In order to understand a foundry, you need to understand the casting process. The general steps involved in casting are patternmaking, molding, melting, pouring, ejection, cleaning, fettling, and inspection.
The final casting shape corresponds with the mold it is poured into, so molds are carefully shaped with a pattern – a wood or metal replica of the object to be cast. The most common mold material is silica sand, but they can be produced from a number of different materials depending on the casting metal and method being used.
A melting furnace is “charged” with metal and heated above the metal’s melting point. Once the molten metal has reached a specific pouring temperature it is tapped from the furnace through a spout into a refractory lined steel pouring ladle. Any slag or impurities are skimmed from the top of the molten metal surface. The ladle is then tipped to pour molten metal into a mold cavity.
Charging is one of the most dangerous operations in the foundry. Mistakes can be lethal.
The mold cools and the metal solidifies, then the casting is ejected from the mold and cleaned. The cleaned casting is finished with fettling, a process which removes excess material from the casting to meet specified dimensions for the finished product. Depending on the casting specifications, fettling can be quick and simple, or extremely detailed work. Finished castings are then inspected by the foundry before being shipped.
Foundries don't just produce raw castings. They house a number of operations that often include part design, tool building, prototyping, machining, assembly and other after-sales services.
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