The importance of zinc die casting in automotive industry
With casting process there is often no need of further machining after casting: not only its accuracy is up to 99.8%, but casted products also can be used raw, since they have a pleasant finish. Zinc die casting usage is almost 28% in automotive industry, followed by building and hardware sectors.
Zinc has become one of the most important metals in automotive parts industry, especially for products like door lock housing, pawls, retractor gears and pulleys in seat belt system, but also for the camshaft and sensor components. By using this metal and its alloys, it is possible to reach a strength, ductility and malleability that will not be possible with other materials.
Moreover, zinc can be the right choice to obtain high quality aesthetic components, with strict tolerances impossible to achieve with other materials, and to obtain embossing and grooves for mechanical or gear components.
AUTOMOTIVE ZINC DIE CASTING COMPONENTS
As said before, automotive industry is the most common application of die casting: by using zinc and its alloys is possible to produce components capable of reaching high aesthetic quality , with strict and narrow tolerances for shapes morphology. Zinc alloy is also used for plating purposes because of its many benefits, such as enhancing the already impressive anti-corrosion zinc properties.
Hereunder you can find a selection of examples of what is possible to produce with zinc plating:
- Interior aesthetic parts
- Sunroofs parts
- Mechanical parts
- Engine and other under-the-hood components
- Power steering systems
- Brake parts and systems
- Air-conditioning components and systems
- Chassis hardware
- Parts in seat belt system
- Climate control components
- Fuel systems
In the next paragraph, we will proceed with a list of zinc alloys advantages.
Zinc alloys advantages
Zinc alloys in die casting allows to develop products and to simplify production, providing a durable end-product. Zinc strength, ductility and stability allows specialists to obtain a better and more resistant product. It is this high ductility that makes zinc ideal for die casting process, in which it is necessary to sustain pressure and expansion without fracturing. Other zinc alloys advantages are used in die casting, such as:
- Electrical and thermal conductivity
- Raw material low cost
- Strong stability, which grants a long-lasting end product with high quality finishing properties
- Thin walls: they contribute to corrosion resistance for end products, increasing their durability in harsh environment
- Economical for small parts
- Low melting point, which means it requires less energy for production
- Dies have a longer tool life
- Complex geometries and quality finishing: by using zinc it is possible to cast intricate, thin walled and technically demanding parts with high precision
- Top quality coating and chrome plating: zinc die casting components are fit for electroplating
Zinc vs other materials
Each alloy has its own characteristics in terms of physical and mechanical properties: these factors are fundamental to determine longevity, strength and functionality of products. Product complexity, its wall thicknesses and the required precision will influence how castable it is: these elements should be considered main points to better organize a die casting production.
There are different methods of die casting, depending on design application and metal choice: hot chamber or cold chamber are just two of them. Hot chamber die casting is ideal for metal with low melting temperatures, for example zinc or magnesium, while cold chamber processes are used for alloys such as aluminum, which have higher melting temperatures.
Zinc alloys compete with other materials in die casting industry: aluminum, cast iron, machined brass, machined steel and magnesium, together with zinc, are the most commonly used metal in die casting products. Choosing alloys is a tough operation: the die caster has to analyze application, material density, tensile strength, yield strength, melting temperature and elasticity to obtain a better outcome with all its functional and aesthetical requirements.
1. Zinc alloys vs Aluminum
One of the main difference between aluminum and zinc alloys is zinc low melting temperature and its need for lower pressure during die casting. For these reasons zinc alloys are the most castable ones. Having a low melting temperature allows zinc die casting tools to last longer, and since dies are expensive, using them for a longer time is a cost-effective approach to high volume of production.
Moreover, zinc can be cast with HPDC, which is less expensive than cold chamber process; by using HPDC it is possible to increase production speed. Aluminum alloys, on the other hand, are normally casted with cold chamber procedure, which is less productive than hot chamber process used for zinc.
In addition, zinc is more suitable for very detailed castings and very little machining or finishing work is needed after ejection of the component from die: low pressure and low melting point reduce thermal shock during casting, giving a smoother surface to the component. Moreover, the superior zinc formability and machinability gives costs advantages in finishing and assembly operations.
There is another downside to aluminum die casting: it tends to produce sparks after impacting against iron or steel. This forbids its use in risky environment where explosive atmospheres can develop. Instead, zinc is a non-sparking material and thus it is free from this risk and it is suitable even for those environments.
In general, zinc has a better precision, smaller draft angles, smaller and longer cored holes, much longer tools life, thinner wall sections possible, superior tensile strength, better machinability, better formability, lower casting costs, superior pressure tightness, more finishing options and it is a non-sparking material when compared to aluminum.
2. Zinc alloys vs cast iron
Zinc, in comparison to cast iron, has lower casting costs, more precision and superior thermal and electrical conductivity. However, it is difficult to compare cast iron with zinc alloys because there are a large range of materials for iron casting, each with different properties, so that is impossible to strictly define them.
3. Zinc alloys vs machined brass
Zinc alloys have lower process costs, lower material costs, less process scrap and equivalent or superior tolerances achievable than machined brass. As before, the term brass regards a wide range of cast materials, with many different mechanical properties and is impossible to define each of them.
4. Zinc alloys vs machined steel
Compared to machined steel, zinc has lower process costs, a superior corrosion resistance and equivalent or superior tolerances achievable.
5. Zinc alloy vs magnesium die castings
One of the main differences between magnesium and zinc alloys is that zinc alloys need lower pressure and temperature for casting. Unlike magnesium, which requires a special treatment for corrosion resistance and finishing, zinc alloys have excellent corrosion resistance and a better surface right after being ejected from the die.
Magnesium has a really low density and, just like zinc, magnesium alloys can be die casted using HPDC: for this reason, they have faster cycle times than aluminum. However, zinc properties are superior to those of magnesium in every aspect.
Zinc, when compared to magnesium, has lower processing costs, lower draft angles, better precision, superior stiffness, superior tensile strength, better corrosion resistance, superior formability, longer tool life, more finishing options and it is a non-sparking material.
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