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Award-Winning Parts Make Good Designs Better

Dec. 1, 2018
The ICI’s best designs for 2018 exhibit the efficiency and integrity of parts designed (or redesigned) as investment castings.

The Investment Casting Institute selected the best designed products for 2018 in five different categories during its annual event in October. ICI’s 65th Technical Conference and Exposition in Kansas City, MO, offered the platform for exhibiting the winning products as well as to honor the foundries that developed and produced the castings.

The annual contest recognizes the design and production achievement in investment castings produced for aerospace, automotive, fine art, energy and industrial hardware. Finalists also are recognized in each category.

Aristo-Cast Inc., Almont, MI, earned the top honor for automotive investment casting design. The steering wheel armature was developed for an automotive OEM that sought “to have the outside ring machined from 304 stainless steel billet, which then would have the armature over-molded around the ring in AZ91E magnesium using the investment casting process,” explained the foundry’s Eric Ziemba explained. “The customer wanted two armatures to simulate the diecast design, which would be used for testing purposes while the diecast tooling was under construction.”

To optimizes investment casting process, Aristo-Cast engineers worked with the customer to eliminate machine stock and design a net-shape armature pattern. Using a Voxeljet VX1000 3D printer, Aristo-Cast produced sample armature patterns, while the steel rings were concurrently machined from 304 stainless billet. The resulting patterns were assembled around the rings, and then four investment castings were produced. This approach resulted in the first armature being produced in less than five days, meeting the customer’s specifications and schedule.

The award-winning design for aerospace investment casting is a pump housing developed and produced by O’Fallon Casting, O’Fallon, MO. “This pump housing is an excellent example of how the investment casting process offers the versatility to consolidate a fabrication made from multiple components, made from a variety of processes, into a single piece casting,” explained the foundry’s Jake Robben.

Aero engine pump housings contain complex internal passages so frequently they are produced by assembling multiple parts produced in several processes. Using investment casting, O’Fallon reduced the overall component weight while eliminating future failure points at the assembly location.

This winning design contains multiple interconnected core passages with varying diameters and depths. Combining thin walls, large masses of metal, and grade B metallurgical requirements, the component lends itself to the investment casting process. Working with the customer, and applying its own expertise, O’Fallon Casting reduced the number of weld openings from 10 to five, saving production cost and establishing a more robust part.

The casting contest is open to members of the Investment Casting Institute and was instituted to recognize foundries that manufacture parts and components that illustrate and promote the benefits and flexibility of the investment casting process, or which demonstrate problem-solving techniques for customers.