Zone in on Zinc: The alternative to aluminum

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Aluminum die castings are often a top choice due to their corrosion resistance, strength, and thermal conductivity. But the castability of zinc, its thin-walled capabilities, and structural integrity make it the perfect alternative to aluminum in certain applications. 

Because of zinc’s greater fluidity, die castings can be made thinner, more intricate, and more complex, eliminating the need for secondary operations that are almost always necessary with aluminum. With less material being used in thin-wall applications, parts automatically become lighter, creating savings in material cost and energy. 

To learn more, download our free webinar Zone in on Zinc: The alternative to aluminum. In this webinar, Max Gondek and Adam Scichitano of Dynacast will cover the following benefits of die casting in zinc: 

  • Tighter tolerances 
  • Faster cycles times 
  • Lower cost 
  • Longer tool life 
  • Medical case studies 
  • Telecommunications/5G applications  
  • And more! 

 

Fill out the form to access our free webinar! 

 

 

Interested in any other topics on Zinc? You can view additional resources on Designing in Zinc, Converting Plastic to Zinc, or Benefits of Zinc Die Casting.  

 

Katie Yarborough: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s webinar on zinc die casting presented by Dynacast. My name is Katie Yarborough, and I’m a content strategist for Form Technologies and also your hostess for today’s event. For those of you joining us for the first time, I’m going to share a little bit of information about who Formed Technologies is. Form is a leading global group of precision metal manufacturers consisting of three brands. We have Dynacast for dye casting, Signicast for investment casting, and Optimum for metal injection molding. Before we get started today though, I do want to go over a little bit of housekeeping items about the portal itself, just so you all know how to participate in today’s event. You should see a series of boxes on your screen. Those are referred to as widgets. All the widgets are moveable and resizable, So, feel free to set the console up in a way that works best for you. A few widgets I do want to point out. One is the resources tab. You should see a listing under there of some blogs and our die casting design guide. All of those are free for you to download that will pertain to today’s topic, and then we also have the Q&A widget. We’ll be holding a live Q&A at the end of today’s webinar. So, we do encourage you to send in questions there as early as you can, and we’ll try our best to get to as many of those as possible. If you have any technical issues, like your slides aren’t moving, or no sound, you can also alert us via the Q&A widget about those, as well, and we’ll try our best to troubleshoot. But I want to go ahead and introduce today’s speakers. We have a great lineup. First, you’ve seen him before, we have Max Gondek with us. He is a Senior Application Engineer at Dynacast. He’s going to help lead us through today’s presentation. Max holds a mechanical engineering degree from Perdue, and he’s been in the die casting industry for over ten years. In his career, Max has held positions in project management, product development, and application engineering. Then we also have Adam Scichitano with us today. Adam has been with Dynacast for 18 years and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Northern Illinois University. During his career, Adam’s held positions as Tool Design Engineer, Program Manager, Quality Assurance Manager, and he’s currently an Engineering Manager with Dynacast. Both Max and Adam, they love problem solving, upfront engineering, DFM, basically any process that’s going to help improve the quality of the final part for their customers. So, I think they’ll both be great presenters for today’s zinc discussion. They’ll help us understand all the capabilities it has to offer in the world of die casting. So, with that, I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to them.

Max Gondek: Awesome. Thank you, so much, Katie. So, I cannot think of a better way to start a webinar on zinc than with a little Simpson skit. So, we’ll go ahead and get this playing for you guys. 0:03:19.2 Video Plays 0:04:14.8 Video ends.

