Technical Paper presented at SOURECON’99, Hyderabad, May 29, 1999 organized by the Institute of Indian Foundrymen, Hyderabad Chapter

Design for Casting
Prof. B. Ravi * Abstract Design revisions are expensive and time consuming. Yet, these are inevitable because product designers have limited knowledge about casting processes and have no means to evaluate the influence of design features on castability (costs, quality and productivity). Problems appear much later, at the tooling or manufacturing stage, when it is much more expensive to incorporate changes than at the design stage. Progressive engineering companies therefore rely on design review committees, which include tooling and casting engineers, to suggest early modifications to a product design for ease of manufacture. This paper presents an intelligent design environment to assist product engineers in assessing a part design for castability. The software simulates the way casting engineers decide the casting process, parting line, cores, mold box, feeders, gating system and mold layout, and analyzes each decision to suggest how the design could be modified to improve quality as well as reduce tooling and manufacturing costs. The software also facilitates electronic exchange of information between product, tooling and casting engineers, improving the level of communication between them and helping compress the total lead time to complete a project. Keywords: Casting, Concurrent Engineering, Design for Manufacture, Simulation.

1 Casting Design Today Casting continues to be the most preferred process to create intricate shapes in metal, but is also one of the most difficult to precisely model and control for achieving consistent quality. The range of variation in terms of geometric, material and process characteristics, and their uncharted effects on manufacturability makes every casting project a new challenge. It is no surprise that the foundry industry continues to suffer from poor utilization of material, energy and human resources: the average scrap rate is as high as 7% [1] and the average lead time to produce the first casting for approval is 10-14 weeks [2]. Today, casting engineers have access to a range of software, starting from database management and design calculations to process simulation and computer-integrated manufacturing, in increasing order of difficulty of installation and use. Of these, computer simulation of casting process has emerged as a powerful tool for achieving quality assurance without time consuming trials. Software packages for simulating the solidification of molten metal in the mold enable predicting the location of shrinkage defects and optimizing the design of feeders to improve the yield; more advanced packages perform coupled simulation of mold filling and casting solidification [3]. It has been reported that simulation studies can reduce casting defects, manufacturing costs and lead time by as much as 25% [4]. Already, an estimated 1000 foundries (among 33,500 worldwide) are using simulation software to improve their performance and the number of simulation users is steadily increasing. However, casting engineers only produce what product engineers design. Designers mainly focus on product function - creating an optimal shape to withstand operating stresses - aided by excellent Finite Element Analysis software available for this purpose. They are largely unaware of the casting processes, their capabilities and limitations [5]. This results in either over design (for


Dr. B. Ravi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, In-Charge of the Casting Simulation Laboratory and Co-Founder of Rapid Prototyping Cell. He can be reached at: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay 400076. Email:

