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Celebrating new possibilities for the casting industry

A part which could only previously have been produced by direct metal laser sintering scooped the prestigious Component of the Year Award at the Cast Metals Industry 2015 Awards Dinner.
The development of a remarkable wheel upright casting by Precision Casting Centre based in Portsmouth caught the eye of the judges as it opens up new possibilities for the casting process.
Precision Casting Centre worked in conjunction with 3D printing specialist Voxeljet UK to produce a casting, which previously could only have been manufactured using the much more expensive direct metal laser sintering process. Designed for function and not for ease of manufacture, the component shows how the combination of leading edge technology with proven casting techniques can create previously unattainable results benefitting the industry and the customer. 
Starting with a 3D printed model in PMMA, which ensures there are no split lines, moulding draft or core assembly, the model was invested and removed as part of the normal investment casting process and then cast in L169 aluminium alloy. The component, a wheel upright for automotive and aerospace applications, needed to withstand considerable direct and fatigue loading and could be designed to be four times stiffer than the original design because of the design freedom offered by the innovative development process, as well as being capable of mass production. By working closely the foundry and the technology supplier have taken the whole foundry industry forward.
Adam Robertson of Precision Casting Centre said: “To be recognised by the CMF for this casting just proves to us that we really are creating the future. It was a wonderful evening with some great friends.”
Highly Commended in the category was Noel Village (Steel Founder) Ltd for its remarkable defect and weld-free valve body manufactured in Inconel 625, a very difficult alloy to cast. Through a painstaking development process with suppliers and the foundry working together, innovative feeder design and many other technical achievements, Noel Village can now produce the component completely defect free, and the lessons learned have brought knock-on benefits to the foundry’s whole approach to the production of castings.

Company Achievement Award – MRT CASTINGS LTD
MRT Castings won the Company Achievement Award for a remarkable year of growth into new markets and a considerable investment programme. Over the last 12 months, the company has gone through a period of massive expansion with sales up 70 per cent and export sales up 330 per cent to now account for over half of the company’s sales. The growth came as a result of a strategic response to a new contract from a US medical device manufacturer which encouraged this family-owned aluminium diecaster to invest heavily to maximise the opportunity and open up other avenues in defence and aerospace interior markets. By working closely with the medical customer’s designers more components were suitable for casting and converted from plastic mouldings and pressings.
Through capital investments of around £1.5m in automated manufacturing, developing CNC machining capacity, reducing work in progress and relentless pressure on productivity, MRT has doubled its capacity to meet the growing sales demand. The company has also achieved OHSAS 18001:2007 Health & Safety Accreditation.
Phil Rawnson, MD of MRT Castings Ltd said: “The whole team at MRT are really proud of this award, particularly considering the strength of the other companies nominated. To achieve the growth we have in the past twelve months has taken a real team effort, so it is a real boost to everyone at MRT that their hard work has been recognised by the judges.”
Two companies - Sarginsons Industries Ltd and United Cast Bar UK - were also Highly Commended in the category. The core mission of Sarginsons is to establish itself as the leading European foundry for lightweight and hollow section automotive low-pressure castings through investment in both equipment and education. This has already led to a number of major new components to be re-shored to the UK.
Year on year United Cast Bar has managed to produce larger cast bar than any other company in the world - the latest of 700mm diameter is currently a full 90mm larger than any competitor - as well as bringing in new shapes that increase yield and efficiencies for customers. In addition the company has strong staff development and schools engagement programmes as well as continuing investments in the production site.

Innovation Award – BRUNEL UNIVERSITY
The Innovation Award was won by Brunel University for the development of a new niobium boride based grain refiner for use with aluminium casting alloys.
Brunel has always had strong links with the UK foundry industry as a key academic and technical resource. While the benefits of grain refinement are well known there has been little recent innovation in this area. The new master alloy developed by Dr Nadendla and his team has been tested on a range of hypo- and hyper-eutectic Al-Si alloys with Si contents in the range 6-17wt%.
The effect of the new refiner addition on as-cast microstructures is considerable and results in improved fluidity, so thinner sections can be cast with lower weight and reduced defects. Industrial trials have been conducted and work is now being undertaken with the supply chain to make the master alloy commercially available. The results have also indicated that the refiner is effective in magnesium alloys and its potential in this area is now being investigated. The master alloy development and industrial casting trials were carried out under an Innovate UK supported project entitled ‘Grain refiner for high performance lightweight aluminium automotive castings.’ Innoval Technology led the project; the partners were Brunel University, Grainger & Worrall, ESI, JLR and AMG.
Having been presented with the award on behalf of Brunel University, Geoff Scamans of Innoval Technology Ltd said: “This award recognises a breakthrough in aluminium casting technology delivered by the combined support of the EPSRC and a collaborative research grant from Innovate UK.”
Highly Commended in the category were Hall & Botterill Ltd for conceiving, designing and building a multi-tasking robotic fettling and jobbing cell which they believe to be the first in the world, and Ultraseal International for its new machine to improve the casting impregnation process ideally suited for single part processing of components such as automotive engine blocks on a just in time production line.
The awards are organised by the Cast Metals Federation with the aim of highlighting the ‘Best of British Casting’. Speaking about this year’s entries CMF chief executive Pam Murell FICME said: “The Cast Metals Industry Awards are an opportunity for us to recognise the many remarkable developments that are happening throughout our industry, and to show the world the imagination, problem solving and innovation that is happening in foundries every day of the year - I am delighted by both the number of entries and the quality in all categories. 
“Every entry showed a company at the top of its game; some big, some small, some on the leading edge of technology, some producing many thousands of castings a day and some just producing a handful. Shortlisting the highly commended entries, and then selecting the winners was a very hard job for our judges as there is so much in the industry to celebrate.”

Component of the Year
Winner - Precision Casting Centre for a wheel upright for automotive and aerospace applications
Highly Commended - Noel Village (Steel Founder) Ltd for a defect and weld-free valve body manufactured in Inconel 625

Company Achievement
Winner - MRT Castings for a remarkable year of growth into new markets and a considerable investment programme
Highly Commended - Sarginsons Industries Ltd for investment in equipment and education
Highly Commended - United Cast Bar UK for producing larger cast bar than any other company in the world, and its staff development and schools engagement programmes

Innovation
Winner – Brunel University for the development of a new niobium boride based grain refiner for use with aluminium casting alloys
Highly Commended- Hall & Botterill Ltd for conceiving, designing and building a multi-tasking robotic fettling and jobbing cell
Highly Commended - Ultraseal International for a new machine to improve the casting impregnation process