Automation is increasing in popularity in just about every industry as the impact of technology continues to improve how we complete tasks. Simply put – robots can work in places and ways that cannot be replicated by human beings; whether we are talking about saving money, decreasing errors, speeding production time, reducing waste, or limiting staff exposure to toxic or harmful materials.

When it comes to die casting, robots are typically utilized to reduce costs and speed up production. This is particularly true in high-volume die casting where the work can be almost completely automated with a single human overseer. Robots are both widely used in the die casting industry to produce products and are themselves produced by being cast.

How do robotics applications benefit from die cast components?
Die casting produces components that are durable, can withstand wear and tear from repeated tasks, exposure to chemicals or harsh environmental conditions, as well as protect delicate interior electrical components. All of these qualities make die casting an ideal process for creating many different parts of a robot.

What types of parts are we talking about? Components such as:
• External parts that make up the arms, wrist, base, elbows, and several other parts
• Internal and external structural components
• Exterior housings that protect sensitive electronics
• Internal components that hold together different CPUs, motherboards, power supply units, and other vital electronics
• Gearing and mechanical controls
• Interchangeable tools such as drills or grippers
• And more

What types of alloys are used?
Since robotic applications require components with excellent physical and mechanical properties the most commonly die cast alloys – aluminum, magnesium, and zinc – all have properties that are ideal choices to cast a wide variety of robotic equipment and parts.
• Aluminum is particularly attractive since it is relatively easy to cast, boasts a higher tensile strength than cast iron at about 1/3 of the weight, it is non-magnetic, corrosion resistant, non-sparking, and a good conductor.
• Magnesium can create even lighter parts with stiffness equal to that of aluminum; however A&B Die Casting does not work with it.
• Zinc is best for thin walls, very tight tolerances, or small parts.

Aluminum Alloys
Aluminum alloys are strong, lightweight, and economical for high-volume casting. Parts cast from aluminum alloys maintain their strength at high temperatures, possess good thermal and electrical conductivity, and can also be cast with intricate geometries and thin walls while maintaining their strength.

Why is aluminum used so widely in robotic applications?
• Lightweight
• High dimensional stability
• Corrosion resistance
• Excellent mechanical properties
• Good machining characteristics
• Superior EMI and RFI shielding properties
• High thermal and electrical conductivity
• High strength-to-weight ratio
• A variety of decorative and protective finishes
• Great choice for high temperature coating processes
• Made from 100% recycled material and is fully recyclable

With strength comparable to zinc alloys, aluminum is frequently chosen for robotic applications when weight is at a premium – it has a very low specific gravity which places it amongst the most lightweight structural materials available today.

Zinc Alloys
Zinc alloys are perfect for robotic applications that require smaller and more complex shapes since no other alloy can be cast with such tight tolerances and thin walls. Zinc’s superior strength and hardness is an ideal alternative to machined, pressed, stamped, or fabricated components. Zinc also boasts excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, requires less tooling or secondary operations, and can be cast at moderate temperatures which provides significant energy and processing savings over other metals and engineering alloys.

Why is zinc used so widely in robotic applications?
• Offers high precision with lower tooling costs
• Superior strength and hardness
• Optimal for complex, multi-faceted, versatile, net shaped parts with thin walls
• Excellent electrical performance and shielding properties

How are robots used in die cast foundries?
Since robots are more consistently accurate than human beings can possibly be, many die casting companies utilize robots in their foundries to help produce better quality castings. Robots are also able to withstand temperatures and environments that would be harmful or uncomfortable for a human operator.

Procedures such as:
• Tend to the die cast machinery : Using robots where appropriate to tend to the machinery can speed up production dramatically, can lead to higher material yields due to consistent pouring, reduce the amount of scrap, and create an overall safer working environment for human operators.
• Pour molten metal and other material handling : Molten metal can be extremely dangerous and needs to be poured with a steady hand. A robot can also skim dross and ladle faster and more accurately than a human can, which eliminates the chance of spilling and reduces waste. Robots can also load inserts and extract solidified casting more quickly and efficiently.
• Spray mold release lubricants : Dies need to be properly lubricated and spraying consistently can be difficult for a human to achieve. Uneven application of the lubricants can cause issues with the castings as well as uneven die cooling.
• Trim excess metal away : Unnecessary runners, flashes, and risers need to be removed after casting. Using robots to grind or cut away the excess metal greatly speeds up moving the project to the next stage.
• And many more.

As you can see foundry robots are designed and used for a wide variety of applications that optimize the production process. Utilizing robotics productivity has increased exponentially, errors have gone down substantially, and most importantly they make foundries safer. Robots have had a monumental impact on the die casting process and they continue to play a crucial role in both productivity and worker safety. They are widely used in foundries and are created by them too.

Ready to get started on your next project?
With over 75 years of die casting expertise, our team of experienced engineers will evaluate your requirements to help you decide which would be the best option to achieve the desired result for your application. By incorporating innovative engineering and state-of-the-art technologies, we take pride in designing and manufacturing the highest quality tools and parts at the right price. Need assistance or want to get started on your next die cast project? Contact A&B Die Casting today!