Max Gondek: So, you got to love a little Simpsons to start everything going. Thankfully, we don’t have to live in a world without zinc, and we can have zinc for all the things we know and love, maybe not so much rotary phones these days. Before we get into the meat of it, though, we really wanted to just kind of get a better feel for the audience. So, we wanted to get your experience on zinc die casting in general. Do you guys really not understand die casting, or maybe don’t use die casting that much at all? Maybe you guys use a little bit of die casting, but you know, with other materials, maybe aluminum, magnesium, something like that. Maybe you guys have used zinc in the past. So, you’ve had some applications, maybe a couple die castings here and there, or maybe you guys are powerhouses that are buying zinc left and right, doing a lot of different zinc designs, a lot of zinc components. So, really just wanted to get an idea of where everyone stands so we can kind of better tailor the presentation as we go through to get a better picture you know, if you guys are more aluminum, if you understand die casting, or maybe you guys have a lot of experience with zinc. Looks like we got a good amount in. So, we’re going to jump, take a peek at the results. So, it looks like we got a little bit of everything. So, it seems a couple people need some refreshers on die casting. So, we will touch a little bit on that, you know, about 50 percent actually using other materials. A little bit of zinc and then we got about a quarter who use frequently. So, excellent. Thank you for participating. We just like to get a good idea of where the audience stands. So, we’re really excited about today’s webinar to talk about zinc. We’re going to go through, talk a little bit about the technology itself. We’re going to go into the true cost and timing, kind of hit those items up front, and then we’re going to switch over gears and go to more of the technical aspect related to zinc, material properties, tolerances, weight comparisons, that kind of thing. So, first we’re going to go over a little bit of technology itself. So, at Dynacast, we use a couple different casting processes. The one on the left is a cold chamber aluminum process. So, this is called cold chamber because the actual sleeve that the metal gets poured into is outside of the metal in a cold environment, thus the name. For aluminum castings in general, and for us, they’re generally larger components. So, we’ll usually measure machine size by tonnage, which is actually the force it takes to hold the two tools together, the two pieces of tool steel together. So, our aluminum machines range from 125 tons to 580 tons, and it can get much larger than that, you know, throughout the industry. For us, we’re casting about a maximum weight of eight kilograms at a rate of about one to three castings per minute, or cycles per minute. So, every minute, you know, maybe once or twice a minute, we’re going to get a whole shout out. Moving to the middle, we have conventional zinc. These are going to be larger machines, but a little bit less large than our aluminum. So, this is going to range from about 20 tons to 350 tons. Our zinc machines are a hot chamber process. So, this means is the actual metal delivery system is actually submerged in the molten material, in this case zinc, thus the name hot chamber, but the machine itself is relatively similar to the cold chamber aluminum other than that aspect. We can make a maximum part weight of about five kilograms in our zinc conventional, and these will run a little bit quicker in the three to nine cycles per minute. Finally, on the right, will be our smallest but also our most economic and fastest running machines, our zinc multi-slide. So, this is a proprietary technology that we have that ranges from four tons to sixty-five tons. So, these are much smaller machines that make much smaller components, 400 grams is really the absolute maximum, but we still need to look at each part specifically to see, you know, really where it fits. So, definitely smaller in size than the other processes, but these can run extremely fast, from a 4 to 60 cycles per minute. So, on the high end of this we’re making a shot every second. So, they come out quite quickly. We actually have a video to show and a couple slides. Kind of another way to look at this is we took an example zinc casting. So, if you look in the top right, it’s key fob, so a lot of the metal components on the bottom of those are actually zinc die castings made in a multi-slide process. If we were to take that specific component, and put in an aluminum platinum, which is on the left, its almost comical how small it is compared to the actual machine itself. You have to zoom in to even recognize it. Pretty similar on the zinc conventional as well in the middle, where it’s maybe a hair better fit on there, but still, I mean, it’s way too small. So, if you were wanting to run something like this in a machine of this size, you’d have to put a lot of cavities. So, you’d have to make a lot of parts per shot, which would make the tool very complex. You’d have part-to-part variability. So, it just makes the process a lot more complicated. On the right, though, we can see that part on a piece of tool steel for zinc multi-slide. So, it’s a much better fit. It’s going to make a whole lot more sense. As Adam will explain this, we get into some of the economics of it, you know, it’s able to be made a lot easier, and a lot more effectively, and quicker. So, we are going to show, really quickly, the multi-slide technology and just kind of a quick video of the actual process run in. So, this is going to be running in real time. This is a multi-slide, zinc tool, spitting out parts quite quickly. I always like to joke that it’s called a popcorn machine since, you know, they kind of come out like popcorn, but each time you see that casting expel from the tool, that is one complete shot. So, quite impressive the volume you can pump through these and the speed that the castings are actually spit out of the machine. So, we’re going to jump over to Adam to dig a little bit into tool cost and timing.

Adam Scichitano: All right. Thanks, Max. Appreciate it. Welcome, everyone. Tool cost and timing, really comes together. It’s pretty straightforward simple economics when we’re comparing multi-slide zinc die casting to aluminum die casting or conventional tooling. It’s time and materials. That’s really what it breaks down to in the grand scheme of things. Two quick examples that we’ve got here. On the left-hand side, we’ve got a standard conventional aluminum tool, showing all the different components in the breakdown of that tool in it’s exploded view. And on the right-hand side, we’ve got a zinc multi-slide die cast tool, once again, breaking down all the components. Each of the tools, really, it’s a similar representation. Each one has five mechanical slides to produce the component, but as you can see, there’s a significant difference between a zinc multi-slide tool level of complexity and that of a conventional tool. So, really those are the primary drivers with regards to cost and timing. The more materials, the longer it takes to produce it, and the costly to do so with the time associated to it. Overall build time, again, really direct representation of the complexity of the tool and the project that we’re looking at. Again, these are high level simplistic breakdowns of it, time and materials, but it’s really very much part dependent as to where the exact timing and cost will fall. There could be some cost on aluminum tools that are significantly less than others. Conversely, on the zinc side, there could be tools that are more costly than some of the other tools. So, it’s really a project by project, but as in overall, aluminum compared to multi-slide or zinc tooling is a more costly process when compared to itself. Tooling costs. Again, breaking down the tools, looking at all the different components and the things that go into it really drives the costs overall of the tool. One thing that works, we’re primarily focusing on here is strictly the tooling costs. We’re not touching on any secondary costs or fixture costs, things of that nature. With multi-slide zinc compared to aluminum, and even conventional zinc die casting, very rarely are there any secondary, what I’ll refer to as trim dies or gate removal tools required. Multi-slide zinc gates are designed to break either by hand or during a fault processing operating, thus reducing the additional labor and tooling expense of a trim die, whereas your aluminum process does require secondary trim dies to physically remove gates, overflows, excess flash, things of that nature. So, it’s an additional tooling expense. It’s an additional process which would have an impact on your part price and secondary processing time, as well. Tooling life. So, when we’re talking about die casting, tooling life is really characterized by the number of shots. That’s number of shots or cycles that the die can produce before it needs significant rework or, in most cases, complete replacement to allow continued use. Primarily driven by the base material, aluminum versus zinc, which is primarily broken down to physical properties of the material in the way that it acts to the die steel as well as the melting temperature of the material itself is how it impacts the overall life of the tool. Aluminum is a very aggressive material when compared to zinc. So, because of that aggressive nature, it wants to physically attack and breakdown tooling and steel components, thus requiring them to be replaced at a much higher rate than zinc components, as well. Zinc, by nature, is actually has a high level of lubricity to it, whereas aluminum by nature is very aggressive and likes to attack or stick to tooling components. That is another reason that the tools just do not last as long. So, typical aluminum tools, we’re talking anywhere from 100,000 give or take, and then on multi-slide, or zinc tools, 500,000 and upwards of a million pieces, again depending on overall part complexity, size, and ultimately, customer requirements, tolerance controls, things of that nature. In quick summary, why zinc? Zinc overall is a more cost-effective process if the material lends itself to the final application, faster tooling lead times, lower tooling costs, longer tooling life. One of the big drivers when it comes to tooling life is really the overall year in year constant maintenance cost or requalification costs of those subsequent backup or replacement tools. Depending on the customer requirements, every single one of those replacement tools or components has to be qualified again, either internally at the manufacturer, and or included at the customers level, and then even their customer customers levels. So, there’s additional extra costs that are not always accounted for or taken into account when building replacement tools with regards to aluminum. With zinc, many of those costs can be avoided by not necessarily needing additional backup or replacement tools. With that, we’ll get into a little bit more specifics on the materials themselves, and I’ll let Max take that away.

