The manufacturing sector is looking to clean up its act.
In recent years there has been a deliberate shift towards more sustainable processes and products, as foundries and production facilities alike strive to improve their carbon footprint.
Doing so is that bit easier for those working with aluminium, which just so happens to be a material of choice for MRT Castings.
Long known as the Green Metal, aluminium boasts a host of environmental benefits which add to an already stellar reputation.
In this article, we’ll explore them all.
The Origins of Aluminium
To appreciate aluminium is to understand its origins. This is a material that stems from bauxite, a type of ore that can be found in deposits on or close to the Earth’s surface in most corners of the globe.
Once located, bauxite is extracted and turned into aluminia before being smelted into aluminium as we know it. Indeed 90% of it is converted as described.
‘Al’ is actually the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust. It also happens to be the second most used in metal work applications.
This comes as little surprise given its qualities, which are many and varied …
The Advantages of Aluminium
Aluminium is incredibly tough, especially when paired with one of magnesium, lithium or silicon. In fact, this is a metal that can be engineered to be as strong, if not stronger than steel.
Given those traits you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s on the heavier side. The opposite is true. Amazingly, aluminium weighs between 2.6 and 2.8g per cm3, or roughly 1/3 of the density of steel.
Its versatility comes courtesy of malleability and is another factor which appeals to manufacturers from a whole manner of sectors.
Sure enough, aluminium is recognised as the second most malleable metal on earth. The combination of a low melting point and high density make it incredibly ductile and ideal for complex components with unique parts.
Unlike steel and iron, aluminium will not corrode. Instead, it forms a thin oxide coating which acts as a protective barrier, protecting it from elements that would negatively impact lesser materials.
When exposed to prolonged fire, aluminium will melt rather than burn – making it far safer to deploy in a host of applications.
That said, it can withstand great temperatures, hence it being used as a heat and electricity conductor. The metal has long been the go-to for major transmission lines.
Finally, aluminium presents a cost-effective material. Granted, the initial extraction process is costly, but few have to worry about that, given there is so much to go around. And the reason it’s so readily available of course is its sheer recyclability…
That leads us neatly on to the aforementioned environmental benefits. Here’s a summary of why this metal is the most sustainable means of creating castings…
The Environmental Qualities of Aluminium
Firstly, aluminium is the easiest of all metals to recycle.
This is proven by the fact that 75% of the total ever produced remains in use today. That spans almost 200 years, in case you were wondering.
This is made possible because it can be re-imagined time and again without ever losing those defining properties. Only contamination can prevent continuous recycling.
MRT can certainly attest to that, given 95% of aluminium die casts are made up of nothing but recycled materials.
The re-melting of aluminium itself uses just 5% of the energy required to produce the primary material. To put another way, you can save 95% of the energy needed to produce it from raw materials.
The pollution typically associated with mining is greatly reduced, with less need to blast surfaces loose or deploy shovels and/or draglines thereafter.
Recycling just one tonne of aluminium saves nine tonnes in CO2 emissions.
Sources of Power
Those overseeing the recycling process also call upon greener sources of power to melt down those all-important aluminium scraps.
Examples include geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear and solar energy – all of which have little to no impact on the environment.
Given aluminium is relatively lightweight it is far easier for vehicles to carry, the reduced load naturally resulting in reduced fuel consumption.
Shipping pollution and emissions are therefore lessened when castings are transported overseas.
It’s also worth highlighting the speed at which aluminium can be recycled. No drawn-out process, it’s not uncommon for cans of drink to be disposed of and then re-shelved in six short weeks. This means there is rarely a shortfall.
The MRT Approach
The pressure to adopt eco-friendly manufacturing processes and with them sustainable materials is understandable. Mechanical and industrial engineers have a responsibility to adhere to green initiatives and it’s certainly one MRT Castings take seriously.
Our environmental impact is one greatly reduced due to the adoption of die casting, by far and away the most efficient and environmentally friendly production process.
Unlike sand moulds, which must be disposed of after only one use, those derived from dies can be deployed thousands of times over. Moreover, the materials associated with die casting are easily recyclable – none more so than aluminium for the reasons outlined above.
If parts both complex and critical can be made from sustainable materials, they really should be.
Ready to discuss a casting idea?
MRT Castings are experts with over 70 years’ experience in the manufacture of high-quality aluminium and zinc die castings, across a wide range of applications and industries.
If you need help to choose a casting process, or you’d like to discuss the next steps, contact our team today.