Foundry plants produce metal castings by melting metal and pouring it into a mold where it solidifies to create a shape. Metalworking goes back to ancient times, and many historical periods like the Bronze Age and Iron Age are named for advancements in metal technology. The foundry industry traces its roots back thousands of years to Mesopotamia, with the first castings produced in 3,200 B.C. Many civilizations developed metalworking and casting techniques that are still in use today, with a few changes due to technological developments. Work done by foundries is also referred to as metalcasting.
In the United States, this industry is composed primarily of small businesses that, in total, employ almost 490,000 people and contribute $44.3 billion to the economy. The castings a foundry plant creates are an essential component of the majority of durable goods, such as:
- Wind turbines
- Oil wells
The foundry industry is crucial for producing the metal castings that the majority of consumer products require. If the task requires a complex shape, then the metalcasting industry will be the ones to supply that part. Foundry is also responsible for a large portion of industrial development in the United States, making it essential to the entire manufacturing industry. Manufacturing relies on the base parts that foundries supply.
What is The Difference Between Foundry & Steel?
Though steel mills and foundry plants create essential metal products, they differ in key ways. Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, and steel mills manufacture it using scrap metals or iron ore in small quantities. Steel production also uses ferroalloys — an alloy of iron and one or two other metals.
Foundries manufacture steel cast parts by heating the metal and pouring the liquid into a mold. Metalcasting is similar to steel making in that once a molten metal is ready in the furnace, alloys or other additives can be added to achieve the desired properties for the part to be cast.
An advantage that metalcasting has over steel is that the metal does not need to be iron-based. Aluminum, copper, magnesium, iron, steel and zinc are all metals that can be used as the base material for casting. Much of the base material — whether it is iron or another base — will come from the use of scrap. The metalcasting industry is a very large contributor to the recycling movement. The industry is a large consumer of scrap metal.
An area where the metalcasting industry is different from steel is the ability to make complex shapes. Typically, the foundry will make a mold template out of wood or Styrofoam and then make the actual mold itself out of sand. Sand can be used in these molds since they do not interfere with the metallurgy of the part. In many cases, the foundry can reuse the sand after a cleaning process. Like scrap metal, reusing sand makes foundry a leader in industrial recycling.
Requesting a sample analysis from a ferroalloy sampling company like McCreath Labs ensures the quality of your inventory. Our laboratory will analyze your sample with various techniques and tools, producing insightful test results about your material. Because we evaluate the material quality and composition and identify the presence of contaminants, you can ensure your contractual compliance and material integrity.
To learn more about the foundry/metalcasting industry, check out the American Foundry Society website.Foundry Sampling Services
Common Industries That Use Foundry
Since metalworking can produce metal components in various shapes and sizes with unique properties, foundry plays an essential role in these industries:
- Agriculture: Agricultural machinery requires well-made parts to stand up to harsh conditions and heavy loads. Cast iron and steel are the base material for vehicle frames, cylinders and gear casings that contribute to machine durability and operational productivity. Since these part shapes are unique, only a foundry plant can meet this need.
- Defense: The military relies on the functionality of their firearms, vehicles and gear in the toughest environments. Cast components produced by the foundry industry ensure that joysticks, triggers and pistol grips last through any humidity levels, temperature ranges and environmental climates. The foundry industry can supply these parts quickly and cost-effectively.
- Automotive: Some of a car’s most important parts are metal castings made in foundry plants. For example, the engine block holds major engine components necessary for its function, and die castings reduce emissions to make the vehicle more eco-friendly.
- Construction: The construction industry relies on metal castings, particularly aluminum, for both heavy and light equipment. Cast components for construction vehicles must be durable, resistant to corrosion and able to withstand extreme pressure. For example, castings must enable a three-axle articulated truck to bear and transport heavy loads while being lightweight enough to ensure the truck remains fuel-efficient and easy to maneuver.
- Mining: The mining industry provides the metals used in foundry processes. Foundry uses these metals to create castings for the clamping rings, wheel hubs and pinion shaft housings that the mining industry uses to retrieve ore.
McCreath Labs: Experts in Sample Analysis
McCreath Laboratories is one of the most recognized ferroalloy testing companies in the United States. We have been in business for more than 140 years, and our ferroalloy inspection services have led the industry for a long time. Our foundry testing laboratory can examine ferrochrome, ferromanganese and refractory sand for casting molds. With numerous laboratories and satellite offices located conveniently throughout the Eastern US, McCreath Labs has the capabilities to efficiently work with you no matter your location.
To begin your material inspection, send us a sample for analysis, or we can send an expert to your location to inspect your bulk material. To find out more about how we can analyze your foundry materials, contact our team today.