Max Gondek: Great. Thanks, Adam. Before I jump into it, we did have a good question. It was, can we make tools quicker than the timeframe we have? So, I myself, I work in our tool facility in Wisconsin, Germantown, and while the numbers we put are definitely averages or starting points, I would say that we, you know, we’re a fantastic show over here, and are able to make tools, definitely quicker at times, but the complexity also depends on you know, overtime and that kind of thing as well, but also on the other side, you know, really complex tools, things that may need a little bit more work on could sometimes be higher and a little bit longer time than that. So, that we will jump into material property sale. So, I have been in the industry for a good amount of time now, and I still remember when I first joined die casting. For whatever reason, I always though zinc was just kind of this inferior alloy, you know, it is almost portrayed that aluminum is the best alloy that there is, that you know, it’s the strongest, the lightest, the fastest. So, just not the mentally that, you know, zinc really deserves, per se. So, we really wanted to kind of squash that a little bit, and kind of just showcase some of the actual mechanical material properties of zinc compared to some of the other alloys out there. So, what we have on the screen right now, the blue are zinc alloys, the light blue is zamak 3, and the dark blue is ZA-8, both pretty popular zinc cast alloys, and then the grey bar is A380, which is probably the most popular aluminum alloy to cast, which is really interesting if you look at the left, which is the tensile, the ZA-8 is actually a little bit higher, and then the zamak 3 a little bit lower than the A380. So, we’re really right in the same ballpark. Actually, both of the zinc alloys are higher with respect to yield, and both actually are a little bit higher with thermal conductivity, as well. I actually get asked that a lot in DFM, the thermal conductivity of materials. So, it’s really interesting. I really wanted to make sure that everyone understands zinc is a really strong alloy. It’s got a lot of really good applications with respect to its mechanical properties, it’s strength, it’s thermal conductivity. So, yeah, I really wanted to put that out there so, you know, as the designers are going through and starting to, you know, creating projects, that this is something that’s just kind of thrown away at the get go and that zinc is, you know, really brought to attention and given the attention it definitely deserves. We cast a wide variety of different zinc alloys. We’re not going to go through them all by any means, but they all have different, I guess, benefits. Some are maybe a little bit stronger, a little bit more ductile, maybe a little bit more wear resistant. So, these are, you know, really the majority of what we cast at Dynacast, and you definitely don’t need to go through, and you know, write them all down. In a couple of slides, we’ll show you guys this really cool material selection tool that we like to use. You know, with any of our alloys, honestly, anything in general, you know, we’re more than happy to just talk with you guys, if you have any questions related to, maybe not necessarily related to knowing the right alloy to pick, or being steered, you know, needing to be steered in the right direction. I’ve got two examples, kind of relating to mechanical properties and the materials of zinc die castings. The first one is a hemorrhoid stapler. So, in some of my research for this I looked up how this thing was used. I highly recommend not doing that, but needless to say, it is a medical device that is utilized in order to, you know, be operated on people. It started out mainly in the handle with plastic components, and unfortunately, these had some field failures. So, the device actually broke while being utilized, which is definitely not something you ever want, but even more so with a device like this. So, the customer ended up reaching out to us and was looking for higher strength, better mechanical property components. So, they actually switched a majority of the internal handle’s components over to zinc. Not only was this able to meet the actual requirements to operate it, but it also met the strict mechanical requirements that were really needed in order to get to this specific, you know, application. Another example we have is a motor pinion. This was another plastic to metal conversion. So, the red little gear that you can see in the bottom left image, so it started out as a plastic component and ended up failing in the customers testing. So, they reached out to us, and we ended up making what is seen on the right, which is a zinc die casting. The really cool thing, why I brought this example up, is that it’s really easy for us to make a casting in multiple zinc alloys with the same tool. So, this customer was actually able to try a zamak 5, switch to a zamak 2, and then end up with an EZAC alloy in order to get what they need to. So, really great example that I think is a good way of showcasing, not only that, you know, the zinc can hold up to what is needed, you know, with respect to physical requirements, but there is also some flexibility in that itself where you can go and really finetune the specific alloy. So, kind of to summarize. I like to send people to our metal selector tool. There’s actually a link on the resource widget where you can actually get to this. So, even before I worked at Dynacast, I would use this all the time. I would actually go to Dynacast website and utilize this metal selector tool. It’s a really good way to go through and sort a bunch of different alloys by, you know, tensile strength, physical properties, sheer strength, that kind of thing, and you can even kind of narrow in some of the specific properties to try to get to what you’re looking for. So, a really great tool. I always recommend as a great starting point, but if you have questions, please feel free to reach out, you know, Adam, or myself, or any of us are really happy to talk, you know, alloy or any of these, you know, topics with you guys. So, with that, I’ll hand it back over to Adam.

