner, AFS Corporate Member Metal Technologies (Auburn, Indiana), to develop three similar but unique main components in small, medium, and large versions. The cast redesign consolidated the OEM’s previous operation from five welded components into a single casting. Metal Technologies used its expertise in casting, machining, and finishing to provide a turnkey solution.

Metal Technologies 3D printed sand molds for 60 prototype castings, which were then proven out by the OEM. Immediately after, Metal Technologies launched production-intent tooling and delivered production-intent castings. This was a massive time savings for both companies.

The OEM realized significant manufacturing time savings through the consolidation while also reducing a bottleneck in manufacturing. Plus, the foundry was ready to quickly scale production for higher capacity. 

Click here to view the article in the digital edition of they July/August 2023 Casting Source.