With guest speaker, top journalist and editor Eve Pollard, a meal representing the regions of the UK, the packed room at The Manor Hotel, Meriden was testament to an industry coming together in positive mood to celebrate the ‘Best of British Casting’.
As usual it was a night for business to be discussed, awards battled over and for old friends and colleagues to meet up over good food and good company, and with around 170 sitting down to dinner it was a night to remember.
When it came to the awards, co-presented by Pam Murrell of the Cast Metals Federation (CMF) which organises the event, and Eve Pollard, there were some key themes of high quality casting and investment in the people of the future with company training schemes.
The ‘Component of the Year’ award was won by Shield Aluminium Diecastings for its 2m long off-road vehicle step casting for the US SUV market. Previously manufactured as a pressing this international team effort led by Shield was an impressive project from start to finish according to the judges. The ‘Company Achievement’ award was won by Harrison Castings for its turnaround in sales, investment in building, plant and people and successful move into the North American market. The third award, for ‘Innovation’, was won by BCAST at Brunel University London in conjunction with Sarginsons Industries for the development of BD1, a new high strength, high ductility cast aluminium alloy.
“Once again we see the very best of the UK foundry industry here today,” said Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of the CMF. “despite its tendency to hide its light, this industry is innovating, investing, succeeding, and showing great technical and commercial acumen on a regular basis. It is important to highlight those that lead the way, but also important to recognise that these are the tip of the iceberg and good work is happening in our industry day in and day out.”
So who were the winners and finalists in the three awards categories, and why?
Component of the Year
Winner: Shield Aluminium Diecastings, Northampton
Shortlisted: Casting Technology International, Rotherham and Wall Colmonoy, Swansea.
The step for the US off-road SUV Ford Raptor had previously been made as a sheet pressing and HPDC, and Shield Aluminium Diecastings were challenged to turn it into a low pressure casting. Over 2m long and 215mm wide with a wall thickness of 3-5mm the safety critical casting weighs only 19kg, has a high quality surface finish and minimal as-cast distortion.
Working with an Australian based Ford Group Design Team for supply of production castings to the USA based assembly line, to very short deadlines, the development team from Ford, Shield Aluminium Die Castings, working with HCM Engineering Ltd for the tooling & Maxima Engineering for the process methods, optimisation and robustness simulation using the tools contained in the latest MAGMASOFT® release, never physically met. Design, process and tooling development were all completed to prove manufacturability and right first time sample batch castings, supplied in three months using sometimes daily web based meetings. The judges were impressed not only with the casting, but also the process control and global nature of the project.
“It is a casting that the whole team at Shield Group can be proud of, and brings a whole new area of components into the vision of the casting industry, said Tom Smith, Managing Director of Shield. “As ever in this industry now, the component is the product of a team effort and it is the bringing together of organisations with key expertise from wherever they are in the world to deliver a solution that brings success.”
Shortlisted in the ‘Component of the Year’ award was Casting Technology International for a titanium structural aircraft wing component. Weighing 5.4kg the casting replaces a fabrication of nine machined components, is 20% lighter and has validated the use of titanium castings where previously only ‘machined from solid’ had been accepted.
Also shortlisted was Wall Colmonoy for its patented 316 stainless steel cable protector for the oil and gas industry. An investment casting with an aluminium insert, the cable protector is already saving significant money and time in difficult environments.
Company Achievement Award
Winner: Harrison Castings, Leicester
Shortlisted: Goodwin Steel Castings, Stoke on Trent, Maycast-Nokes Precision Engineering, West Halstead and Wall Colmonoy, Swansea.
Harrison Castings is an aluminium foundry employing 100 people based in a 1930’s building. Facing a decline in the large diesel market and deteriorating buildings, the company set about transforming both their location and their focus to great effect. As well as developing a strategy to build new overseas sales, particularly in North America, it invested in a major refurbishment and capital programme creating a working environment for the future resulting in a 50% growth in sales and profitability.
“The company had reached something of a crossroads with both its location and a drop in traditional markets. The successful turnaround has come from a combination of carefully implemented strategy and a confidence in the capability of the exceptional team we have here,” said Robert Harrison, Chairman of the company.
Shortlisted in the ‘Company Achievement’ award was Goodwin Steel Castings for their investment in apprentices (25 per year across the Group’s UK sites) and the development of bespoke training materials and facilities including a fully equipped lecture theatre.
Also shortlisted for their apprentice training programme was Maycast-Nokes Precision Engineering which, recognising its rural location, has supported a constant flow of apprentices into permanent employment with the company to ensure staff sustainability and expertise. The company was named one of Centrica’s Top 100 Apprentice Employers as well as a winning a number of regional awards.
The final shortlisted company was Wall Colmonoy for its strategic approach to a full company training programme and the development of a Talent Development Group to maximise staff potential and to provide the future leadership and succession planning.
Winner; BCAST, Brunel University London and Sarginsons Industries Ltd.
Shortlisted; PMS Diecasting, Rotherham and Rock Fall UK, Alfreton.
The Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST), a world class research institute, and part of Brunel University London, has developed a new high strength, high ductility cast aluminium alloy as part of the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures (LEAAST) project co-funded by Innovate UK. The alloy development was part of a workstream exploring the next performance opportunities for structural die castings and was developed in conjunction with Sarginsons Industries. The new alloy has a higher silicon content, and through careful development has produced an 85% improvement in ductility compared with LM25 whilst delivering a 25% increase in yield strength. A patent has been filed and considerable interest is being shown by the automotive industry due to the savings in material use and CO2 emissions.
“This new BD1 alloy opens up new possibilities for the structural castings,” said Roger Darlington, Director of Technology at BCAST. “Each advancement in alloy structure and performance brings new components into the realm of casting and takes the industry forward and the BD1 alloy creates a major breakthrough here.
The members of the BCAST Research team, Dr Shouxun Ji and Dr Xixi Dong have worked hard to realise this new alloy and this award is positive recognition of their and Sarginsons’ teamwork. The Innovate UK co-funded project and the resultant BD1 is an example of how universities and industry working together can bring out the very best in each other and also underscores the importance of R&D investment by UK companies.”
“The Cast Metals Federation Awards are our industry’s Oscars so to be recognised at that ceremony was extremely pleasing for everyone connected to the project,” said Anthony Evans, Managing Director at Sarginsons. “This project has been a true collaboration, combining the best of academia and industry, and it is a blueprint for future development in manufacturing.”
Shortlisted in the Innovation category were PMS Diecasting for a hot runner test tool designed to increase productivity and reduce the unit cost of the Gripple, a zinc cast fencing jointing system used throughout the world and produced in vast quantities. The new tool assembly will reduce cycle times and improve casting yield considerably with significant reductions in energy and cost.
The final shortlisted company is protective boot manufacturer Rock Fall UK for their new range of foundry specific protective boots. Robust trials at a working foundry involved immersion in molten metal and assorted demanding tests. With the foundry a place of potential hazard, the judges were impressed at the level of detail the company had introduced into the testing process whilst still producing a cost effective, comfortable & lightweight yet durable boot.