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Aluminium Alloys For High Strength Pressure Diecast Components

It’s probably not generally appreciated in the manufacturing world that cast aluminium components can be made with enhanced mechanical properties relatively inexpensively by the selection of an alloy appropriate for the purpose required.

Over 200 different casting alloys are currently registered with the American Aluminium Association and additional alloys have been developed in Europe by recycler/smelters such as Rheinfelden in South West Germany. Castings made from Rheinfelden’s Magsimil-59 for example have ductility and tensile and yield strengths similar to components made from 6061 series extrusion alloys. Such components would have been expensively machined from 6061 in solid form, and the cost savings achievable by casting are clearly substantial.

These effects are achieved through the addition of alloying elements during ingot production by recyclers for the foundries. For example, modification of aluminium-silicon eutectic alloys by inert strontium improves the tensile properties of the alloys. The introduction of strontium leads to additional refinement of the structure and increases the tensile strength and elongation at break.

The addition of magnesium increases solution strengthening and allows further improvement through strain hardening while not appreciably reducing ductility or corrosion resistance.  Magnesium actually improves the ductility of aluminium alloys containing iron and silicon due to modification of Al5FeSi intermetallic inclusions from platelet to cubic form Al15(MnFe)3Si2.  Magnesium also improves low cycle fatigue resistance and increases corrosion resistance.

Silicon improves the castability of aluminum alloys due to better fluidity and lower shrinkage and increases the strength of the alloys. Silicon also Improves resistance to abrasive wear. Copper increases tensile strength, fatigue strength and hardness due to the effect of solid solution hardening, although ductility is reduced.

Hybrid aluminium/zinc alloys have been available for many years to provide exceptional mechanical properties in pressure castings. These alloys are much denser than traditional aluminium alloys but this may not be significant for smaller castings.

Not only can pressure casting replace expensive and time consuming machining or fabrication processes but such alloys can remove the need for processing after casting (e.g. heat treatment) to achieve the mechanical properties required.

Many modern foundries are “switched on” to these possibilities nowadays and designers should be encouraged to contact the foundry to discuss requirements with foundry engineers. For any particular application prototypes can always be machined from cast billet made from the special alloy proposed by the foundry, and stress testing will give a close indication of the mechanical properties which will be achieved in the cast component.

Rob Pickersgill, MD, W Hallam Castings Ltd, South Yorkshire, England.


Frech DAK 350 for Hallam

In July Hallam took delivery of a second Frech DAK 350 cold chamber diecasting machine to increase the company’ mid-range casting capacity. Hallam now has four Frech cold chamber machines, all with online diagnostic links to Germany. In total the company runs 10 diecasting machines.

The new machine will run alongside Hallam’s existing DAK 350 to provide capacity and contingency. Hallam is also purchasing a second DMG Mori vertical machining centre to create additional machining capacity following the acquisition of the DAK 350.


Hallam apprentice nominated for AMRC’s Apprentice of the Year awards

For the second successive year a Hallam apprentice has been nominated by staff at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre for an award at the Apprentice of the Year ceremony held at the University of Sheffield in May each year. Tom Vause, a second year apprentice based in Hallam’s CNC machining section, was one of three nominees in the “Academic Achiever of the Year” category. Awards were presented by Harry Gration, the well known TV news personality.

Last year Hallam’s Adrian Salatowski won the award for his category, an achievement that Tom didn’t quite manage to emulate. Nevertheless in a cohort of over 150 engineering apprentices, making the last three reflects outstanding ability and effort. Well done Tom!


Hallam to Build New Leading-Edge Factory Unit

Hallam MD Rob Pickersgill is discussing plans to construct a new state-of-the-art 5,000 square feet factory unit on a “green field” section of Hallam’s 2.2 acre industrial site with Doncaster MBC.

The project depends partly on the completion of supply contract agreements with a highly prestigious UK OEM and also with a large European Manufacturer.

The new factory would be capable of operating to automotive, aerospace and even medical equipment quality standards, and is being enthusiastically supported from all sides’ said Rob.