Adam Scichitano: Thanks, Max. Tolerance and draft, probably the second most discussed subject after tooling costs and timing. How quick can you build it and how precise can you do it in. So, tolerance and drafts. So, I’ll start with everything is very much dependant on the part and the project, and there’s a lot of things that can be done with working with die casting. With regards to zinc, there’s a lot more forgiveness, and flexibility, and creativity than necessarily the aluminum side of things. Primarily driven because of the material. Just as we talked earlier, aluminum being as an aggressive of material as it is, is very corrosive when it comes to the die steel, it wants to stick and adhere, whereas zinc is, by nature, has a high-level lubricity, and it wants to naturally help to release itself from the mold more so than the aluminum. So, that being said, we don’t need as much tolerance nor draft when talking about zinc, specifically the multi-slide. On aluminum, we’re just going to do a couple comparisons here on this slide and the next slide, but on aluminum, on multi-slide zinc, we’re looking at roughly 20 microns, plus or minus. That’s a pretty safe number with regards to ability to control and stabilize zinc on the multi-slide, whereas on aluminum, plus or minus 70 to 80 micron is what we’re looking for from a minimal standpoint. Everything is very much part dependent. So, in some cases, we might be able to be a little bit tighter, and some cases we might request more. It really comes down to the geometry, the tool configuration, and what we’re trying to achieve. A couple of very simple applications of looking at zinc compared to aluminum. Again, a simplistic look and view of a 2D sketch of two pins and the location of those two pins relative to each other. With regards to aluminum, we’d be looking at a plus or minus 50-micron tolerance between those two pins. With regards to zinc, we’d be looking at, plus or minus, 12-microns. So, roughly 25 percent of the total tolerance is necessary in zinc compared to that of aluminum. Similar to the lock cylinder that’s down on the bottom, that I’m sure many of us are aware of, or familiar with I should say, if we were looking at it in aluminum process, we would need a significant larger portion of tolerance, and then like an additional secondary operation to really achieve the functional, meet the functional requirements that the customers have on this. With regards to zinc, whether cast regularly, we’re able to cast them within tolerance and without secondary machining operations. One of the biggest things that has the impact on tolerance, goes back to what we were looking at previously, was tool costing. It’s overall size of the tool, complexity of the tool, but with smaller components, smaller tools, we’re able to control those tools and dimensional and tolerances, not only through the manufacturing process of the tool itself, but also the repeatability during the production process. The biggest thing that we deal with within die casting, which has a dimensional affect, is the stability or thermodynamics of a tool, and what is the tool going to do as that tool heats up, grows and swells across its overall footprint. So, on the smaller multi-slide tools that we’re talking are, you know, two to three inches, or 50 to 75 millimeters in size compared to a larger aluminum tool that’s in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 millimeters in size. The thermal expansion is the same rate, but the overall expansion is significantly less when looking at zinc die casting. So, that in itself allows us to have better dimensional control and tolerance stability in zinc compared to that of aluminum. Because of this tight tolerance, and stability, and control that we’ve got, it allows us to cast features that aren’t necessarily available, or we had the ability to do with consistency in the aluminum process. Just a couple of quick examples. One, are small crush ribs that can be used for part-to-part assembly, allowing the removal of secondary components whether its screws, self-threading screws, rivets, and kind of joining method, in some cases we’re able to cast features such as this, or undercuts, and clip features that allow two components to actually be snapped or put together and no additional devices or components necessary. Along with that, we’re able to cast very small, a long, smaller detail is threads. Threads are able to be cast pretty much complete in the zinc process. One, because of the fluidity of the material wanting to, and having the ability to flow into thin cross sections in wall section areas, but then also the alignment and the repeatability of the two halves with the multiple pieces of the tool coming together with their repeatability. On the aluminum side of things, it’s very possible to cast threads, but the struggle and the challenge would be not only filling the thread out sufficient to give the retention force that customers are typically looking for, but also the repeatability of the die halves coming together to form those threads. Will the threads actually function as they are hoped to? In many cases, if they’re cast in aluminum, you need some level of post cast operation to clean them up and ensure their functionality, like a chasing operation. All right. Turning it back over to Max. Then in that case, we’re going to talk about weight and design material of choice.

Max Gondek: Awesome. Before we get into it, we had a few questions. So, I want to get through a couple of them. The ones we don’t get to, we’ll definitely answer at the end, or follow up via email, but I guess relating to this topic, Adam, this one’s for you. With the tolerances that are shown, can those be used on customer drawings, or are those more for like an internal precision only kind of thing?

Adam Scichitano: They can be used on customer drawings. That’s one of the areas where we spend a lot of time, especially in the upfront side of things when a customer comes to us and we begin working on a new project, is working with them, on the application, understanding what is the application, what is the end result, what’s the end goal, and then what features are really the most critical for them, and sometimes, in some cases, it’s easier from the customer standpoint to simply take a tolerance and apply it to the whole drawing, but at that same level, that tolerance may not necessarily be applicable to the entire part or the entire drawing. So, we try to get very specific in the areas of what’s the most critical for the customer, and then putting those tolerances on those features, or feature, to ensure that we don’t, we’re not looking to over engineer it. We don’t want to have to monitor or control something that really doesn’t need to be monitored or controlled to the extent that maybe a plus or minus 50-micron tolerance requires to a plus or minus 100 micron tolerance in comparison.

Max Gondek: Awesome. One more for you, Adam. Is zinc recyclable?

Adam Scichitano: Zinc is recyclable. One of the nice things about both zinc and aluminum for that matter is that they are recyclable. They can be remelted and reutilized, either back in our factory, or sent out for remanufacture, and sent back to us in ingot form. Unlike plastics and some other materials, there is not a concern, or there’s very little concern for separation or uniformity of the material at a recycling and a remelt levels. So, the zinc melts together and it becomes the same material that it was before. It doesn’t separate itself during the remelting process.

