Investment Castings for the Win

Investment castings provide a wide range of benefits compared to other castings, and the investment casting process is the key.

To create investment castings, wax is injected into an aluminum die to produce a pattern, and then the patterns are affixed to a wax runner bar to create an assembly called a tree. In the next step, the tree is dipped into a slurry to create a ceramic shell. The wax is melted out of the shell, which is then fired in a kiln. Metal is poured into the fired shell. In the last step, the ceramic shell is knocked off the casting.

By using a ceramic shell, we’re able to pour more than 200 different alloys, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, to create a broad range of investment castings for our customers.

Another advantage is that our aluminum tooling is less expensive than tool steel, and we’re able to run lower volumes of parts. Avalon can also cast parts weighing from a few ounces to 100 pounds, providing a wide array of options for customers.

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Avalon Facility in Wisconsin Expands Investment Casting Capabilities

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added to the capabilities at our Markesan, WI, investment casting plant.

The addition of four presses gives us more capacity for conventional trees and filled wax casting. Compared to unfilled wax, filled wax requires fewer tooling modifications, generates less sink and can be somewhat more stable.

The new capabilities at Markesan provide several benefits. We’ll be able to run more castings overall and will also be able to shorten lead times because we’ll be able to run different parts on multiple different presses. They also allow us to run larger dies to create larger parts.

In addition to the new capabilities, our Markesan facility also runs vacuum assist and gravity power investment casting and uses the invest process.

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Sand Casting for a Wide Range of Applications

We’re pleased to offer extensive sand-casting capabilities through our parent company, Sigma Electric Manufacturing Corp.

Sand casting uses relatively low-cost molds, thanks to sand’s inherent compactability, refractory nature and recyclability. Since it requires a relatively low investment, sand casting allows for quick tooling development and part changes at a reasonable cost, making it ideal for working through the evolutions of a part.

Green Sand Casting

The process is often called “green sand casting” because of the moisture content of the molding sand, which is generally made up of silica sand (both new and reclaimed), various bonding clays, carbonaceous materials and water. To create a mold, the prepared sand is compacted around a pattern that has the shape of the desired casting.

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Sigma Electric Announces Leadership Changes

sigma logoWe are pleased to announce two very important changes to the leadership team of Sigma Electric, Avalon Precision Metalsmiths’ parent company.

After eight years of dedicated service and outstanding leadership, Viren Joshi has decided to retire as President & Chief Executive Officer effective January 18th, 2021. Sigma’s Board of Directors is grateful and honored that Viren has accepted its request to continue to remain actively involved with Sigma and will transition to a new role as Executive Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors effective January 18th. In this capacity, Viren will continue to serve as a board member and strategic advisor as Sigma prepares for its next exciting chapter of growth.

The Board of Directors and employees of Sigma would like to thank Viren for his leadership and all that he has done to build the company into the global leader that it is today. Since Viren joined Sigma in 2012, the company’s sales have almost tripled, while its manufacturing footprint has expanded from eight Indian facilities to seventeen world-class facilities across India, Mexico and the United States.

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Why Stainless Steel Casting?

Stainless steel casting plays an important role in products for a wide range of industries. These include marine, water and chemical treatment, food processing for both humans and animals, medical instruments and cutlery applications, to name just a few.

It’s often the top choice for applications that require exceptional resistance to corrosion. Stainless steel’s corrosion resistance is due to its high level of chromium, at least 10.5%.

The stainless steel used in casting includes two main categories: austenitic and martensitic.

Austenitic stainless steel contains “austenite” (a metallic, non-magnetic allotrope of iron or a solid solution of iron, with an alloying element) and about 8-10% nickel. This steel alloy is non-magnetic and provides outstanding mechanical properties in addition to corrosion resistance. Austenitic materials are considered the most commonly used stainless steels.

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Investment Casting 411

Most of our customers know something about investment casting when they contact us, but they still have a wide variety of questions for us to answer.

Check out the most common queries and our responses below.

Does Avalon have a minimum investment casting order?

In general, chances are that you’ll hit the minimum with whatever order you place, whether for prototypes or production.

What is your most economical order quantity?

