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Impressive project from start to finish

Two-metre-long off-road vehicle step casting for the US SUV market scoops Component of the Year at the Cast Metals Industry Awards Dinner.

Previously made as a sheet pressing and high pressure diecasting, the step casting for the US off-road SUV Ford Raptor was considered a triumph for the metal casting industry by the judges of the prestigious annual awards ceremony, held in the UK in November. The triumphant foundry is Shield Aluminium Die-Castings of Northampton (UK), which rose to the challenge of converting the part into a low pressure casting. Over 2m long and 215mm wide with a wall thickness of 3-5mm, the safety critical casting weighs only 19kg, has a high quality surface finish and minimal as-cast distortion.

Shield worked with an Australian based Ford Group design team for the supply of production castings to the USA based assembly line, to very short deadlines. Both the development team from Ford and Shield Aluminium Die-Castings, worked with HCM Engineering Ltd for the tooling and Maxima Engineering for the process methods, optimisation and robustness simulation using the tools contained in the latest MAGMASOFT® version, but the group never actually physically met. Design, process and tooling development were all completed to prove manufacturability and right-first-time sample batch castings, supplied in three months utilising regular web-based meetings. The judges were impressed not only with the casting, but also with the process control and global nature of the project.

“It is a casting that the whole team at Shield Group can be proud of, and brings a whole new area of components into the vision of the casting industry”, said Tom Smith, managing director of Shield. “As ever in this industry now, the component is the product of a team effort and it is the bringing together of organisations with key expertise from wherever they are in the world to deliver a solution that brings success.”

Previously manufactured as a pressing, this international team effort led by Shield was an impressive project from start to finish say the judges.

Shortlisted for the Component of the Year Award were Casting Technology International and Wall Colmonoy. Casting Technology International was chosen for a titanium structural aircraft wing component. Weighing 5.4kg the casting replaces a fabrication of nine machined components, is 20 per cent lighter and has validated the use of titanium castings where previously only ‘machined from solid’ had been accepted.

Wall Colmonoy was selected for its patented 316 stainless steel cable protector for the oil and gas industry. An investment casting with an aluminium insert, the cable protector is already saving significant money and time in difficult environments.

Company Achievement Award

The Company Achievement Award was won by Harrison Castings for its turnaround in sales, investment in building, plant and people and a successful move into the North American market.

Harrison Castings is an aluminium foundry employing 100 people based in a 1930s building in Leicester. Facing a decline in the large diesel market and deteriorating buildings, the company set about transforming both its location and its focus to great effect. As well as developing a strategy to build new overseas sales, particularly in North America, the management invested in a major refurbishment and capital programme creating a working environment for the future resulting in a 50 per cent growth in sales and profitability.

“The company had reached something of a crossroads with both its location and a drop in traditional markets. The successful turnaround has come from a combination of carefully implemented strategy and a confidence in the capability of the exceptional team we have here,” said Robert Harrison, chairman.

Shortlisted in the Company Achievement category was Goodwin Steel Castings for its investment in apprentices (25 per year across the Group’s UK sites) and the development of bespoke training materials and facilities including a fully equipped lecture theatre.

Also shortlisted for its apprentice training programme was Maycast-Nokes Precision Engineering, which, recognising its rural location, has supported a constant flow of apprentices into permanent employment with the company to ensure staff sustainability and expertise. The company was named one of Centrica’s Top 100 Apprentice Employers as well as winning a number of regional awards.

Wall Colmonoy was also shortlisted for its strategic approach to a full company training programme and the development of a talent development group to maximise staff potential and to provide the future leadership and succession planning.

Innovation Award

The third award, for Innovation, was won by BCAST at Brunel University London in conjunction with Sarginsons Industries for the development of BD1, a new high strength, high ductility, cast aluminium alloy.

The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), a world-class research institute, and part of Brunel University London, developed the new alloy as part of the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures (LEAAST) project co-funded by Innovate UK. The alloy development was part of a workstream exploring the next performance opportunities for structural diecastings and was developed in conjunction with Sarginsons Industries.

The new alloy has a higher silicon content, and through careful development has produced an 85 per cent improvement in ductility compared with LM25 whilst delivering a 25 per cent increase in yield strength. A patent has been filed and considerable interest is being shown by the automotive industry due to the savings in material use and CO2 emissions.

“This new BD1 alloy opens up new possibilities for structural castings,” said Roger Darlington, director of technology at BCAST. “Each advancement in alloy structure and performance brings new components into the realm of casting and takes the industry forward and the BD1 alloy creates a major breakthrough here.

“The members of the BCAST research team, Dr Shouxun Ji and Dr Xixi Dong, have worked hard to realise this new alloy and this award is positive recognition of their and Sarginsons’ teamwork. The Innovate UK co-funded project and the resultant BD1 is an example of how universities and industry working together can bring out the very best in each other and also underscores the importance of R&D investment by UK companies.”

“The Cast Metals Industry Awards are our industry’s Oscars, so to be recognised at that ceremony was extremely pleasing for everyone connected to the project,” said Anthony Evans, managing director at Sarginsons. “This project has been a true collaboration, combining the best of academia and industry, and it is a blueprint for future development in manufacturing.”

Shortlisted in the Innovation category was PMS Diecasting for a hot runner test tool designed to increase productivity and reduce the unit cost of the Gripple, a zinc cast fencing jointing system used throughout the world and produced in vast quantities. The new tool assembly will reduce cycle times and improve casting yield considerably with significant reductions in energy and cost.

Also shortlisted was protective boot manufacturer Rock Fall UK for its new range of foundry specific protective boots. Robust trials at a working foundry involved immersion in molten metal and assorted demanding tests. With the foundry a place of potential hazard, the judges were impressed at the level of detail the company had introduced into the testing process whilst still producing a cost effective, comfortable and lightweight, yet durable boot.

The annual Cast Metals Industry Awards are organised and hosted by the Cast Metals Federation to recognise the extreme talent throughout the UK foundry sector.

Commenting on this year’s line-up, CMF chief executive Pam Murrell FICME said: “Once again we see the very best of the UK foundry industry represented. Despite its tendency to hide its light, this industry is innovating, investing, succeeding, and showing great technical and commercial acumen on a regular basis. It is important to highlight those that lead the way, but also important to recognise that they are the tip of the iceberg and good work is happening in our industry day in and day out.”

The Awards to recognise the Best of British were presented in front of a packed audience at a gala dinner held at the Manor Hotel in Meriden, UK in November. For more information and to see how to apply for the 2018 awards visit:



WINNER: Shield Aluminium Diecastings, Northampton

SHORTLISTED: Casting Technology International, Rotherham; and Wall Colmonoy, Swansea



WINNER: Harrison Castings, Leicester

SHORTLISTED: Goodwin Steel Castings, Stoke on Trent; Maycast-Nokes Precision Engineering, West Halstead; and Wall Colmonoy, Swansea



WINNER: BCAST, Brunel University London and Sarginsons Industries Ltd

SHORTLISTED: PMS Diecasting, Rotherham; and Rock Fall UK, Alfreton