Hallam has the ISO 9001:2015 standard (BSI) at present and the factory would have machinery utilising the very latest robotic technologies operated by staff trained at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield. Hallam has five apprentices training at the AMRC at present.

Low cost labour countries are still a major threat to UK manufacturers. Installation of the latest manufacturing technologies and staying up-to-date is the only sustainable defence. Hallam staff are familiar with the “Factory of the Future” at the AMRC site, which provides the vision for this development’ added Rob.


DMG MORI delivers both toolmaking and production machining with the CMX 800 V

Hallam’s foundry is at the core of its business, producing around 20,000 aluminium castings per week from 10 die casting machines. Established in 1968 it now produces parts for a wide range of applications including industrial and domestic air conditioning systems, office furniture, DIY equipment, lighting and computer products. As part of its service, the company carries out powder coating and assembly operations to deliver a finished product to its customers. Hallam has considerable skill in die casting technology and uses this in the development of products and processes to produce prototypes and ensure their manufacturability.

To expand its capabilities the company was looking for a machining centre which could be used for extra operations on die cast parts, such as drilling and threading, and which would also be capable of manufacturing die casting tools. Colin Woodruff, Operations Manager at Hallam says, “We chose the DMG MORI CMX 800 V with 4th axis unit as it had the flexibility to finish machine castings and cut mould tools. We looked at machines which would have been a little faster for secondary machining operations on the die cast parts, but they did not have the power and rigidity necessary to cut core and cavity features in H13 tool steel. During a demonstration the DMG MORI machine achieved very high metal removal rates as well as very fast rapid traverse speeds, making it ideal for our application.  Additionally, DMG MORI has a good reputation for build quality and reliability.”

Previously, Hallam subcontracted its tooling and historically the lead times were around 6-8 weeks. Now, with the CMX 800 V, including heat treatment, tools can be completed in-house within around 2 weeks and at significantly lower cost. Colin Woodruff adds, “We are adapting to a changing industry where batch sizes are smaller. The CMX 800 V is opening up new possibilities and markets as it enables us to be competitive through lower tooling costs together with the flexibility of making much smaller batch sizes from 10 up to 400.” The technology in the machine gives some further advantages in toolmaking. Holes and NPT threads can be produced with circular interpolation making them far more accurate and, with NPT threads, deliver naturally leak proof connections for tool cooling.

Hallam uses its SolidWorks and CAMWorks CAD/CAM systems to work closely with its clients, considering details such as shrinkage, undercuts, venting and draft angles to ensure parts can be manufactured while, at the same time, producing prototypes, designing the tool and producing CNC programs for the CMX 800 V. The system is also used to design and manufacture fixtures to hold multiple parts on the machine’s 4th axis. Colin Woodruff says, “As well as tool manufacture, we need to finish machine features on the castings we produce. The trunnion arrangement we have on the 4th axis enables us to load multiple parts within the 800mm capacity of the machine. Typically cycle times are around 9 minutes and we can change the fixtures to a new part in under 20 minutes. We run the machine 24 hours per day and it is slowly taking over from the traditional methods of finishing parts.” The speed of the machine enables the finishing of around 550 sets of parts in one week which would have previously taken 1-2 months. Colin Woodruff continues, “It can take up to 13 different processes to finish a casting such as drilling, tapping, milling, fitting Helicoils and powder coating. With the DMG MORI machine most of these processes can be done in one operation, eliminating errors, reducing handling and labour content and dramatically shortening lead times.”

Workforce development is important to Hallam and the new DMG MORI machine has made a valuable contribution in this area. The company has four apprentices studying at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), where DMG MORI is a Tier 1 member, including Adrian Salatowski who won a Special Recognition Award at the AMRC Apprentice of the Year Awards 2017. Colin Woodruff says, “The apprentices love the new machine and equipment we have invested in. It has engendered a positive attitude amongst our employees and the new technology we are deploying will enable us to attract even more highly skilled and motivated people, when they see the confidence we have in our company’s future.


