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Thumbs up for casting solution to improve lives

A prosthetic aluminium thumb for use by children who have lost a hand due to injury, congenital conditions or for other medical reasons, has picked up the prestigious Component of the Year award at the Best of British Casting Industry Awards. Designed by prosthetic hand designer Ted Varley, the product, comprising of seven parts in A356 (AlSi9MgMn alloy) with a combined weight of 23.7kg, required a high level of detail and an as-cast surface finish with no machining. With wall thicknesses down to 2mm for some cast elements and 1mm diameter cast-in holes, Sylatech Ltd used 3D wax printing to optimise the design flexibility. Samples were provided to the client within three weeks of the order being placed, with significant cost savings also achieved. Such is the success of the new design and product that it has attracted NHS funding to enable further versions aimed at children.

In a statement, Sylatech explained: “Our success with this assembly of castings results from our fantastic process, particularly when combined with our in-house 3D printing capability, which affords the design engineer total design freedom. This enables shapes and cast detail, typically not possible through hard tooling to be cast. The designer isn’t constrained by the limitations of 5-axis CNC machining, pressure diecasting, or any other hard-tooled processes. “Sylatech’s casting process enables undercuts and thin walls to be cast with ease, resulting in reduced weight compared to traditional processes. The walls of some of the castings in the winning part are 2mm, albeit the process is capable of casting down to 0.3mm.” The company, which is based in North Yorkshire, was also highly commended for the Company of the Year award. Sylatech beat of strong competition for the Component of the Year award from other entries, including two highly commended entries – Sarginsons Industries Ltd and Dean Group International Ltd.

Sarginsons was recognised for a large and complex structural chassis aluminium casting, weighing just 25kg. When prototype castings from alternative suppliers failed during crash testing, Sarginsons was approached and completely redesigned the part and produced successful prototype castings in just ten weeks.

Dean Group International Ltd was recognised for a range of stainless steel cast nodes in different sizes (twelve design variations) for an art installation entitled Cloud Cities Barcelona, which is on display at Mirador Torre Glories, in the popular Spanish city. The safety critical nodes required full machining and tapping of over ten thousand unique holes to tight tolerances. Dean Group used 3D printed waxes and full simulation to achieve the complex panels.


Sheffield-headquartered William Cook Holdings beat off the challenge of the other finalists to secure the Company of the Year title, impressing judges with landmark rail contract wins, support for the war effort in Ukraine and a five million pound investment programme that has reinforced its position in the nuclear power supply chain. The group also stepped in to protect vital foundry skills when it saved 75 jobs by acquiring HI Quality Steel Castings of Chesterfield out of administration.

Highly Commended in the Company of the Year category was Sylatech Ltd for its extensive sales growth and significant increase in revenue during the year.

ICME was also recognised for its success in “significantly increasing” the range and number of training courses available to the UK foundry industry. The Institute received a Judges’ Commendation Certificate for the organisation’s work on training and skills development and its development of the Casting my Future 3D virtual foundry tour plus supporting material for use in industry promotion in schools. The project is enabled thanks to funding from the Foundry Training Trust. In accepting the Judges’ Commendation Certificate in the Company of the Year category, ICME national president Martin Dudley FICME, owner of Thomas Dudley Foundry, said: “We have ambitious plans for ICME to become the ‘go to’ place for training in the UK castings and foundry industry and this accolade is a great boost for the team. However, we as the industry, all need to play our role in supporting training and development for the future of the industry in the UK. We hope that the ‘Casting my Future’ pilot can help more young people be encouraged to have a career in casting.”


The Innovation award was won by Foseco, recognised for the company’s development of a novel automated metal treatment and cleaning process for steel melts. ‘ROTOCLENE’ introduces inert gases through a pumping rotor, with the bubbles and stirring motion ensuring that cleaning is optimised and melt homogeneity improved, leading to lower levels of rework and scrap. Rotary treatment and degassing of aluminium is commonplace but for steel is quite different, as the melts require cleaning and stirring, rather than degassing, plus of course the temperatures required for casting steel alloys are significantly higher. Read more about the process on page 26. Foseco was also Highly Commended for its WASCO technology, which allows high pressure diecasting foundries to produce castings with more complex shapes more cost effectively. The technology is the first commercially available soluble sand binder system for use in high pressure diecasting.

Also Highly Commended in this category were aluminium diecasters CastAlum for their Innovate UK supported project to investigate the use of metal printed (additively manufactured) inserts in high pressure diecasting tools and Omega Sinto Foundry Machinery Ltd for their robotic sand milling (RSM) cell which offers an efficient cost effective solution for moving to a patternless mould making system, as a viable alternative to 3D printing of moulds.

The awards, which recognise the ‘Best of British Casting’, are organised by the Cast Metals Federation (CMF) and were presented at the Casting Industry Awards Dinner on 23rd November 2023 in Tamworth (UK). CMF chief executive Dr Pam Murrell FICME is confident that the 2023 entries highlight the enormous capabilities of the cast metals industry. “The innovation and resilience of the foundry industry never ceases to amaze me, and this year’s award winners typify exactly what makes the UK great. We had businesses investing, we had companies diversifying and we had firms using new technologies to help designers bring products to market that will positively change lives for hundreds of children. “The commitment to problem solving and providing solutions to customers remains strong as the industry continues to make all the components upon which a modern economy depends. Our sector can be part of the solution to growth for the UK. And remember – metal recycles forever.”


Winner: Sylatech Ltd

Shortlisted: Dean Group International Ltd, Sarginsons Industries Ltd


Winner: William Cook Holdings

Shortlisted: Sylatech Ltd, Institute of Cast Metals Engineers (ICME)


Winner: Foseco

Shortlisted: CastAlum, Omega Sinto Foundry Machinery Ltd