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Brass and Aluminum Die Casting - An Overview
Die casting is a manufacturing process that is commonly used for producing precisely dimensioned, sharply defined metal parts. In die casting, molten metal is injected at high pressure into reusable steel molds, called dies. The metal rapidly cools and solidifies in the die, taking the shape of the mold cavity. The solidified part, also called the casting, is then easily removed from the die. Die casting is an efficient, economical process that is capable of producing high volumes of complex components with exceptional accuracy and repeatability.
Brass and aluminum are two of the most commonly die cast metals due to their excellent castability, strength, durability, conductivity and corrosion resistance. Brass is an alloy composed primarily of copper and zinc while aluminum is a lightweight non-ferrous metal. Both brass and aluminum parts can be produced with very smooth surfaces and tight dimensional tolerances using the die casting process. This article will provide an overview of brass and aluminum die casting including common die casting alloys, benefits and applications of brass and aluminum die castings.
Common Brass Die Casting Alloys
Brass is an alloy made from copper, zinc and sometimes small amounts of other elements such as lead and tin. There are many different brass alloys developed for die casting, but some of the most popular include:
- C84400 or CuZn39Pb3: This leaded brass alloy contains 39% zinc and 3% lead making it very easy to cast complex shapes. The lead improves machinability. C84400 provides excellent mechanical properties and corrosion resistance.
- C83600 or CuZn36: With 36% zinc and no lead, C83600 is a free-cutting brass alloy. It also has high strength and can be easily plated. This lead-free alloy is popular for water supply and marine applications.
- C85800 or CuZn12Si2Fe: Containing zinc, iron, silicon and copper, C85800 is a specialty brass alloy with high hardness and strength. It has excellent wear resistance and is often used for gears, bushings and other high-load components. The iron and silicon additions improve elevated temperature properties.
- Eco Brass: There are now several eco-friendly brass alloys offered for die casting like Mitsubishi's MB-20CB CuZn21Si3P alloy which contains no lead. These eco brass alloys offer high machinability, strength and corrosion resistance.
Common Aluminum Die Casting Alloys
Some of the most common aluminum alloys used for die casting include:
- A380: The most popular aluminum die casting alloy is A380 which contains 9% silicon and 1% zinc. A380 offers excellent castability, good corrosion resistance, and high strength and hardness.
- A360: Very similar to A380, the A360 alloy has slightly less silicon content. It offers excellent fluidity, high ductility, and good impact strength and wear resistance.
- A413: With the addition of 0.1% magnesium, the A413 alloy has better strength at elevated temperatures compared to A380. It also provides good corrosion resistance and fluidity.
- 514.0: This is a common alloy for structural die casting containing 4% magnesium and 0.5% manganese. 514.0 has the highest strength of all die casting alloys.
- Silafont 36: A proprietary alloy made by Elkem, Silafont 36 contains 10% silicon giving it high fluidity, low shrinkage, and good heat and corrosion resistance.
Benefits of Brass Die Casting
Brass parts made by die casting offer many benefits including:
- Excellent dimensional accuracy and repeatability. Tolerances up to ±0.002 inches are possible.
- Smooth cast surfaces free of parting lines from the dies. Minimal finishing is required.
- Ability to produce thin walls, fine details, and complex geometries not easily machined. Intricate shapes are possible.
- Very high production rates making costs economical for large volume production. Automation allows further cost reduction.
- Consistent high quality and reliable mechanical properties. Strength, hardness, and ductility are predictably excellent.
- Ready to use components without additional surface finishing or plating in many applications.
- Superior corrosion resistance in many environments compared to steel and aluminum.
- Good electrical and thermal conductivity.
- Cast-in threaded holes, slots, and inserts possible minimizing secondary operations.
Top Applications of Brass Die Cast Parts
With their attractive gold color, excellent corrosion resistance, and easy machinability, brass die castings are ideal for:
- Plumbing Fittings: Faucets, valves, couplings, showerheads, and nozzles. Must resist water corrosion.
- Door Hardware: Knobs, locks, hinges, latches, door knockers. Provides toughness and corrosion protection.
- Lighting Fixtures: Decorative and functional lamp components like bases, reflectors and heat sinks. Good heat dissipation.
- Instruments: Scales, gauges, valves, and protective housings for measurement devices. Provides durability.
- Electrical Components: Connectors, terminals, switch housings, grounding clips, spacers. Offers conductivity.
- Automotive Parts: Trim pieces, wheel covers, belt pulleys. Decorative accent pieces.
- Marine Components: Shafts, bearings, bushings, impellers. Withstands saltwater.
Benefits of Aluminum Die Cast Parts
Aluminum die castings offer several important benefits:
- Very low part cost for high volume production. Highly automated processes.
- Excellent dimensional consistency and stability. Hold tight tolerances.
- Smooth cast surfaces that resist wear and abrasion.
- Lightweight parts compared to steel or brass. Density about 1/3 that of steel.
- Excellent corrosion resistance. Protective oxide skin forms quickly.
- Strength ranging from 14,000 psi to 40,000 psi depending on alloy. Heat treatable.
- Good ductility and impact strength. Will not easily break or shatter.
- Cast complex shapes, logos, holes and recesses.
- Rapid production rates possible. Average cycle times under 60 seconds.
- Lower melting point than brass or steel which reduces die wear and energy consumption.
Top Applications of Aluminum Die Cast Parts
Some leading applications of aluminum die cast components include:
- Automotive: Engine blocks, cylinder heads, housings, steering gears. Lightweight and durable.
- Consumer Products: Housings for appliances, lawn tools, computers. Decorative/functional.
- Aerospace: Airframe and structural components. Must be strong yet light.
- Telecommunications: Base stations, antennas, electronic enclosures. Corrosion resistant.
- Medical: MRI and radiation equipment housings. Non-magnetic with good radiation shielding.
- Transportation: High speed train and subway car components. Excellent vibration damping.
- Infrastructure: Street lighting fixtures, traffic lights, road signage. Lightweight for ease of installation.
- Furniture: Chair frames, table bases, door handles. Provides strength plus corrosion resistance.
- Marine: Outboard motors, cleats, latches, boat propellers. Handles fresh- and salt-water.
In summary, brass and aluminum are two versatile metals commonly used in die casting processes to manufacture high quality components with precision dimensions, complex shapes, smooth surfaces and excellent mechanical properties. Die cast brass and aluminum parts are economical, consistent and reliable for a broad range of industries and applications where strength, accuracy, corrosion resistance and aesthetic appeal are important. With rapid production rates, minimal secondary finishing, and cast-in features, brass and aluminum die castings deliver value across thousands of consumer, industrial, medical and transportation products. CNC Milling