The Investment Casting Institute, Montvale, N.J. (investmentcasting.org), named investmentcasting award winners at its annual technical conference and exhibition. The competition honors innovative investment-cast parts used in aerospace, automotive, industrial, and space-technology applications.
Automotive honors went to a fuel-pump removal tool cast by Aristo Cast Inc., Almont, Mich. (aristo-cast.com). The tool was designed as a joint venture between Aristo Cast and the makers of the Ford Focus. An emergency recall required the removal of the fuel pump attached to the inside bottom of the fuel tank. Designers chose a nonsparking aluminum-bronze alloy to help ensure safe removal of the pump. The alloy also provides the strength needed so the tool could cut through four pump supports without damaging the coating inside the tank that prevents leaks. Ford knew what the tool needed to do but did not have a complete design when they approached Aristo Cast for help. With rapid-prototyping technology and casting expertise Aristo Cast provided several plastic design iterations within 48 hr. After final approval, they produced 17,100 casting in seven weeks and then assembled, packaged, and shipped them to dealers worldwide. The investment-cast tool saved the auto manufacturer the cost of completely replacing the fuel tank.
The top Industrial award went to Signicast Corp., Hartford, Wis. (signicast.com), for a two-piece investment casting used in a movable safety device that securely attaches to a horizontal safety wire and stops a worker's fall in case of an accident. The detachable Sayflink is 17-4 PH stainless steel and replaces a three-piece assembly consisting of two heavily machined parts and a stamped, formed, and welded tang. The casting needs only light machining and lightens the Sayflink's weight by 20%. The lighter weight is said to ease handling, which can be critical when personal safety is at stake. Investment casting let designers incorporate large radii and smooth edges that help bolster component strength by eliminating stress concentrations in critical areas.
The Aerospace award went to Miller Castings Inc., Whittier, Calif. (millercastings.com), for an aircraft-engine exhaust housing. Investment casting easily accommodates the part's ultrasmall core passages and many transitions from thin-wall thickness to thick wall to thin again. Rapid-prototyping technology made possible several design iterations before the part was cast from Inconel 718 alloy. The housing has a 5-in. diameter and is 5.5 in. high. It is used in an experimental engine for the German aerospace company MTU Aero Engines (www.mtu.de).
31.5 in. and holds the sun sensor on a solar-powered satellite. The svelte, Beralcast (Be-Al) MMC let NASA drop part weight 22% (3/8 lb) which saves $7,500 to $9,400 in payload costs per satellite. The Be-Al part is three times stiffer than its aluminum predecessor, so the alignment of the sensor is also more accurate. Secondary operations included black anodizing and alodine coating for flight hardware, and machining.
The Beralcast 363 MMC casting in a sun-sensor bracket for satellites withstands static-load testing in excess of 20 g and random vibration tests of over 17 g rms. The casting also exceeded NASA Grade C X-ray requirements for castings with a Grade B X-ray rating.