Max Gondek: Awesome. Cool. Thanks, Adam. Okay. Well, with that, we’ll jump on into the next poll question. So, how does weight impact your product design and material choice? So, curious, if when you guys are making parts, or designing parts, are you really trying to, you know, every gram counts, you’re trying to, you know, make it as light as physically possible at any expense. Do you find that maybe it’s important to you, but maybe not as important as something like cost, or you know, like tolerances, like Adam was talking about? Do you find that maybe it doesn’t impact you guys at all and it’s not really that important, or you kind of, maybe at the other end of the spectrum, where the heavier the better, you know, there’s that thought of perceived value and it’s got some umph to it? So, we’ll wait another second. It looks like we got a lot of poll answers still coming in. Awesome. Thank you for giving those and we will jump to see the results. Cool. So, this is probably as awesome and as perfect as I wanted to see. So, obviously I got some people, every gram counts, you know, where you’re really trying to do everything you can to take out as much, but you got a lot that it’s important, but it’s balanced out with a bunch of other aspects, and I think, you know, with what we’re sharing here, hopefully some of that weight penalty that may come with zinc casting, you know, can be alleviated with better costs, tolerances, decreased machining, that kind of thing. So, yeah, we see some, doesn’t impact us, and then actually a little bit of, the heavier the better. So, very interesting. Thanks for that. Okay. So, the elephant in the room with zinc is that, you know, it’s more dense. There’s really no getting around it. It is a generally heavier material than many of the other cast alloys. So, if you were to look at just a simple comparison, A380, which I said before is a really popular aluminum alloy, is 2.71 grams per centimeter cubed. Zamak 3 is, you know, almost three times that at 6.6 grams per centimeter cubed. So, to kind of visually put that out there, if you looked at the same weight, or same mass of zinc and aluminum, side by side, you would get those bars that you see on the screen. So, the aluminum being much more material in volume for the same amount of weight. It’s just physics. It’s kind of one of those, it is what it is. There’s no really getting around that density, but there are things that you can do in order to bring the mass or the weight of your component down. So, what Adam and I will do, and many of us at Dynacast, is we will, you know, spend a lot of upfront doing DFM. If you were on the last webinar, you know how adamant I am about it. One of the things we’ll do is really try to minimize the wall thickness to a point where it is good for the process, it’s good for the components, and it also balances out the material needed. So, here’s an example of something that, you know, we do all the time with respect to trying to balance out wall thicknesses. In aluminum, generally speaking, you know, maybe two millimeters wall thickness is probably a good starting point. So, this casting example we have, it’s a couple of inches wide, by you know, an inch or two deep. At that two-millimeter wall thickness, it is 16.5 grams. If we were to take the exact same casting and make it in zinc, we would get a weight of 40.3 grams. What’s really nice, though, with zinc is that it flows a lot better. You don’t need as much wall thickness to get a good, uniformed part as you do with aluminum, mainly due to, you know, what the material is made out of, the cast temperature versus the tool temperature. You just get a lot of, you can push the limits more on wall thickness. So, with that being said, if you were to take that same casting and make it at a .75-millimeter wall thickness, which you know, is quite thin, but definitely not out of the realm for a multi-slide component, you would actually bring the casting down to 16.1 grams. So, every casting is different. It’s not to say that every part you make, you can make .75 millimeters thick, but there are a lot of opportunities out there to minimize the wall thickness of a zinc die casting in order to help offset some of the weight. So, if you were to make the same component aluminum, you would have to make that wall thicker in order to get a good flow through it. So, this is just another, kind of, one of those ideas that I really want to plant the seeds of all the designers and the product guys out there that, you know, as you’re going through and working on these castings, especially in the zinc world, you can start to push that wall thickness, you know, thinner and thinner. We’re definitely happy to help you guys out with it. If it starts to get too extreme, we do use flow simulations to confirm the actual casting and make sure that, you know, everything will still make a good part. On the flip side, though, and actually for the one or couple of people that said the heavier the better, there is that perceived value of something that’s heavy versus something that’s light, and sometimes it’s actually a selling component for a specific product. So, I have two examples of that. One is a safety device, similar to kind of like that Life Alert. So, it’s kind of a one touch button to signal emergency help. It started out kind of like the other examples as a plastic component, and due to strength, and also kind of the feel and weight of it, it actually was moved to a zinc die casting. So, this allowed the component to hold up better, which was great, but it also kind of gave that weight to the user when they would pick it up that almost showed the value, showed that it made it feel higher quality, which is just kind of some of the mentality that, you know, we have. The same logic applies to the Tesla handles. So, those were zinc die castings, too. So, again, that feel of when you’re popping open the door, and having the weight behind it, it just feels more luxurious. It feels more higher quality. So, this is something that, you know, certain products really tend to go towards as opposed to maybe some of the opposite where you’re trying to get as much weight out of it as possible. Okay. I’m going to hand it back over to Adam to talk a little bit about finishing.

Adam Scichitano: All right. Thanks, Max. I know there’s been a lot of questions on finishing. So, hopefully we can touch base here and clear the air on certain things. So, with zinc, very similar to aluminum to be honest with you all. Zinc is very friendly when it comes to having options for secondary finishing. There’s some very specific differences between aluminum and zinc, but most of anything that’s applied to an aluminum product has the ability to be applied to a zinc product. One of the advantages of zinc, especially with the multi-slide process is that there are non-rack, or non-part-to-part operations that are available to us, what we considered are called bulk or barrel operations that allow us to do plating and secondary finishing in a much more economical manner, but what we’ve got here is a short list of the long list, primary coatings that are available for zinc process. Typically, it’s going to come down to corrosion or functional requirements, with _____ 0:36:34.1 requirements that we got on the second column on the right, and then appearance. Is it cosmetic, is it not a cosmetic component? And then the other real key item that some customers pay attention to is wear. What can we do to increase the wear resistance of zinc and give us a better durability when interacting with other components or parts that are not necessarily die cast, as well. So, the list is pretty condensed as we’re looking at here, but there is a very large availability of secondary coatings, really depending on the application. So, any specifics, is things that we’d be definitely willing to look at, and go forward, and look through with everybody, but there’s definitely finishing available to answer most of those questions out there. You’re not stuck with bare zinc in your application if your application requires something different. Just a couple of examples that we’ve got here of things that we currently make or have made in the past. One that everybody, I’m sure, is very familiar with, or either uses, or are familiar with at least. You got Gillet handles on the left. Those are a zinc die cast component in many cases. They are chrome plated, either sat in chrome, bright chrome depending on the customer and everything of that nature. Moving down to the bottom, we’ve got some very special, or specialty coating colors that have been developed over a period of time. One of the things that I’ll add, too, is that the coating area is one of the things that is constantly in development. Because of the different methods of manufacturing, there’s constantly coatings that are being developed, whether it’s color, application, finish, whatever the customers are looking for, the coaters that are out there are readily available to work with us and try to develop something that is more application specific. In the middle, we’ve got earbuds or headphones that are wet paint or powder coated. We’ve got additional metal chrome plating on the paddle shifters on the top for the Porsche steering wheel, and then on the bottom right, we’ve got the powder coated, heat safe, four cree lightbulbs. So, again, all zinc components. All have different levels of coating, really tailored to the customers end requirements. Okay. Moving on to Max. Part consolidation and what are some additional advantages of zinc die cast.