That depends on the part, design, and approximately the number of parts cast per mold.

What’s an average investment casting order?

An average order is generally between 250 and 500 parts, although we process orders for as many as 50,000 pieces or more per year.

What alloys do you pour?

We pour the most requested alloys; 17-4PH, 304 and 316 stainless steel as well as aluminum. We also pour more than 200 other different materials, including specialized “exotic” alloys like Inconel and Nickel X. See our full list of alloys.

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Ohio Facilities Achieve AS9100D Certification

We’re proud to announce that our Cleveland and North Royalton, OH, facilities have been certified to AS9100D, the international quality standard for the aerospace industry.

The Cleveland plant focuses on investment casting, while the North Royalton facility houses a tool and die shop and production machining operations.

They join our investment casting facility in Wisconsin in holding this certification, giving Avalon important redundant manufacturing capabilities for aerospace, aviation and defense projects.

The AS9100D certification of our two Ohio facilities is an important component of Avalon’s plans to expand its services for the aerospace, aviation and defense industries. We’re particularly well-suited to serve these sectors, thanks to our flexibility, adaptability and wide range of capabilities. We also have the equipment and processes needed to create the complex parts required by these markets.

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Avalon Hires New Vice President of Sales

Avalon is pleased to welcome Justin Smith as our new vice president of sales.

Based in Costa Mesa, CA, Justin brings with him 10 years of experience in sales to the aerospace and defense industries. He most recently served as director of sales for Carlton Forge Works in Paramount, CA, where he previously served as regional sales manager and inside sales manager.

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Metal Casting to Meet Your Needs

Avalon has always invested in our customers’ long-term needs. Rather than function as simple order-takers, we invest time in understanding the customer’s process and part.

We gather information on part volumes and requirements like surface finish, end market and necessary secondary processes. We stay engaged with the customer through production to find potential areas of cost and time savings.

Avalon Precision Metalsmiths was previously limited to our U.S-based investment casting capabilities. But now, thanks to our association with Sigma Electric, Avalon can support any casting needs our customers might have outside of the investment casting process.

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What is a Full-Service Investment Casting Company?

At its core, a full-service investment casting company is a manufacturer that meets its customers’ needs with high-quality cast parts & is vertically integrated.

As a full-service investment casting company, Avalon provides Design for Manufacturing (DFM) services to improve the manufacturability of our customers’ parts. We look for opportunities to reduce weight, while adding features that lessen or diminish machining and other secondary operations.

Avalon also provides rapid prototype response to reduce your time to market for new products.

Casting designs are then simulated prior to prototyping or tooling, to help reduce the effect of internal shrinkage.

Avalon pours a wide range of alloys. We can also formulate specialized alloys, or make recommendations, based on our customer’s requirements.

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1911 Frame Highlights Avalon’s Responsiveness to Customer Needs

1911 Press Release shadow

We’re excited to once again exhibit our 1911 frame at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show). Set for Jan. 21-24 in Las Vegas, the show is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and is one of the sector’s preeminent events.

Although designed specifically for the firearms market, the 1911 frame is a good example of how Avalon responds to customer needs, regardless of industry. The frame provides the basic outline of a handgun, which original equipment manufacturers can finish to their own specifications. It’s also quite popular with the hundreds of boutique handgun shops that specialize in highly customizable guns. 

 Traditionally, the 1911 frame is cut and milled from bar stock or forgings, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. The integrity of our casting provides the same frame geometry at a fraction of the cost. It is designed with machine stock in all of the necessary areas but has been optimized to reduce machining cycle times.

To make cast 1911 frames available to a wider number of OEMs and custom shops, Avalon decided in 2015 to invest in tooling, allowing our customers to access the frames at a much more attractive cost.

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Finding the Right Casting Company

avalon pmi tradeshow board

Selecting the right casting company to partner with can be a difficult task.  There are a few factors to take into consideration in selecting the right casting company.

Start by finding a full-service turnkey casting company that provides one-stop shopping for all your casting-related needs, including:

Expertise and Experience

You want a casting company dedicated to being a long-term partner committed to building relationships, not just filling orders. A company that understands the importance of adding value to your product line and can assist with your new product development to not only produce a functional part but a part that processes more efficiently at less cost.  We can suggest changes that could reduce part weight, while adding features that eliminate machining and / or other secondary operations.