Hallam visits Red Bull Racing

Greg Hallam and Colin Woodruff from Hallam (pictured second and third from the right) recently visited the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 Team HQ in Milton Keynes to look at DMG Mori’s state-of-the-art CNC machining equipment being used in the manufacture of components for Red Bull’s Formula One racing cars.

Red Bull deploys over £10m worth of DMG Mori equipment and Hallam is considering further investment in similar equipment to enhance its own machining operations.

Colin and Greg (second and third from the right) are pictured with members of the Red Bull F1 construction team with the winning car from the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Greg Hallam Technical Director of Hallam says:

‘This has been a really interesting visit. Red Bull mainly uses DMG’s EVO 5 axis machining centres, mainly because of their speed and accuracy in manufacturing prismatic parts, together with CTX BETA TC machinery for the turning and 5 axis machining of Red Bull cars’ rotating components.’

MG Mori is a technical partner to Red Bull Racing supplying all machine shop requirements for CNC-based machining equipment, providing high quality reliable technology and backup to ensure that Red Bull Racing can compete at the very highest level.


Caroline Flint MP visits Hallam Castings

Caroline Flint MP visited Hallam today-leading UK experts in product design, prototyping, manufacture and assembly.

Caroline is pictured here with Hallam’s Operations Manager, Colin Woodruff.

Rob Pickersgill says ‘As Managing Director of a manufacturing company in Thorne I have found Caroline to be extremely helpful in dealing with a wide range of business-related issues over the years.

I know that she genuinely supports UK manufacturing and the rebalancing of the economy through the enhancement of vocational training for manufacturing and engineering employees.

I also know that she worked very hard to bring the National College for High Speed Rail to Doncaster, which will provide engineering apprenticeships for Doncaster businesses.’


Hallam Apprentice wins ‘Special Recognition Award’ at AMRC Apprentice of the year Awards 2017

Hallam would like to congratulate our own Adrian Salatowski who won a Special Recognition Award at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Apprentice of the Year Awards 2017, in Sheffield.

This is the third year of these prestigious awards which celebrate the achievements of AMRC apprentices and the support they receive in their development.

In addition to winning the ‘Special Recognition Award’, Adrian was also nominated in two other categories: ‘Academic Achiever of the Year Award’ and the ‘First Year Apprentice of the Year Award’.

Rob Pickersgill, Managing Director of Hallam says ‘We now have four apprentices studying at the AMRC and would like to commend Adrian for his outstanding efforts and achievements during his time with us. He is well regarded by management and is a valued member of the Hallam team. We look forward to an ongoing relationship with both Adrian and the AMRC’.


Machine shop investment

Exciting times here at Hallam! We have recently installed the latest technology CNC equipment in order to streamline our machining operations. Hallam has decided that DMG MORI would be the perfect partner to help with our machining needs and looks forward to working with them. These machining centres incorporate the latest CAM software to link to Hallam’s 3D CAD system for profile milling. The aim is to improve quality and stay at the forefront of processing times. We believe this will be achieved with our new DMG MORI partnership. Machine features are :

  • Cut to cut tool change speeds
  • Non-cut rapids
  • Rigid machine with FEM-optimized cast iron C frame bed to achieve high end cutting and precision
  • Conversational 3D control
  • Intelligent Visual Smart Guarding that interacts with the users
  • Direct drive 4th axis with CAM capability to match

Hallam’s professional staff (including apprentices attending the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre on apprenticeship courses) will be fully trained in the use of the new equipment.


Hallam is working with Pera technology

Hallam was accredited by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (part of the Government’s Business Growth Service) as a designer for manufacture. The Business Growth Service has been wound down by the Government, but Hallam is now supporting Pera Technology, one of Europe’s leading new product development contractors, in helping hundreds of companies to deliver on their innovation goals, providing product and process development expertise and helping to access funding to enable projects to be undertaken.

Hallam has joined Pera’s established networks and partners working with Pera’s in-house technical teams and facilities, working across numerous technologies and sectors. Pera helps businesses of all sizes to fill technology, expertise and funding gaps.