In die casting, your metal material, often an alloy of metals such aluminum, copper or zinc, is melted and injected into a steel die, or mold, in the shape of the part you wish to make. Once the metal fills the die, you cool it down so that the metal hardens in the desired shape, after which you remove it. You can then finish the part and do any necessary assembly.
The CNC in CNC machining stands for computer numerical control, and it is a way to maximize the efficiency of machining through automating much of the process. Think of Machine Casting like sculpting with metal. We program the CNC robot which then cuts away at the metal until what is left is the desired part.
Casting simplifies the process of forming metal into products. Basically, molten metal is poured into a mold to create a desired pattern. To remove the pattern or part, a slight taper often called a draft is used on the pattern surfaces. If needed, passages, or cavities, within the casting are made by inserting cores into the casting box once the pattern is removed.
A casting results in fewer components and fewer parts needing to be put together. A weldment that was once a dozen pieces can be cast into one part. That means less assembly time, simpler inventory control, and a drop in overall price because less machining is required. Plus, the overall versatility of casting is incredible.
So, which should you use? It’s important to note that die casting and machining can often work together to optimize the effectiveness of your product line. You can use machining on a die casting part to create tighter tolerances or create features on the part that cannot be die cast, and you can even use machining to make the die itself that will be used for the die casting process.
One advantage of using CNC machining is that it is better for low volume parts since no tooling cost is required. Die casting is the preferred option if you’re looking for a high volume of consistent, reliable parts.
On the other hand, if your part has a lot of surface detail, you may prefer to use die casting. Surface details can be made right into the die so that your part comes complete with the surface details included, rather than having to machine them later during the finishing process.
Another consideration when it comes to CNC machining vs. die casting is waste. With die casting, you use almost all the metal involved for the part, with little leftover scrap. On the other hand, there is a lot of scrap metal left lying around after you machine a part. Now, you can recycle that metal of course, but if you are machining parts or working with a company that is machining parts, you want to be sure that there is a recycling mechanism in place.
If you’re looking to mass produce a high volume of durable, consistent parts affordably, die casting in aluminum or a related alloy is probably the way to go. If you have a smaller run of more complex parts, or you have particularly large or oddly shaped parts, CNC machining may be more effective.
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