Machine Design

Beyond Toys, Lead Paint, and China

Daniel L. Twarog
North American Die Casting Association

Wheeling, Ill.

There’s little doubt that quality-control problems continue to plague China. While recent problems with tainted infant formula and toys with lead-based paint attract most of the headlines, parts and components OEMs purchase from offshore suppliers are also subject to scrutiny. At the heart of this issue is the reliability of offshore suppliers in meeting OEM specifications and the effect this has on production costs.

For die casters, quality begins with the material being used — and the ability to assure the OEM that the alloy specified is the one delivered. Die casters should follow the latest ASTM standards which tightly control alloy quality. Further, suppliers should thoroughly check materials at key production stages, backed by a certification process, and have in-house spectrometers or easy access to nearby resources for the latest technology. Members of the North American Die Casting Assn. (NADCA) meet all these requirements.

NADCA also publishes product standards developed by die casters for best performance. These standards are recognized as the most comprehensive in the world and cover dimensional tolerances for average and high-precision castings. We continually update these standards based on the latest university research. Design engineers can draw upon the expertise of NADCA members who can advise them on how to meet these tolerances to produce castings economically.

With more than 100 years of experience in North America, OEMs have come to trust their domestic die casters for accurate certifications and casting performance. That long history of building trust with OEMs adds value through timely delivery of quality, well-designed parts.

Manufacturers considering offshore sources will find the ability to communicate with the supplier extremely important. This goes beyond speaking the same language and understanding the culture. If your supplier has difficulty understanding the complexity of the assignment and lacks shop-floor experience, than it becomes difficult or impossible for the supplier to offer innovative solutions based on new technologies — such as rapid prototyping — that significantly speed the design and production process.

NADCA members and their suppliers can also refer OEMs to companies knowledgeable about machining die castings. This is a highly specialized area that impacts the way you design a die, so it demands close coordination. The advice OEMs receive regarding design and production will significantly affect costs, so experience with similar projects matters.

Finally, our free enterprise system rewards service-oriented suppliers that provide quality parts and economical production. Likewise, the free market punishes bad performance through lost customers and lost sales. Countries that subsidize their emerging die-casting industry often make no distinction between quality suppliers and subpar performers, awarding both with government support and acting as a disincentive for quality. If you are an OEM vetting suppliers, keep in mind the many added value advantages of local partners.

NADCA promotes research, innovation, and education among casting manufacturers and users.

Edited by Kenneth Korane

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