When most people see a Dodge Dart rolling down the highway, they see a sporty new car from Chrysler. What Andreas Bahr sees is a new era in die casting. Inside every Dart is a suspension cross support produced at the Chrysler Etobicoke Casting Plant – a component that helps save energy. The cross support is made of light-weight aluminum instead of stamped, welded steel. That part is produced at only one plant in North America, on die cast machines manufacturing by Buhler.
The 300 workers at the 286,000 square-foot (26,570 m2) casting plant in Etobicoke, Canada make highpressure die castings for transmission components, engine mounts, and other automotive parts. In 2011, Chrysler sought ways to decrease the weight of its newest compact car, the Dart. The automaker needed to increase fuel efficiency, both to save consumers money at the gas pump and lower CO2 emissions. The facility needed to produce aluminum suspension cross members for vehicles at a Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois. By making them from aluminum instead of heavy steel, the vehicle would weigh less without losing strength.
Power in a small footprint
The biggest machine in the plant had a clamping force of 1,400 metric tons; casting cross members required 3,200 tons of force. Most casting machines capable of producing the cross members were too large to fit into the building. The Buhler Carat 320L Compact was a perfect solution. Five meters shorter than other machines with the same tonnage, it a l lowed complex str u c t u r a l components to be cast from aluminum within the existing building. Built at the BuhlerPrince facility in Holland, Michigan, the first Carat 320L Compact was operational in early December 2011.
“The very first shot looked amazing,” said Bahr, Senior Manufacturing Engineering Manager at the Chrysler Etobicoke Casting Plant. “It looked a lot better than we had anticipated.” Flashing is inherent in high-pressure die casting and costs time and money to remove from components. Sharp, thin edges of flash can also be a safety hazard for employees. The Carat minimizes flash by featuring hydraulic locks, which spread pressure more evenly across the die. Project Manager Haroon Ramjohn summed it up: “For dimensional tolerances, it performs a lot better. There is less scrap and less re-work.”
Helping “future-proof ” the plant
Four of the machines are now running at the plant. A fifth machine is being installed, and two more are on order.
The cutting-edge technology featured in the Carats will likely be the new standard for the automotive industry, which is under increased pressure to increase vehicle fuel efficiency.
Representatives of Buhler supervised the installation of the machines and have been at the plant almost daily ever since. One plant manager compared it to buying a new car and having a mechanic set up shop in your garage, constantly checking the oil level and the pressure in the tires. “That support allowed us to launch weeks ahead of our schedule,” Ramjohn said. “We have not had any issues with the machines, for something this complicated, you can’t complain.”
Exploring the capabilities
Etobicoke managers are still learning the full capabilities of the Carat 320L. Managers expect to use the machines for other auto parts in the near future, as Chrysler uses more aluminum components. For now, every Dodge Dart is evidence of Chrysler’s commitment to decreasing CO2 emissions, and Buhler’s leadership in the die cast industry. “It’s really a perfect partnership,” Bahr said.
Acnodes Corporation’s New Touch Panel PC Features Aluminum Die-Casting Chassis with Water-Proof IP65 Flat Panel Design
Acnodes Corporation’s new touch panel PC, PC9XX0, is now available with 7, 8, 12, or 15 inches LCD screens with resistive or capacitive touch screen options. PC9XX0 is powered by low power consumption Atom N2600 1.6GHz processor with NM10 chipset. PC9XX0 includes one on board DDR3 SO-DIMM socket for a maximum of 2GB system memory and one 2.5 in. SATA Hard Disk Drive (half size for PC9070 and 9080) along with dual Ethernet, two or four COM ports, two USB ports, one internal half size mini PCI-E slot, an audio (Line-out) port, and an optional HDMI port to accommodate a wide range of connectivity requirements. It supports standard operating systems such as Windows 7/ XP Embedded or Professional, and Windows CE6.0 Embedded.
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NADCA Meets with LME to Work Towards a Resolution with NASAAC
The North American Die Casting Association (NADCA), including several of its members, and representatives of the London Metal Exchange (LME) met via a teleconference call on May 22, to discuss the issues that the North American die casting industry is having with the North American Secondary Aluminum Alloy Contract (NASAAC) that is overseen by the LME.
Daniel Twarog, President of NADCA, requested the meeting in late April and the LME expeditiously responded by organizing the meeting. Twarog opened the conversation with information on the issues the die casting industry is having with NASAAC. Twarog said, “The NASAAC was created to be a fair index between the buyers and sellers of secondary aluminum. From 2003 to mid-2011, the spread between Platt’s and NASAAC was consistent and predictable. From mid-2011, the spread has grown to over 25 cents/pound causing die casters to incur heavy financial losses on contracts with several automotive companies.”
Twarog reports that The LME responded by saying, “The LME’s primary role is to discover a reference point between buyer and seller. They commented that the recycled business is unique in aluminum because most other metals do not have secondary markets. Finally, they see that financial institutions are new to the game and are creating competition and a significant delivery backlog. The LME said they have responded by doubling the amount of metal in the warehouses and increasing the shipments out by 500 tons/day.”
One NADCA member asked if the premiums for the metal could be published. Twarog reports, “LME said the premium levels were not published because the levels were negotiated between buyer and seller. LME reminded everyone that the NASAAC price is the price in the warehouse and not the delivered/negotiated price that is paid for useful aluminum for production purposes.”
The LME suggested that perhaps broadening what the contract is catching will help the situation. A NADCA member suggested that 319 would be the next logical alloy because of its pervasive use. However, he cautioned that the specific composition be considered because automotive companies have different specification levels of certain elements in the 319 alloy. He also suggested 356 would be the next alloy to consider. The LME took note of this information.
LME also offered the die casting industry a potential position on the LME Aluminum Committee. NADCA asked that the invitation be provided in writing and consideration would be given.
NADCA asked if the LME could immediately return to a previous policy of not re-warranting material that has shipped from an LME warehouse. This would prevent financial institutions and others from moving metal from one warehouse to the other. NADCA also suggested that the LME include a provision that the metal is sold and shipped out of the warehouse within a specific time period. This would prevent quality issues with the material. Several NADCA members expressed a serious concern with the quality of the material currently being delivered. It was suggested that SOW’s be shrink wrapped to help minimize the quality issues.
NADCA reiterated that changes need to be made as soon as possible because the difference in NASAAC and what quality material can be purchased at is a serious and costly issue for die casters. The LME representatives were extremely open to the points made by NADCA and its members. Twarog reports the LME “would not be able to offer specific remedies from this conference call, but would work with the appropriate committees of LME to find solutions.” The next LME Aluminum Committee meeting is on June 11, 2013 and a follow-up conference call with NADCA will be scheduled.