Aluminum die cast parts are by far the highest volume of component used by Automotive manufacturers. These components primarily include cylinder heads, chassis and powertrain parts. But in recent years, this has expanded to engine blocks. Due primarily to the US Government’s strict regulation of the expected increase in fuel economy by Automotive companies. This big push on the Automotive OEMs has resulted with Aluminum castings being produced by Tier 1 suppliers more than ever.
Aluminum Better Than Iron?
Traditional cast iron engine blocks have even been replaced by die cast AL alloy. This type of Automotive part has a very high requirement for surface durability and material strength, which is why cast iron has traditionally been used. The majority of all new small engines use aluminum die cast blocks. What’s the major reason of why Automotive parts are switching to die castings? Aluminum die cast parts weigh far less than cast iron. In most cases, a die cast aluminum engine block will weigh nearly half of what a cast iron engine block can weigh. This material change and weight reduction has been shown to increase vehicle performance, such as improved road handling and greater fuel efficiency in City and Highway situations.
Due to progress made in aluminum alloy metallurgy, specifically Al-Si-Cu-Mg-Fe alloy and new die casting techniques have allowed these castings to replace iron in most cases and satisfy the material requirements. These aluminum castings are being used in new part opportunities, with other applications, for engineered components in the axle products and structural components (see Ford’s F150 aluminum body).
In conclusion, aluminum die cast part unit prices might be slightly higher than traditional cast iron or steel – but total “manufacturing” cost of the castings will create a cost savings. Since the cast part is one solid aluminum component, it avoids additional costs of joining or welding processes and other assembly services. Automotive die cast parts have clearly defined the future of manufacturing with AL alloys.