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Manufacture smarter to seek out new opportunities

New technology brings new challenges, which brings a continued need for the dissemination of information, Diecasting Society President John Paterson told delegates at the Diecasting Society Technical Forum.

Held in Solihull (UK) on 20th October, the event was organised to bring together diecasters, suppliers, and representatives from the wider engineering community to discuss topical issues affecting the sector in an ever-changing world.

The forum and an anniversary dinner were specifically held to mark the 50th Anniversary of the DCS but such was the success that there are high hopes to make it a regular event to add to the calendar.

During the day, ninety attendees were given overviews of the importance of tooling steel, the need to get the design right early in the process, OEM demands, metal quality developments and diecasting processes.

Richard Oliver from Uddeholm spoke about the ‘technical developments in hot work die tool steels’. He explained how good process control is critical as without that it was impossible to enjoy the benefits of a good die steel. He warned: “There will be massive changes in the next twenty years, with opportunities for new parts that didn’t exist before. We are now in the era of the hybrid – it is a ‘cherry moment’ that should last for the next ten to twenty years. New trends are for structural parts, battery packs and big blocks, which opens up further opportunities for die cast parts.”

In a lively presentation detailing a project to design and produce a new part for Aston Martin, Simon Olive of Maxima Engineering highlighted how working with a designer from the absolute earliest concept stage could make all our lives easier. Working with HCM Engineering as the toolmaker, Aston Martin as the designer and client and using the Magma software the effort and attention usually dedicated to later on in the production process was brought forward with the development of a ‘castable part’ involving all parties. “We had daily meetings with the designer and the toolmaker and were able to break down walls between the designer, the toolmaker and the foundry,” Olive enthused. “We undertook a massive amount of CAD upfront and moved from the traditional method, instead front loading all the effort – everyone talking to each other from the beginning resulting in a truly agile supply chain.”

The effort involved 44 iterations using optimisation tools before moving on to a die model from HCM. The result of all the effort and communication was forty castings in a short time period. But Olive said, the industry should never be afraid to question the design. “Ask the designer where the highly stressed areas are,” he said. “The quality of the castings can vary and still be functional.”

In a highly charming and open presentation, Mike Bottley of Jaguar Land Rover extolled the virtues of die cast parts: “I’m a metal man,” he said. “But there was a period when an endless list of die cast parts were lost to the plastics/composites industry.”

He said the JLR story is very much about cleaner cars with longer ranges to satisfy motorists changing needs. “Everyone needs to find new ways and new methods, including diecasters. We all need to get to grips with this.

“Reduced weight will decide the markets. Battery technology is evolving, what we are building now won’t be what we are building for the second generation. But remember, if you drive a luxury vehicle you want it to feel good and solid – plastic does not compare to zinc and aluminium in this respect.”

The dilemma of reducing weight, whilst maintaining the look and feel of a luxury car is a challenge Bottley said he was confident diecasters could rise to. “We need to manufacture ‘smarter’ to, avoid the polymer trend of the 1970s,” he said. “If we can get 25 per cent more die life out of your high pressure dies, I can save a huge amount from my budget so it makes your quotes more competitive. Our end wins are your opportunities – find them.”

Presentations on the latest equipment were given by Christophe Lacourt at StrikoWestofen and Andrea Locati of Italpresse Gauss.

Commenting on the quality of the forum Darren Fellow of Jaguar Land Rover said: “I felt it was an excellent event that showcased just how good our industry is. Congratulations to all.” Adam Bennett of John Winter & Co Ltd echoed the sentiments saying: “It was a complete success and was a pleasure for us to be able to attend.”

The day was completed with a dinner and entertainment to mark the special occasion.

The DCS would like to thank delegates, exhibitors, sponsors and all those involved in the organisation of the event.  

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