The following are the four steps in traditional die casting, also known as high-pressure die casting, these are also the basis for any of the die casting variations: die preparation, filling, ejection, and shakeout. The dies are prepared by spraying the mold cavity with lubricant. The lubricant both helps control the temperature of the die and it also assists in the removal of the casting. The dies are then closed and molten metal is injected into the dies under high pressure; between 10 and 175 megapascals (1,500 and 25,400 psi). Once the mold cavity is filled, the pressure is maintained until the casting solidifies. The dies are then opened and the shot (shots are different from castings because there can be multiple cavities in a die, yielding multiple castings per shot) is ejected by the ejector pins. Finally, the shakeout involves separating the scrap, which includes the gate, runners, sprues and flash, from the shot. This is often done using a special trim die in a power press or hydraulic press. Other methods of shaking out include sawing and grinding. A less labor-intensive method is to tumble shots if gates are thin and easily broken; separation of gates from finished parts must follow. This scrap is recycled by remelting it.The yield is approximately 67%.
The high-pressure injection leads to a quick fill of the die, which is required so the entire cavity fills before any part of the casting solidifies. In this way, discontinuities are avoided, even if the shape requires difficult-to-fill thin sections. This creates the problem of air entrapment, because when the mold is filled quickly there is little time for the air to escape. This problem is minimized by including vents along the parting lines, however, even in a highly refined process there will still be some porosity in the center of the casting.
Most die casters perform other secondary operations to produce features not readily castable, such as tapping a hole, polishing, plating, buffing, or painting
After the shakeout of the casting it is inspected for defects. The most common defects are misruns and cold shuts. These defects can be caused by cold dies, low metal temperature, dirty metal, lack of venting, or too much lubricant. Other possible defects are gas porosity, shrinkage porosity, hot tears, and flow marks. Flow marks are marks left on the surface of the casting due to poor gating, sharp corners, or excessive lubricant.
Water-based lubricants, called emulsions, are the most commonly used type of lubricant, because of health, environmental, and safety reasons. Unlike solvent-based lubricants, if water is properly treated to remove all minerals from it, it will not leave any by-product in the dies. If the water is not properly treated, then the minerals can cause surface defects and discontinuities. There are four types of water-based lubricants: oil in water, water in oil, semi-synthetic, and synthetic. Oil in water is the best, because when the lubricant is applied the water cools the die surface by evaporating while depositing the oil, which helps release the shot. A common mixture for this type of lubricants is thirty parts water to one part oil, however in extreme cases a ratio of 100:1 is used
Oils that are used include heavy residual oil (HRO), animal fats, vegetable fats, and synthetic fats. HROs are gelatinous at room temperature, but at the high temperatures found in die casting, they form a thin film. Other substances are added to control the emulsions viscosity and thermal properties; these include graphite, aluminium, and mica. Other chemical additives are used to inhibit rusting and oxidation. Emulsifiers are added to water-based lubricants, so that oil based additives can be mixed into the water; these include soap, alcohol esters, and ethylene oxides.
Historically, solvent-based lubricants, such as diesel fuel and kerosene, were commonly used. These were good at releasing the part from the dies, but a small explosion occurred during each shot, which led to a build-up of carbon on the mold cavity walls. However, they were easier to apply evenly than water-based lubricants
Advantages and disadvantages
Advantages of die casting
Excellent dimensional accuracy (dependent on casting material, but typically 0.1 mm for the first 2.5 cm (0.005 inch for the first inch) and 0.02 mm for each additional centimeter (0.002 inch for each additional inch).
Smooth cast surfaces (Ra 1–2.5 micrometres or 0.04–0.10 thou rms).
Thinner walls can be cast as compared to sand and permanent mold casting (approximately 0.75 mm or 0.030 in).
Inserts can be cast-in (such as threaded inserts, heating elements, and high strength bearing surfaces).
Reduces or eliminates secondary machining operations.
Rapid production rates.
Casting tensile strength as high as 415 megapascals (60 ksi).
Casting of low fluidity metals.
The main disadvantage to die casting is the very high capital cost. Both the casting equipment required and the dies and related components are very costly, as compared to most other casting processes. Therefore to make die casting an economic process a large production volume is needed. Other disadvantages are that the process is limited to high-fluidity metals, and casting weights must be between 30 grams (1 oz) and 10 kg (20 lb) In the standard die casting process the final casting will have a small amount of porosity. This prevents any heat treating or welding, because the heat causes the gas in the pores to expand, which causes micro-cracks inside the part and exfoliation of the surface.