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Walker Die Casting in Tennessee ordered a 4500ton coldchamber diecasting machine from HPM North America to produce complex aluminum parts from 125 to 135 lbs

Pushing for Larger-Dimension Diecastings

Nov. 16, 2015
Lightweight vehicle designs need high volumes of complex cast parts, prompting a wave of projects for large pressure diecasting machines. HPM North America’s 4,500-ton machine BuhlerPrince HPDC machine L.K. Machinery/SAPP Group R&D center

Walker Die Casting, a Lewisburg, TN, producer of aluminum components for automotive and truck manufacturing, has ordered a 4,500-ton cold-chamber diecasting machine from HPM North America, to be delivered in 2017. According to the contractor it is the largest cold-chamber machine it has produced to-date in North America. But, that distinction may not last for long.

There is an outbreak of demand in North America for new diecasting capacity on that scale, machines sized to produce a range of highly engineered parts in aluminum alloys. It’s demand prompted by motor vehicle manufacturers working on new production programs keyed to lighter vehicles, with lighter component parts for powertrains, drivetrains, and structural systems.

But lighter car and truck designs are not the only factor in the wave of new diecasting capacity: Mercury Casting, a business unit of Mercury Marine, ordered a new large-scale diecasting machine as part of a plan to expand the group’s stern-drive engine platform.

The 4,500-ton Series II cold-chamber machine for Walker Die Casting machine will be built by by HPM North America, Marion, OH, and its corporate parent, China’s Yizumi Group. In operation, it will produce 125- to 135-lb. castings.

Series II machines have a C-frame support for the shot-end; a five-point toggle clamp, with a high-strength, cast-steel linkage, hardened pins and bushings; and a crosshead that is fully supported by guide bars from the back plate to the movable plates. The shot is delivered with closed-loop shot-speed control, monitored by Allen Bradley CompactLogix plc and IO production process controls.

The developers claim the Series II provides the diecasting industry’s lowest total cost of ownership.

The machine ordered by Walker Die Casting will be engineered to HPM North America specifications by an HPM/ Yizumi engineering team led by HPM North America president William Flickinger.  He said Walker’s procurement decision was based on the reliability of several HPM diecasting machines operating now at the Tennessee plant, and, on the performance of new HPM North America diecasting equipment at other major auto parts producers.

Also influential in the decision was the HPM/Yizumi plan to build the machine with SAE hydraulic fittings, inch fasteners, and inch tubing. North American suppliers will provide the machine’s major hydraulic, electrical, and control components, and HPM will complete final assembly and test runs  of the 4,500-ton diecasting machine at the Yizumi facility prior to delivery.

Expanding In-House Capacity — BuhlerPrince Inc., Holland, MI, is building Mercury Casting’s new diecasting machine for delivery in June 2016. The model 4575CCA machine will have 75 inches of free space between the tie bars, space that Mercury Castings unit will use to help expand the dimensions of its in-house casting capability.  BuhlerPrince described it as “the largest high-pressure diecasting machine built in North America.”

BuhlerPrince is building a new high-pressure diecasting machine with 75 inches of free space between the tie bars, space that will expand the dimensions of Mercury Casting’s in-house casting capability.

“We are excited to bring this new machine into our portfolio,” stated Samir Mesanovic, director of Mercury Castings. “It will be a welcome addition to our production and increase our capabilities to produce the largest and most complex parts for both Mercury Marine and other customers.”

Mercury Marine is widely known for manufacturing outboard motors up to 60-hp, but it also builds MerCruiser stern-drive motors (inboard/outboard drive) and inboard motors over 75 hp. It manufactures outboard motors up to 350 hp (and up to 400 hp for racing engines.)

Mercury Castings casts complex aluminum parts by high-pressure diecasting and lost foam casting for Mercury Marine programs, as well as for manufacturers of automotive, agricultural, and industrial systems.

According to the BuhlerPrince, the new machine will give Mercury Marine the ability to produce the largest automotive structural parts, and parts for other industries where lighter designs are needed to address fleet vehicle carbon-emission reductions, to achieve better fuel efficiency, or both. It’s a wider trend that has seen automotive and other vehicle designers shift specifications from iron and steel structures to aluminum and other lightweight materials, a shift that favors high-pressure diecasting production.

BuhlerPrince, Holland, MI, is an operating division of the Swiss manufacturer Buhler Die Casting. It produces machines ranging from 200 to 4,500 tons of clamping force, and offers retrofit and/or remanufacturing services, spares parts, and service and support for diecasters in North America.

“Buhler is very proud to partner with Mercury for their expanding diecasting equipment requirements,” stated BuhlerPrince president and CEO Mark Los. “Continued investment in equipment and people allows BuhlerPrince, as the only diecasting machine builder in North America, to provide innovative products to our customers, enabling them to be competitive on a global basis.”

Developing, Testing Targets — L.K. Machinery Inc. and SAPP Group have established a technology center in Edinburgh, IN, to develop and test new diecasting machinery and technology prior to the start of full-scale production. “Target” projects will include large automotive structural components “like torque boxes, pillars and structural nodes,” according to the partners’ announcement.

Powertrain components like engine blocks and transmission cases also will be developed there, for automotive OEM’s and Tier I casting suppliers.

The cost of the investment and the partners’ positions in the Advanced Casting Technology Center venture were not announced.

L.K. Machinery, Holland, MI, manufactures diecasting machines. SAPP Group, headquartered in Brescia, Italy, develops and produces tooling and dies for diecasting. 

The ACT Center also has participation from other suppliers to the diecasting industry, including StrikoWestofen America, IECI, Die Process Control Systems, Motultech-Baraldi, and ChemTrend.

“Our goal is to be the casting process development and training center in the U.S.,” stated L.K. Machinery president Bill Damian. “It’s our hope to continue to make advancements for the industry, while maintaining our high standards for production quality and customer support.” 

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.)