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GM research teams in the US and China worked with a Chinese machine builder to develop the Vertical Squeeze Casting Machine it is now using to produce magnesium auto parts at the GM China Advanced Technical Center ATC in Shanghai

GM Producing Squeeze-Cast Magnesium Auto Parts

April 6, 2014
Fully enclosed melting and transfer 30% lighter than aluminum 65,000-sq.m research center Replace forged components

General Motors Corporation’s GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai has started operating a new squeeze casting machine it developed. GM described the machine as “the first in the world” for “next-generation” magnesium castings.

Squeeze casting uses a pre-heated, two-part die that is filled with molten metal. Once the metal begins to solidify in one half of the die, the other half of the die is used to apply pressure while solidification proceeds. GM stated its new machine is a breakthrough in its lightweight materials research.

The Vertical Squeeze Casting (VSC) machine is installed at the 65,000-square meter research center that brings together several GM technical and design organization. GM stated its VSC machine was designed jointly by lightweight materials research teams in Detroit and Shanghai, and was built in collaboration with an unnamed Chinese equipment builder.

The production volume, product dimensions, and other capabilities of the machine were not described. GM stated only that squeeze casting technology would improve its products’ integrity by applying high squeeze pressure during the casting process.

Minimizing Inclusions in Magnesium

The design includes a fully enclosed, magnesium melting and transferring system that can improve casting quality and performance significantly, by isolating the molten metal from atmosphere, minimizing the potential for inclusions.

The automaker further claimed the new machine would make it easier to achieve volume production of magnesium automotive parts, which will help to improve fuel economy.

“The expected benefits of squeeze castings also mean we can use castings to replace some forged components at lower cost,” stated Jeff Wang, lab group manager of the materials research team at GM China Science Lab.

"Our efforts to promote magnesium alloy applications will not only meet customers' needs for better fuel economy and better performance at an affordable cost, but also take advantage of the ready availability of magnesium in China," said Wang.

China currently produces the majority of the world’s magnesium output.

Opened in 2011, the ATC, is GM’s center for advanced vehicle design, powertrain and vehicle engineering, “telematics,” and general R&D.  The VSC machine is in located in the ATC’s micro-foundry and formability lab, which is part of the Advanced Materials Lab. The research center also has mechanical testing, microstructure analysis, metallography and electrochemistry labs.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)