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Editor: Isabell Page

The joint venture between Rheinmetall Automotive and China's HUAYU Automotive Systems has developed a production process that is particularly suitable for highly complex engine block geometries and electric motor housings.

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Rheinmetall and Huayu have developed a new low-pressure sand casting process.
Rheinmetall and Huayu have developed a new low-pressure sand casting process.
(Source: Rheinmetall Automotive)

The joint venture between Rheinmetall Automotive and Huayu from China has developed a process for production at the new Chinese plant in Guangde that is particularly suitable for complex engine block designs and electric motor housings. At KS Hyayu's test foundry in Neckarsulm, the process was brought to series production. According to their own statements, the specialists are combining the advantages of different casting processes.

Weight Savings of Up to Five Percent

With the new low-pressure sand casting, weight savings of around three to five percent could be achieved with less material input. In addition, casting can be carried out in comparatively short cycle times. The new process is initially to be used for a four-cylinder in-line engine with an overmoulded cast iron liner. The liners used are cast a few millimeters over the cylinder head to avoid the milling cutter having to move through different materials during subsequent machining. This design would not be possible in classic low-pressure gravity die casting.

For Head of Development, Dr. Christian Klimesch, the process is no longer completely new territory, "since the same process is already being used at the Chinese plant in Guangde to manufacture the electric motor housings of a battery-powered car for the Chinese market." This development also originated at Neckarsulm and was subsequently transferred to the site located some 300 kilometers west of Shanghai.

The exacting tolerances placed on the positioning of the liners in the sand proved to be one of the challenges in the progressing of the process for engine block manufacture. They need to be heated in the fully assembled core package after they have been centered exactly between the some 22 sand cores of the package when cold.

Chill castings are likewise required in the area of the bearing bulkhead most stressed during subsequent engine operation. Since cooling is not active as in permanent-mold casting, the required heat extraction must be controlled by the mass of the chill castings. In this way, very high material properties (tensile strength and yield strength) are achieved with simultaneously increased elongation. This is exactly what engine builders want for today's highly stressed engine generations.

Further Advantages by Combining Casting Processes

The great advantage of this process is to allow the design engineer maximum design flexibility with undercut geometries and all shapes of channels. In addition, less material has to be used and weight savings of between 3 and 5 % can be achieved. Due to the extremely low heat conduction of sand, lower wall thicknesses can also be obtained with the same filling speed and melt temperature compared to permanent-mold casting.

Another advantage is that low-pressure sand casting is a very robust process with comparatively few variables providing matters such as the connection of the core package to the filling are under control. Klimesch quotes: "This is where our many years of experience and our leading position in low-pressure casting come into play. Once you've set the appropriate parameters, it's like pretzel baking." And as the clock shows, it is also similarly productive, because instead of a cycle time of up to eight minutes as with low-pressure permanent-mold casting, for example, the new process requires a maximum of a quarter of this time.

This article was first published by Automobil Industrie.

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