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Lowering the Overall Cost of Ownership with Investment Casting

Precision investment casting is a refined manufacturing process that provides numerous advantages.

The process consists of several steps – creating an injected wax replica of the part, mounting the parts onto a sprue / tree and then forming a ceramic mold around the wax pattern. The wax is then melted out with steam and pressure and molten metal is poured into the heated ceramic shell.   The result is sacrificial tooling that allows for high part definition, both in ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

The aluminum wax dies offer substantially longer life than a high pressure die cast die or a plastic mold. Investment casting is a process that holds tighter tolerances than sand casting or the permanent mold process, while allowing for internal passages / undercuts to be cast in place along with superior surface finishes.  Overall, a process that affords many opportunities to reduce the overall cost of ownership.

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Investment Casting Quotes with an Edge

Avalon takes a different approach to quoting investment casting projects than most other manufacturers. Every quoting process answers the question “what will it cost?”.  But we at Avalon take it a step farther by helping the customer answer the question “what will increase the part’s competitive advantage?”.

Our ultimate goal is to provide economical castings that meet or exceed our customers’ expectations.   We look deep into our customer’s requirements including understanding their problems and or processing issues.

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Sigma Announces Acquisition of Avalon Precision Casting

-Avalon further strengthens Sigma's North American manufacturing footprint

-Avalon specializes in complex thin wall investment casting parts

GARNER, N.C.Aug. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Sigma Electric Manufacturing Corporation ("Sigma") a leading global manufacturer of ferrous and non-ferrous castings, precision machined components and sub-assemblies, today announced the acquisition of US-based Avalon Precision Casting ("Avalon").

Headquartered in Cleveland, OH, with additional plants in Wisconsin, Avalon manufactures investment castings products for blue-chip customers in the aerospace, defense, HVAC, power, agriculture, and oil & gas end markets.

The combination of Avalon's investment castings capabilities and Sigma's global, market-leading casting and precision machining capabilities brings significant product sourcing, supply chain management, and scale opportunities to each company's customer base.  The combined business is well placed to be a valuable strategic partner as customers increasingly look to manage and streamline complex global supply chains and work with world-class casting suppliers with comprehensive product offerings across metal types and process capabilities.

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Precision Casting for Precisely the Right Results

Precision casting is another term for investment casting, but in many ways, it means so much more.

In its most basic sense, precision casting creates precisely controlled parts with near-net shape, to within plus/minus 0.005” tolerances. This reduces or eliminates the need for machining, which helps control the customer’s final cost.

To achieve the greatest level of part integrity and avoid cavity shrinkage, simulations are used to verify each customer’s project. In addition, vacuum dipping and vacuum pouring is available for parts requiring greater cavity detail and thinner walls.  Vacuum dipping is a precision cast process Avalon developed to help eliminate any air bubbles which lead to the creation of excess metal.

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Aluminum Casting that Counts

Aluminum and the thousands of aluminum castings that make up our everyday lives are often taken for granted. After all, aluminum is just one of many materials available today and is sometimes eclipsed by newer, flashier materials.

But such wasn’t always the case.  For years after its discovery in the 1800s, aluminum was rare and often considered more valuable than silver or gold. Its rarity was due to the difficulties in refining aluminum, which truly weren’t overcome until the Great Depression. That’s when hydroelectric power projects provided enough electrical capacity for the energy-intensive methods of refining aluminum.

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What is Investment Casting?

Investment casting, also known as the lost-wax process, is one of the oldest metal-forming techniques, spanning the last 5,000 years. The investment casting process begins with injecting engineered wax into high precision dies or with printed rapid prototypes. The wax patterns that are produced through either method are then assembled onto a sprue along with a ceramic pour cup.

These wax setups are then invested, or surrounded, with a silica slurry mixture and refractory zircon sand. Many coats are applied until a hard shell covers the assembled wax patterns. This is generally the longest stage in the investment casting process since the shell must dry completely before applying additional coats. Humidity and circulation play large factors in the successful execution of this stage.

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