03 Dec Best of British Casting on Show at Sell-out Awards Dinner

The UK foundry industry came together to celebrate the ‘Best of British’ manufacturing at the sell-out Cast Metals Industry 2015 Awards Dinner.

Figure shows from left, Phil Rawnson from MRT Castings Ltd (Company of the Year Winner), Adam Robertson from the Precision Casting Centre (Component of the Year Winner and Geoff Scamans collecting the Innovation Award on behalf of Brunel University.  The winners are shown holding the new award – a casting created by NewPro Foundries.

The flagship ‘Component of the Year’ award was won by the Precision Casting Centre based in Portsmouth for its remarkable wheel upright casting, a component which could only previously been produced by Direct Metal Laser Sintering. This development then opens up new possibilities for the casting process. MRT Castings gained the ‘Company Achievement’ award for a remarkable year of growth into new markets and a considerable investment programme. The third award of the night, for ‘Innovation’, was won by Brunel University for the development of a new niobium boride based grain refiner for use with aluminium casting alloys.

“The Cast Metals Industry Awards are an opportunity for us to recognise the many remarkable developments that are happening throughout our industry, and to show the world the imagination, problem solving and innovation that is happening in foundries every day of the year. I am delighted by both the number of entries and the quality in all categories,” said Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of the Cast Metals Federation which organises the awards.

“Every entry showed a company at the top of its game; some big, some small, some on the leading edge of technology, some producing many 1000’s of castings a day and some just producing a handful. Shortlisting the Highly Commended entries, and then selecting the Winners was a very hard job for our judges as there is so much in the industry to celebrate,” she continued.

Component of the Year Precision Casting Centre

Precision Casting Centre, in conjunction with 3D printing specialist Voxeljet UK, were able to produce a casting which previously could only have been manufactured using the much more expensive Direct Metal Laser Sintering process, opening up whole new markets to the casting industry. Designed for function and not for ease of manufacture, the component shows how the combination of leading edge technology with proven casting techniques can create previously unattainable results benefitting the industry and the customer.

Starting with a 3D printed model in PMMA, which ensures there are no split lines, moulding draft or core assembly, the model was invested and removed as part of the normal investment casting process and then cast in L169 aluminium alloy. The component, a wheel upright for automotive and aerospace applications, needed to withstand considerable direct and fatigue loading and could be designed to be 4x stiffer than the original design because of the design freedom offered by the innovative development process, as well as being capable of mass production. By working closely the foundry and the technology supplier have taken the whole foundry industry forward.

Highly Commended in the category was Noel Village (Steel Founder) Ltd for their remarkable defect and weld free valve body manufactured in Inconel 625, a very difficult alloy to cast. Through a painstaking development process with suppliers and the foundry working together, innovative feeder design and many other technical achievements, Noel Village can now produce the component completely defect free, and the lessons learned have brought knock-on benefits to the foundry’s whole approach to production of castings.

Company Achievement Award – MRT Castings Ltd

Over the last 12 months, MRT Castings has gone through a period of massive expansion with sales up 70% and export sales up 330% to now account for over half of the company’s sales. The growth came as a result of a strategic response to a new contract from a US medical device manufacturer which encouraged this family-owned aluminium diecaster to invest heavily to maximise the opportunity and open up other avenues in defence and aerospace interior markets.

By working closely with the medical customer’s designers more components were suitable for casting and converted from plastic mouldings and pressings.

Through capital investments of around £1.5M in automated manufacturing, developing CNC machining capacity, reducing work in progress and relentless pressure on productivity the team at MRT has doubled its capacity to meet the growing sales demand. At the same time the company has also achieved OHSAS 18001:2007 Health & Safety Accreditation.

Two companies were also Highly Commended in the Company Achievement category. The first was Sarginsons Industries Ltd whose core mission is to establish itself as the leading European foundry for lightweight and hollow section automotive low-pressure castings through investment in both equipment and education. This has already led to a number of major new components to be re-shored to the UK.

The second Highly Commended company was United Cast Bar UK. Year on year this company has managed to produce larger cast bar than anyone else in the world, and the latest largest of 700mm diameter is currently a full 90mm larger than any competitor as well as bringing in new shapes that increase yield and efficiencies for customers. In addition the company has strong staff development and schools engagement programmes as well as continuing investments in the production site.

Innovation Award – Brunel University

Brunel University has always had strong links with the UK foundry industry as a key academic and technical resource. This award was won for the development of a new niobium boride based grain refiner for use with cast aluminium alloys. While the benefits of grain refinement are well known there has been little recent innovation in this area. The new master alloy developed by Dr Nadendla and his team has been tested on a range of hypo- and hyper-eutectic Al-Si alloys with Si contents in the range 6-17wt%.

The effect of the new refiner addition on as-cast microstructures is considerable and results in improved fluidity, so thinner sections can be cast with lower weight and reduced defects. Industrial trials have been conducted and work is now being done with the supply chain to make the master alloy commercially available.

The results have also indicated that the refiner is also effective in magnesium alloys and its potential in this area is now being investigated. The master alloy development and industrial casting trials were carried out under an Innovate UK supported project entitled ‘Grain refiner for high performance lightweight aluminium automotive castings.’ The project was led by Innoval Technology and the partners were Brunel University, Grainger & Worrall, ESI, JLR and AMG.

Highly Commended in the Innovation category were Hall & Botterill Ltd which has conceived, designed and built a multi-tasking robotic fettling and jobbing cell which they believe to be the first in the world. Ultraseal International was also Highly Commended in this category for its new machine to improve the casting impregnation process ideally suited for single part processing of components such as automotive engine blocks on a Just in Time production line.

The 2016 Cast Metals Industry Dinner will be held on Thursday 17 November.

Angela Mason
Angela Mason