Metal Casting Technologies : MCT-JUNE-2014
METAL casting Technologies June 2014 13 had casts on all four wheels and that saved about 10kg a car, which is a huge gain.” The weight improvements allowed Holden to load an additional 35 kilograms worth of equipment into the Commodore. With the initial 78 kilograms worth of weight initially stripped out of the car, the new model was still 43 kilograms lighter in net mass and up to 8.2 per cent more efficient than its predecessor. The latter figure was also aided by an improvement in the car’s aerodynamic properties, with drag co-efficient reduced from 0.330 to 0.309 – meaning it’s slipperier through the air. “There isn’t a downside to mass reduction, and if you’re clever about the way you do things you don’t have to substitute exotic materials for things like steel. It’s just about thinking the right way,” Holmes said. One of Holden’s key metal casting suppliers is the METT Group. The company was established in 1983 and today employs over 200 people at its Noble Park and Springvale bases in Victoria. Mett Group maintains its primary die casting manufacturing capabilities whilst undertaking precision high speed CNC machining and complex automated product assemblies. Ninety per cent of Mett Group’s work is in export products for various General Motors plants around the world, specialising in powertrain components. The company also produces goods for the international gearbox maker ZF. The Mett Group’s operations are supported by its sister company Hilton Tooling, which is internationally renowned for its technology and capabilities in the design and manufacture of precision tooling. Through this connection, Mett is able to further service customer projects from tool design, 3D-modelling, prototyping and solidification simulation through to CAD/CAM based die manufacturing. Mett Group technical manager Markus Schoelberly said the company has adapted to automotive industry demands for LEAD sTORY 12 www.metals.rala.com.au / metalsonline.rala.com.au Stripped back: In order to reduce weight in new and upcoming vehicles, car makers are looking for small, progressive gains. “THERE isN’T A DOWNsiDE TO MAss REDUcTiON, AND if YOU’RE cLEVER ABOUT THE WAY YOU DO THiNGs YOU DON’T HAVE TO sUBsTiTUTE ExOTic MATERiALs fOR THiNGs LiKE sTEEL. iT’s JUsT ABOUT THiNKiNG THE RiGHT WAY,” HOLDEN ENGiNEER ANDEW HOLMEs. lighter weight materials, and today only uses aluminium and zinc in its cast metal products. “We basically build to print – car makers give us models and drawings they need and we go from there,” he said. “Most of the components are aluminium nowadays, body panels that have changed to aluminium and there is a bigger emphasis on lightweight components.” Schoelberly said one of the biggest roadblocks for future light weighting was the cost and availability of advanced materials. While it could bring forward further light-weighting measures, Mett Group doesn’t have any immediate changes forecast for its operations with the exception of potentially using magnesium in its products. “Thing are mostly the same for us and, for the components that we build, it will likely stay that way for some time,” Schoelberly said. “The only thing is magnesium. It really comes down to the application in the vehicle, majority of them can be made in magnesium based on new technology, but at this point in time they’re too expensive and the manufacturing process isn’t as simple. “With magnesium you’ve got to keep gas covered over the item while it’s in liquid form otherwise it will combust.” While advanced materials are one way of accelerating light- weighting in new cars, there are also efficiency improvements in manufacturing processes, particularly in the areas of gravity or low pressure die casting. Sadly, Australia’s capability in die casting is likely to take a turn when the three remaining car makers – Ford, Holden and Toyota – wind down their operations in 2016 and 2017. Graeme Luxford, a councillor on the Australian Die Casting Association committee, said die casters in Australia would be greatly impacted by the impending closures. “The difficulty which is faced, and this is a big challenge for the die casting industry, is there are very few firms who are now doing the designing of the components,” he said. “Toyota and Nissan use low-pressure casting and Mitsubishi used to do the same, but the problem is that once those firms are gone, there isn’t likely to be any of that kind of manufacturing around. “The die casting companies which are left aren’t designers, and the problem that leaves for them is that if they manufacture components they’re basically selling them as a commodity. It’s very difficult for Australian companies to get a competitive advantage over other suppliers around the world. “They might be able to finetune a design around the edges, but that’s a major challenge for the die casting industry involved with automotive manufacturers.” n Streamlined: Australian designers of the Holden VF Commodore, released in 2013, shed 78 kilograms in the car’s kerb weight with help from the metal casting industry.