The Investment Casting Institute’s annual casting contest recognizes casting facilities that manufacture components that best illustrate and promote the benefits and flexibility of the investment casting process, or which demonstrate problem-solving techniques for the customers. The contest is held in conjunction with ICI’s annual convention and expo, which was held November 5-6, 2005.
Uni-Cast Inc. of Londonderry, NH — Aerospace Airframe Award. The air inlet scoop for electronic cooling in a fighter aircraft pod, an 17x18x19 inch aluminum component initially produced as an SLA QuickCast rapid prototype, eliminating initial tooling cost. While prototypes were being produced, Uni-Cast was also developing the production injection mold. The mold was made available three months after prototypes were delivered.
The customer benefited from the lead-time advantage by saving costly program qualification delays. The components were needed quickly, but had to meet strict requirements for NDT soundness, surface finish, and dimensional accuracy. The design incorporated precise interfaces where cast and assembled sheet metal components must meet. To guarantee results for castings produced from SLS patterns, Uni-Cast designed an inspection fixture based on tolerance requirements and centralized cast datum structures. Castings were verified and guaranteed to machine correctly in the customer’s CNC manufacturing cell.
Miller Castings Inc. of Whittier, CA — Aerospace Engine Award. The aerospace inlet gearbox casing of 17-4 PH stainless steelis a component measuring approximately 1139 inches, was originally made with all the ducts and small holes to be cast solid and machined to size by the customer. Concurrent engineering, however, enabled the caster to modify the ducts while still in the design stage.
The ducts — three vertical, two horizontal, and one long diagonal — ranging in diameter from 1.0 to 1.9 mm, were cast to net shape. All ducts are interconnected and produced using a proprietary shell process. Secondary operations include heat treating and HIP. Benefits include elimination of several machining operations, thus reducing time and costs significantly.
Vestshell Inc. of Montreal North, PQ — Military/Defense Award. The military vehicle suspension support, a 1431338 inch component of alloy steel, is used with five other equally complex castings manufactured by Vestshell to connect the suspension to the hull of the armored personnel carrier. No other metalworking process was considered for this component.
The manufacturer of this military vehicle designed a completely new suspension to reduce overall vehicle weight and improve handling. The use of steel investment castings improved the cost benefit ratio of introducing the vehicle with its new suspension technology. Complex geometry and a demanding nondestructive testing requirement combine with stringent dimensional expectations to make the straightening and inspection of each casting an important step in the manufacturing process.
Aristo-Cast Inc. of Almont, MI — Industrial/Commercial Award. This aluminum robotic gridlock arm assembly holds and allows precision adjustments to position the workpiece accurately for metal fabrication. The customer needed eight components that would assemble together and function without any secondary machining. The recently patented assembly is used to robotically hold pipe, and had to be completely adjustable to hold the piece in its proper location for assembly.
The assembly had never been produced before, and was designed as a 3D CAD model. The completed aluminum castings were assembled without any machining and functioned flawlessly. After testing, the user began construction of permanent production tooling. The company won last year in the automotive division for its fuel-pump design for the Ford Focus.