Max Gondek: Great. So, yeah, as Adam said, there were a ton of questions on finishing. So, we’ll definitely try to get to as many of them as we can at the end of this, but if we can’t, one of us, someone will reach out to you and definitely make sure, especially if it’s maybe a question that has a little bit more back and forth. Okay. So, jumping on to part consolidation. One of the fantastic thing with die casting in general is the ability to take multiple components and kind of stick them together in some complex shape, you know, you aren’t limited as much by, you know, the geometry as you are in maybe a stamping or something of that nature. When you go to the multi-slide zinc world, it almost makes that even easier due to the fact that the tool is, in essence, designed by default with multiple pulls in multiple directions whereas in, like conventional tool, while you can add it, it makes a little bit more complexity to the tool, but it’s almost there by default with respect to multi-slide. So, there’s a tremendous opportunity there to really consolidate components and put a lot into, you know, a small multi-slide zinc die casting. This example here actually has a few actually really good points to it. The first one being, really consolidation of parts. So, when you think of that, a lot of times you think of I’ve got these two weldments that I stick together, and I weld them together, and now I’m going to replace that with one die cast, which is an awesome opportunity, something we do all the time. Another opportunity, though, of parts consolidation is the removal of actual fasteners. So, in this specific example, it’s quite a small component, you know, maybe about an inch or so large. The customer was actually struggling with the opportunity to use conventional joining methods, such as screws, or anything like that, just due to the physical size of the components. This wraps around a, you know, kind of connector cable, and it needs to be small and compact, and there just really wasn’t enough room for your kind of conventional screw. So, thankfully, with zinc, and due to the elongation of it, you’re able to do more like a snap in place kind of feature. So, if you look at the image on the left, what we were able to do is actually take the casting and actually allow a clip on it. So, as you push the two parts together, they in essence, click together and really kind of bond together mechanically. So, this was a, you know, big cost savings for the customer. They were able to remove some components and make the assembly process easier. So, definitely a big win. If you look at the second from the left. If you look at those components there you actually see there’s external threads. So, another example of what Adam was talking about. Zinc is a perfect opportunity for that, both multi-slide and conventional zinc, in order to do external threads, which helps remove the machine operation, but kind of one other benefit to this is that there’s those kind of fingers on the edge of the threaded surface. So, if you look at the picture to the right, those can actually get clamped inwards, and kind of hold onto that cable. So, those are plastically deformed and actually provide some more additional retention to it. So, you know, you got a lot of really cool things happening in a pretty small component, and what’s even better is, you know, due to the multi-slide zinc process, it can be done really economically. So, you know, you’re solving a ton of problems, but you’re doing it very quickly, and also very economically. So, it’s not something that you normally run into in the manufacturing world, but you know, in this case it can definitely be a solution to having a good solution to a problem and do it without spending a ton of money. So, we’ve talked a lot about zinc, you know? I love zinc. Adam loves zinc. Everyone at Dynacast really loves zinc. It’s a fantastic material with a ton of applications, but it isn’t always the best choice. So, we’re both engineers, you know, we want to steer people towards the right technical solution, and sometimes that isn’t zinc. We cast aluminum alloys. We’re very happy to do that, as well, but we just wanted to spend a lot of this time on focusing in on the zinc itself. So, when are some good opportunities, maybe not to pick zinc? So, the one that comes up the most is going to be generally part size. So, zinc die casting in the multi-slide, as we said, can get to, at a maximum, 400 grams. So, you know, they’re relatively small components, and then even in our conventional zinc, we’re kind of limited to a five or kilogram, you know, casting weight. So, really anything beyond that, you know, starts to encroach the aluminum side of things, and just generally speaking, in the industry, the zinc machines, you know, generally don’t go as high as the aluminum machines do, and with respect to tonnages and what kind of physical size castings you can make. The example show here is a shock tower. So, this is something that’s going to be done in, you know, quite a large machine. It’s also going to be quite a large component, and it’s just, you know, it’s not going to be a good fit for zinc mainly because, which is the second point, weight. So, as a component generally gets bigger, it will have more material to it so that, that weight density penalty can be more, I guess, hurtful to the end component, you know, if the component is quite large, those grams maybe turn to pounds, or kilograms in that case, and it just may not make sense for the end component, where when the part is a little bit smaller, that weight penalty that may come up is not as large. You can work through it with wall thickness changes, but you can only do so much with respect to that. Finally, there’s a couple of specific mechanical properties that you’re probably going to want to steer way from. So, if you have a zinc die casting that’s going to see some really high temperatures in operation, you’re going to want to go to something else. This is going to be in the realm of 300 Fahrenheit plus, give or take, but as you tend to encroach above that, the zinc just is not going to perform the way that it should. Also, electrical conductivity. This doesn’t come up as often, but I have seen it. So, if you do need the best electrical conductivity possible, you’re definitely going to want to steer towards an aluminum die casting as opposed to a zinc die casting. Not to say that zinc wouldn’t necessarily work, but aluminum will be better with respect to that. So, we’ve talked a lot about a bunch of, you know, different topics of zinc. I’m going to try to summarize everything. We wanted to make almost like a slide, that if you took a screenshot, it would, you know, kind of give you the highlights of what we were speaking about. So, when you’re talking about, you know, tooling timing, costs, and life, the aluminum is kind of the loser, unfortunately, with the longest lead time, the highest tooling cost, and the least tooling life, and you get a decent improvement when you move to conventional zinc, but even more so if you can move to multi-slide zinc, if the component makes sense. You do have that maximum part size to deal with. So, aluminum you’re at eight kilograms, and conventional zinc, five kilograms, and the multi-slide, 0.4 kilograms, and this is for us, based on our machine sizes. There are, you know, larger die casting machines out there that can make larger aluminum components. Generally speaking, the aluminum is usually more so limited by, it’s called projected area. So, not necessarily the weight of the part, but how big it is with respect to kind of like a length and width, and how much, I guess, tonnage is required to keep the machine closed, but for zinc, though, you get a lot of benefit with respect to tolerances, you know, you can hold something much tighter with conventional zinc, and even a little bit tighter in the multi-slide just due to the thermal distribution that you have and how the tools are produced and built. And then, as Adam was talking about earlier, you know, that zinc just wants to come out of the tool a lot easier than aluminum does. So, because of that, you can use less draft as well, which is also usually a huge win in design space. You’ve got that unfortunate, you know, density and weight penalty to zinc, but we’ve got some methods that we can work around that. And then finally, really a big benefit is that you can do those external threads in both conventional zinc and the multi-slide zine where you just aren’t really able to do that repeatedly and robustly in aluminum. So, that about sums up the zinc aspect of it. I’m going to hand it back off to Adam and talk a little bit about Dynacast and who we are.