a reactive approach in which designers merely try to confirm the manufacturability of a particular design or improve it slightly. the guidelines may not be available for a radically new design (especially when new materials and processes are involved) and sometimes conflict with each other. and the foundry may request the customer to either modify the design or pay a higher price to offset the costs of tooling modification. particularly for machined parts. inadequate fillet radius leading to casting defects). Tooling development emerged as the most important factor. Product engineers need to be proactive and take advantage of the range of cast metals and processes to create a product which best satisfies the final requirements. However.example. The second initiative was the setting up of a web site called Casting 2000 at the Concurrent Engineering Research Center in Morgantown. a product design causes severe problems at the casting stage. marketing. but also the entire business has also been proposed [8]. Two separate initiatives in 1996 helped understand the needs of casting engineers. Virtual prototyping of not only the casting process. taking up as much as 80% of the total lead time. The first was the Foundry Benchmarking Survey conducted by the American Metalcasting Consortium and sponsored by the Department of Defense [2]. A team of researchers from Concurrent Technologies Corp prescribed a combination of simulation-based DFM and Concurrent Engineering [7]. For this reason. Compared to the above. isolated mass concentration) require additional steps during casting (say. This is however. as well as significant time and effort for design improvements. then it is immediately apparent that dramatic saving of resources can be achieved by predicting potential problems at the design stage itself. R. foundry engineers and supply managers) for better and faster decision making. The survey team was led by Prof. tool makers. tooling. 2 Design for Manufacture of Cast Components Design for Manufacture (DFM) has caught the attention of both researchers and practicing engineers over the past one decade to bring about dramatic improvements in the ease of manufacture. and preventing them through suitable changes to product features. very few engineering companies actually practice Design for Casting. West Virginia during 1996-97. If the ratio of benefit to cost is considered. placement of chills). maintenance and other areas evaluate the design and suggest modifications before it is finalized and released for further action. Often. increased scrap and additional operations (such as heat treatment and machining). The 2 . 11 weeks for ductile iron and 14 weeks for gray iron foundries. Automobile companies were among the first to apply the principles of DFM to simplify product designs. They visualized how castings will be designed and manufactured through electronic exchange of relevant information between designers and foundry engineers who may be using different CAD software specific to their tasks. Significant design modifications at this stage could mean additional burden of redoing the tooling and planning the process again. One of the earliest examples was the Viper car project at Chrysler which was developed from scratch within 3 years and within budget. However. Gradually this approach has spread to the rest of engineering companies. This showed that significant savings in overall lead time could be achieved by compressing the tool development time alone. however any practical implementation of any such systems has not been reported so far. and others (for example. Therefore many companies rely on design review committees (concurrent engineering team) comprising of experts in design. manufacturing. modifying the design of a cast product while it is still on the drawing board is as easy as erasing and redrawing a line. This approach is termed Design for Manufacture. This study showed that the average lead time for the first article of approval is about 10 weeks for aluminum and steel foundries. simulation-based DFM of cast products calls for an in-depth knowledge of the process. It described a conceptual framework for assisting and linking casting life-cycle engineers (product designers. Creese at the West Virginia University. many of them reporting savings of 20% of costs and 50% of time. besides losing the time and resources already spent on these activities. unnecessary thick ribs leading to heavier castings) or under design (for example. The most popular method of DFM is reusing prior experience coded as design guidelines. prototyping. All these mean higher cost. lower quality assurance and longer lead time. sheet metal parts and assemblies. including those who have captive foundries. Many product features (for example. besides improved quotations from vendors [6]. undercuts) require complex tooling.C.

0 if the casting cannot be produced.. and shown to casting engineers [9].web site received encouraging feedback from all parts of the world. which can automatically ‘understand’ the shape of a cast part and suggest where to locate the parting line. Depending on the results of the analysis. with technical inputs from the author. and the suggestions helped in designing the information backbone of a future software system. along with a written explanation. gating [12] and information management [13]. Their suggestions were incorporated in the software to improve it further in terms of features. have been implemented. SolidWorks or Unigraphics and exported in a standard format. mold box. Professor Creese and other experts. Starting from this solid model. This involves analyzing the shape of the part and the casting. one iteration of casting design usually takes 20-30 minutes on a Pentium computer. These enable casting design. Casting Design The design of the casting. linked by a casting project database manager. which include: part wall thickness. we have developed an advanced geometric reasoning engine. feeding efficiency. The entire casting design is analyzed using a set of castability criteria [14]. and others. as well as the results of solidification and mold filling analysis with a set of criteria. requires prior experience. programs. parting line. design of cores. The present work integrates the latest research work in parting line and cores [10]. which involves several decisions such as the orientation of the part in the mold. At the end of each step. Casting process analysis is supplemented with a criteria-based check of castability. difference between ideal and actual filling time. cores. costs (tooling and manufacturing) and lead time – we need to simulate the casting process. core length to diameter ratio. to apply these heuristics to a given part. The starting point for casting design is the 3D solid model of the part to be produced. or an intermediate value. which combine the physics of solidification and filling with practical heuristics. 3 . parting flatness. The software runs on Pentium computers with Windows-NT or Windows-95/98 systems. This helps the casting designer in speeding up his tasks. was developed by Advanced Reasoning Technologies Pvt. Given a part model. suitable design changes to improve castability are suggested through guidelines [15]. A prototype of the system. This gives reliable results without the need for powerful computers. this experience has been coded as a knowledge base of design heuristics. location and design of risers and gating channels and other casting elements such as feed-aids and filters. I-DEAS. Each criterion returns 100 if the casting design is ideal for the specific aspect. riser or ingate. Pro-Engineer. 3 Intelligent Assistant for Casting Designers AutoCAST simulates the way casting engineers perform various tasks in casting design. AutoCAST generates the complete casting design through several steps. which include casting orientation. Castability Assessment To assess the influence of casting design on castability – which is reflected in terms of quality assurance. The solid model can be created in CAD packages such as AutoCAD. the user has the option to provide his own suggestion for the corresponding design parameters. The latest approaches for analyzing the casting process. It comprises nine integrated programs for various tasks. weights can be attached to the criteria and a cumulative assessment of the casting design can also be obtained. This provides a quantitative measure of the ‘health’ of the casting design for a set of aspects. location of the parting line. showing the problem and a possible solution. named AutoCAST. feeding [11]. Further. There are about twenty criteria. database structure and user interface. castability assessment and concurrent engineering for the projects. Ltd. Further. Each guideline comprises a pair of pictures. fettling of risers. Based on the results of criteria-based castability analysis. In AutoCAST. the software suggests illustrated guidelines for improvement. risers and gating.

