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Posted on Aug 13, 2021
An iron foundry is an industrial installation that fabricates castings. Casting presents a multi-step process that involves liquefying metal stock and then forming it into castings. Various grades of iron are utilized to fabricate casting pieces, including gray iron, ductile iron, cast iron, and other metallic materials.
The iron foundry is where castings are produced. It not only fabricates metal parts for engine, railroad, or pipe components but also forms machinery components. Just like drilling, grinding and hammering, etc., casting is one of the oldest metal forming processes in history. In addition to iron, a foundry also processes materials including brass, zinc, magnesium, steel, and more. In this article, we will walk you through the processes taking place in the iron foundry in detail.
The process is simple. It only comprises three basic steps once the mold/die is built: melting, casting, and finishing. Melting as the first step categorizes the process into two subtypes: hot chamber casting and cold chamber casting. Hot chamber casting refers to melting the metal inside the mold whereas cold chamber casting has the material molten in advance before molding.
Casting is the main step in the process. The design of the mold is custom to create the end product. After the mold is filled with the molten metal and the material is spread within the mold evenly, it is allowed to cool down and solidify. Finishing is required when there are imperfections or marks on the surface of the castings. Yet typically, the tolerance and clearance are controlled and minimized at the mold building stage.
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The casting process is suitable for manufacturing iron, iron-based, and other alloy pieces with both simple and complex designs and in a wide extent of weights and sizes, based on demand. Below are the advantages of the casting process.
The mold determines the shape and size of the product. There is generally not a limitation to how large the mold can be. The maximum load capacity is restricted in the working space the mechanism provides during cutting, but casting has more flexibility in withstanding more loads at a time.
Casting is a one-piece manufacturing process. It does not combine several pieces to make one product. Once the molten liquid is solidified, it is done. The one-piece result is what makes casting products more rigid and durable for the relevant applications.
Take automotive components, for example, the parts made by cutting have to undergo welding to attach different parts into one. In contrast, the same result can be achieved by pre-fabricating the mold to be the form of the end product and proceeding to conduct casting.
Casting deals with both ferrous and non-ferrous materials, which combine the properties of all elements in the material. In some cases, one element has plasticity but lacks thermal conductivity. When it is mixed with another element that is heat conductive, the properties of the alloy are strengthened.
The molds applied in the casting process are often reusable, which means those molds can be repeatedly used until they totally wear. Compared with cutting, which is electricity-consuming when the machines are operating, casting is free from this drawback. In other words, the reusability and less electricity-consuming features make casting a more economical method in product manufacturing.
A foundry is inherently hazardous given the regular operating temperature is over 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,425 degrees Celsius). Charging a furnace with even slightly damp metal is enough to cause a disastrous steam explosion. The unpredictable nature of chemical reactions at extreme temperatures is equally intense. Therefore, the safety baseline is to lower the risks during the processes.
Foundries have high ambient temperatures. Workers are demanded to wear hard hats, eye protection, face shields, and thick aluminized clothing. As intense as the heat can be, workers wouldn’t be able to bear it at all if it weren't for the high ceilings. The high-roof design of the foundries allows better air circulation. Traffic on the foundry floor is stringently controlled. Unnecessary personnel is never in the way of molten metal during transport. Mechanical aids (forklifts, mechanical ladles) are utilized to further lower human exposure.
Sometimes spills take place even when all the precautions are taken. To mitigate the damage, foundry floors are constructed of non-reactive, flame-retardant materials. Safety-conscious design and protective gear help lower the risk to workers and equipment, but the true key to safety is skilled foundry workers with excellent situational awareness and experience.
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