Adam Scichitano: All right. Thanks, Max. So, Dynacast, who we are. So, Max and I are located here in North America, along with a couple of our other facilities, but we are a global manufacturer. So, we do have 21 facilities spread out across the globe, 19 countries. Each one of those facilities has their own repertoire of machines, but overall, we’ve got 800 of them. Anything from our four-ton hot chambers zig die cast machines all the way up to our 500-to-600-ton aluminum die cast machines. So, we are a global zinc die caster, and we do produce zinc, aluminum, and magnesium. So, regularly, we do work with customers on applications, and it’s always our goal to really propose the overall best production intent method of a component. So, here we’re talking about zinc. There’s definitely opportunities where customers come to us looking for die cast aluminum because aluminum is what they are familiar with, but if it’s a good fit for the zinc application, then it’s certainly something that we’re going to propose, and at least want to have a little back and forth dialog with you guys just to make sure that it’s not something that’s overlooked. As we said, it’s definitely a very cost-effective process from tooling and going from there. So, again, quick screen shot of the globe. So, we are spread out. We’re here to work with out customers in the local regions, but we can definitely be available to answer any questions for you folks, as necessary.

Katie Yarborough: Thank you, so much, Max and Adam for another great webinar. Really appreciate your insight on zinc today. Just a reminder to everyone in the audience, submit your questions via the Q&A, not that we have a lack of them, but just in case there’s anything you’d like answered. We’re going to try to get to it today, and if not, we will have someone follow up via email, but we got a lot of great ones in the bank here. One other thing I wanted to note is the webcast is being recorded. We’ve gotten some questions about that. So, you can use the same link you used to log in, again, in just a few short hours. So, first question, Max and Adam, you can, you know, kind of decide who wants to answer here. Is there any wiggle room on the 400-gram weight limit on the multi-slide castings?

Max Gondek: Yeah. So, I can take that one. Really, the 400-gram is the upmost extreme of probably the upmost extreme anyway. So, it depends a lot on part quality, density, wall thicknesses, that kind of thing, because at that limit, you’re really pushing the machine to the maximum. So, there are instances where you actually, the maximum weight for a specific part may need to be less based on the actual requirements. Definitely no wiggle room to go over that. Katie Yarborough: All right. And will you compare specific strength properties in as-cast and heat-treated forms for some aluminum and sink alloys?

Max Gondek: I don’t have those numbers readily available off the top of my head. I don’t know, Adam, if you’ve got some insight on it. You know, generally speaking, you can definitely eek out a lot more in the aluminum world with some of the alloys getting heat treated, like a T5 you know, maybe T7, T6, something of that nature.

Adam Scichitano: Correct. I would agree with you, Max. A lot of it is very more product specific, too. So, it comes down to what is the overall part design and the geometry, the components, and then how well is the die casting from an overall quality standpoint, too. So, there’s a lot of things that can come into having a direct impact on the overall strength. Call it, improvements with the heat-treating operation, but it’s more of a very part specific, and product specific application question.

Katie Yarborough: Okay. Can Dynacast help us with part consolidation on an assembly we already have?

Adam Scichitano: Definitely. So, I mean, the short answer is yes. That’s one thing that we work regularly with our customers on. A lot of the opportunities that we worked with in the past, especially when it comes to zinc, but specifically multi-slide zinc opportunities is conversation opportunity. So, number one that comes to my mind is a lot of screw machine brass components for machined aluminum components that are small, they fit inside your hand, they fit within that multi-slide tool that we looked at earlier, but along with that is we start looking at things, especially on the multi-slide area where we have the ability to cast much more complex shapes than maybe a machining operation lends itself to. Die casting is one of the things that you have to think about it a little bit conversely when you’re looking at machining, is making a part more complex for die casting doesn’t necessarily always equal a more expensive component, whereas on the machining side of things, the more machining you do, the more time, more material. That typically increases your cost component. On die casting, combining parts and making them more complicated does not always equal a more costly component in the end.

