Today's foundries are confronted with a continuous demand of manufacture high-quality, cost- effective cast products. Those specializing in automotive castings have the added pressure of developing new processes and materials that reduce overall car weight to meet federally mandated fuel economy standards, without sacrificing performance. In order to meet these needs, automakers have increasingly turned to lighter weight materials, and castings continue to be a prime target. This explains why some ferrous castings markets have been lost in the past 15 years, as aluminum displaced cast iron for parts such as cylinder heads, engine blocks and steering components. A closer examination actually reveals that ferrous castings are, in many cases, superior to -- or at least competitive with -- aluminum-based alloys. For instance, ductile iron is not only cheaper, it is also superior to aluminum in many cases in terms of relative weight per unit of yield strength. Similar analyses can be made for gray iron and compacted graphite iron. European automakers have made significant progress in the replacement of aluminum castings with iron castings. However, for cast iron to regain the lost market from aluminum, it must be better engineered to achieve its full potential. At present time, iron castings can not be routinely produced in sand mold with thickness less than 3 mm.
The objective of this project is to develop the technology for producing commercial iron castings with wall thickness less than 3 mm. The project will also investigate both the metallurgical treatment required for molten iron, and the mold and core making techniques needed to reach the project goals. There are more than 20 industry partners from across the U.S. participating in this project.