There’s more than one way to approach manufacturing for most parts. Casting is one capability that can help simplify the manufacturing process by minimizing subsequent machining operations.
Casting is a complex technique, and while castings can reduce machining time, they can also present additional challenges. It’s critical to find a precision machine shop with the right expertise to machine castings. At Ricaurte Precision, we successfully machine castings through our commitment to automated process and quality controls.
What Are Machined Castings?
Casting is a 7,000-year-old metalworking technique that involves pouring molten metal into a mold and leaving it to harden. Machined castings are parts that are initially cast but require some machining to meet tolerance specifications or achieve intricate features. Ideally, casting is used to minimize machining operations and streamline manufacturing.
While the initial casting is done in a foundry, the follow-up machining is done in a precision machine shop. Ricaurte Precision uses machined castings when we need a cost-effective way to bring a complex design to life. We frequently machine aluminum and steel castings for several aerospace and defense customers.
What Challenges Are Associated with Machined Castings?
Machining castings can be difficult due to inherent challenges in the casting process—and many precision machine shops’ inability to account for and mitigate those challenges. Let’s explore each factor more closely.
Porosity issues and inconsistencies
One major challenge with castings is that they may not be uniform throughout due to porosity issues, which create voids in the castings. Porosity occurs naturally in most materials and can significantly impact structural integrity. Any issue with porosity occurs when the casting is made, but problems usually aren’t identified until a shop actually starts the machining process.
Some cast parts may also have metallurgical defects known as inconsistencies. It’s crucial to source high-quality machined castings that are uniform and free from such defects.
Porosity issues and inconsistencies are difficult to anticipate. Only a shop with a high level of expertise can navigate these complexities without completely upending the customer’s budget and timeline, which brings us to the other challenge associated with machined castings.
Lack of relevant experience
Shops must have experienced machinists and quality inspectors to create machined castings that meet customer expectations.
Each part has unique machining requirements, from fixturing needs to programming and operations. Planning, fixturing, and tooling are crucial steps to successfully machining castings. It’s not uncommon for castings to come in out of tolerance or for them to shift unexpectedly during machining. Many shops use cumbersome manual workarounds for these challenges which produce inconsistent results.
Quality inspections are also rigorous for machined castings; many parts require review both before and after machining. Inspectors must possess significant experience and patience to assess machined castings properly.
What to Consider When Choosing a Partner for Machined Castings
As you’ve probably gathered by now, choosing the right partner for your machined castings is essential to the success of your project. Here are a few factors to consider:
Experience and expertise
The right precision machining partner will be able to mitigate porosity issues and achieve dimensional consistency when creating machined castings.
Availability and consistency
Determine if the shop can consistently provide you with machined castings month to month. For example, some vendors will deliver 20 castings one month, none the next month, and 50 the following month. We recommend finding a partner who is reliable and can support your needs on an ongoing basis.
5-axis and multi-axis machines can improve the consistency of quality and make machining castings more efficient. While this equipment may not be absolutely necessary to machine castings, shops that incorporate these capabilities will likely produce better results.
Advanced fixturing and part holding solutions
Proper fixturing is crucial to creating a high-quality machined casting, so your partner should have advanced fixturing and part holding solutions. Their fixtures must be stable enough to minimize vibration and ensure machining consistency but flexible enough to compensate for inconsistencies in the casting material.
Automation does require additional planning, but it also minimizes errors and inefficiencies in the machining process. Look for a shop that focuses on automating processes whenever possible, including for machined castings.
Choose Ricaurte Precision for Your Machined Castings
Creating a machined casting is an intricate process that requires thoughtful and deliberate teamwork. Each step, from planning to machining to inspection, must be successful; otherwise, the part will fail.
Ricaurte Precision is committed to producing high-quality machined castings for our customers. We leverage our team’s experience, our 5-axis and multi-axis machines, and our automation capabilities to successfully achieve excellent results. There’s no doubt that machining castings is a challenging process, but with a partner like Ricaurte Precision, you can feel confident that your parts are in excellent hands.
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