Katie Yarborough: Okay. I’d like to know best design practices for thin wall die casting zinc parts and standards to handle dimensional and geometry characteristics.

Adam Scichitano: I’ll take that one. So, with respect to the dimensional side of things, we usually utilize, NADCA, the North American Die Cast Association as kind of a really good, just starting point. We can definitely hold specific things much tighter, you know, where as needed, but I always like to direct people towards that as a really good resource. Our website also has, you know, basically the same information as well as a good starting point of what kind of tolerances. A lot of time, die casting tolerances aren’t necessarily based on, you know, the feature itself with respect to, like a whole, but more so the size of the feature. So, is it a smaller hole, a larger hole, is the distance between these two things very, you know, great, or is it much less, and that really plays a big role in the tolerance in itself. With respect to the part design, you know, we did a webinar recently on the DFM. So, part design and kind of a rough starting point. It’s probably difficult to answer that question quickly, but I would say for that, it’d be best to just reach out to us with kind of what you’re thinking, and really the product you’re trying to achieve, and you know, we could have a quick call and discuss it with you.

Katie Yarborough: Okay. Due to the political and economical crisis, is there a material shortage globally to be expected or already ongoing, and then cost increases since the year 2020?

Adam Scichitano: Right now we are not seeing a material shortage on raw die cast zinc or die cast aluminum. There most certainly is an economical impact because of what’s going on across the globe, with regards to cost. Right now, there’s a couple of questions that have come through with regards to part costs and everything of that nature. So, right now zinc and aluminum, relatively speaking, are running roughly the same price per pound. Both of them are roughly around the two dollars, give or take, for price costing, and that we have seen a significant increase on that over the last six to eight months. With regards to other economics, there is definitely an impact on the economics, job increases, wages increase, things of that nature. One of the big things about zinc die casting compared to aluminum die casting that has a direct impact on final part cost is what Max very early touched on, is the overall cycle speed of the machine. So, even though zinc is more dense than aluminum is, the production rate that we can produce components at the zinc level, compared to aluminum level makes it a very cost effective process. It overall has a greater impact, at times, than the straight material to material cost savings. So, the production rate is one of the bigger impacts than necessarily the material on a multi-slide or small zinc die casting.

Max Gondek: To build on that, what I’ve see, too, a lot from customers is, you know, we ourselves haven’t seen a shortage of aluminum or anything like that, but a lot of our customers have had some significant issues getting components, especially from outside the country. So, we’ve seen a lot of, you’d maybe call it, reshoring or taking a component that was maybe made overseas, bringing it back to North America to be produced here, just mainly from a safety aspect of getting the components to the customer and having that one less variable of customs and international travel.

Katie Yarborough: Okay. Got time for a couple more. This is a good one. Are there limits on the number of parts per year where you would not recommend zinc? This person says, my company would be in the range of 100 to 10,000 parts per year.

Max Gondek: Not really. There’s parts that we produce on an annual basis that may be 500 to 1000 pieces a year for some customers, and then there’s some components that we produce that are in the millions for customers. It really comes down to ROY in the grand scheme of things, the economics. Does it make sense to invest in a dedicated die cast tool for the component, and what is the end component price come back to. Quick example is if you’re currently machining the part and that is your only option, and it’s costing you 300 to 400 dollars of a component, when you start looking at that times, you know, 10,000 pieces, you’re spending a pretty good chunk of change on components whereas you’re going to have to make an upfront capitol investment on the die cast tool side of things, which is probably the biggest difficulty when it comes to, what I’ll say is lower volume components, but the ROY may be one year, or it maybe even less than one year payback if your end part price is in the 20 to 30 dollar range. So, it really comes down to each situation for the customer and the simple economics of it. Does it make sense and what’s the return on investment?

Katie Yarborough: All right. I’ve got one more, maybe, let’s see. Are die casting alloys proprietary in nature, are commercial designations, such as Zamak 3, readily available from other suppliers as well?

Adam Scichitano: So, there are some that are more of a licensed material. That’s probably a better way of putting it. And these might have fancier mechanical properties, or something of that nature. I rarely run into something that would say proprietary. You tend to have to pay an extra fee to utilize that alloy. So, it would be more expensive per pound than maybe something that’s a little bit more wildly accessible, like Zamak 3, or something more with a kind of a global standard. It’s probably the best way to put it.

Katie Yarborough: All right, if you’re real quick. Can zinc components be prototyped, either by machining or 3D printing.

Max Gondek: Yes. They can. So, I’m not familiar with any 3D processes that are available yet, for zinc, but from a machining or investment casting, low volume prototypes are available. There are a couple of different options, especially ones that we offer right off the bat. You can buy Zamak material, actually, in cast or solid comcast form, and that can be machined from ______ 0:58:33.9, just like you would want aluminum for prototyping and testing purposes. The other option is you can do low pressure casting options, spin casting, investment casting, things of that nature, to also produce a part. Both of those options are not going to give you, ultimately, strength results that are comparable to die casting. Die cast will outperform those by about 25 to 30 percent, but if it’s from a fit form function, you know, low testing, strength testing option, those are definitely viable options. The other option is what we consider or call, pull ahead tooling options or die cast tooling options, maybe a single cavity rather than multi-cavity die cast tools, things like that, but there definitely, most certainly are prototype options available out there.

Katie Yarborough: Awesome. So, unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for today. We did have a lot of great questions we still didn’t get to, but we will be sure to have someone from Dynacast follow up with you after today’s webinar. This webinar is part of our ongoing series. So, be on the lookout for other emails. We have a lot of other great topics planned for this year. And then one more round of applause. Thanks Max and Adam. Great job today. Lots of great information on zinc. We hope everyone has a really good week, and thanks for joining.

Adam Scichitano: Thanks, everybody. Bye.

Max Gondek: Thanks, everyone. Bye now.

 

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Last updated 06.13.2022