cooperation and collaboration between casting buyers and suppliers. cores. “The Current State of Casting Yield. materials and quality are systematically stored in a database. identify cost drivers and adjust the product design and process parameters for an overall cost reduction. The program suggested gravity die casting as the most appropriate process for the given casting alloy. Any part of the project database can be exported into a separate file and attached to emails.). Early benchmarking results and beta tests have shown that it can be easily used by design engineers. It will also improve the level of communication between product. which has emerged as a team-driven approach to dramatically reduce lead time. An appropriate mold box was selected and modeled. the filling simulation showed the sequence of filling the mold and a narrow difference between the optimal (designed) and actual filling time. The casting orientation and parting line suggested by the program were accepted. coupled with the difficulty in reaching the defect region to apply either feeders or feedaids. D. This facilitates better and faster communication between casting buyers and suppliers.” Transactions of the AFS. etc. 2. References 1. tooling (parting. Kaniki. After feeder design and modeling. tooling and foundry engineers. The criteria for complexity and wall thickness returned poor assessments and the guideline suggested increasing the minimum wall thickness. The casting is an aluminum alloy unloader valve. leading to better and faster decision-making. starting from administrative information such as customer address and order details.” AMC Benchmarking Project Report. Over 2000 different pieces of information about a casting project. costs and defects. USA) and exported as a standard exchange file in STL format. West Virginia University. This can be achieved by a casting project data management system included in AutoCAST. pp.106. to information about the product. who have limited knowledge of the casting process. quickly inform about any changes. modifications to part design were found necessary. The part is displayed as a shaded image inside a transparent mold in the main window and the computed properties are shown in the database window. They can engage in a constructive dialogue to plan tasks in advance. Creese.C. 4 Casting Design . Oct 1996. Cored features were automatically extracted and modeled. geometric characteristics. 4 . Based on the capabilities of the process. quality specifications and lot size. A new casting project was started in AutoCAST with preset default values. 5 Conclusion Design for Manufacture (DFM) has been successfully applied to machined. R.) and other data is generated by the software during execution.Concurrent Engineering Concurrent engineering. gating. it was found that one of the hot spots is difficult to remove even with a large sized feeder. So far. 1998. Solidification analysis revealed two isolated hot spots inside the casting. “Benchmarking and Lead Time Reduction. the part features were analyzed. etc. The AutoCAST software described in this paper aims to fill this gap. requires a systematic approach for better communication. risers. Some of the data is input by the user or copied from libraries (metal properties. Vol. Minimum core diameter was found to be adequate during the analysis of cores.An Example An example session of casting design and analysis using AutoCAST is described here. Since the hot spot is caused at the junction of thick sections and cores. sheet metal and plastics parts to significantly reduce manufacturing costs and lead time. The gating design was done as suggested by the program.1-137. mold box sizes. it did not find wide acceptance in the casting sector owing to a lack of suitable software tool for this purpose. This will enable product engineers to design more cost-effective parts through a better appreciation of the problems faced by casting engineers. The actual casting experienced severe shrinkage defects at the same location. to improve the design for ease of casting. The part STL model was imported and the alloy properties were copied from the library. The valve was first modeled using Pro-Engineer software (from Parametric Technologies Corp. process (activities and tasks).

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6 .Fig.1 Casting design and analysis for an aluminum valve using AutoCAST.