Recent decades have seen an increase in the use of lightweight, high-performance aluminum castings in car manufacturing. Aluminum helps reduce the car's weight, increase gas mileage, and improve acceleration, braking and handling.
For perspective, the average passenger car now uses 400 pounds of aluminum. That number is expected to increase to 550 pounds by 2025. As this trend has impacted the automotive industry, vacuum impregnation has become the primary method for eliminating the porosity inherent in aluminum castings. To meet the demand for aluminum components, companies have brought vacuum impregnation equipment in-house. They’re taking advantage of recent innovations in these systems.
The 5 main reasons why companies bring vacuum impregnation in house are:
In-house impregnation can be done at a fraction of the piece price for an outside service company. Modern equipment uses minimal labor, is small and compact, and is stingy with resources, including sealant and utilities.
Modern equipment has a variety of features to keep the operator safe. Self-contained modules protect the operator from contact with sealant and hot fluids. Mist eliminators collect water vapor in the exhaust and return it through a drain line for re-use. Better ergonomics allow the operator to slide a lightweight fixture on to the platform for each module.
By operating equipment in-house, companies can eliminate freight and handling cost by not having to outsource impregnation. In addition, companies will have better lot control and part traceability. Lot traceability is imperative to efficiently produce parts. Having lot control and part traceability measures in place means saving money in the long run, protecting the company from recalls and lost inventory, and keeping the company in compliance with standards and regulations.
Both the size and the modular design of modern impregnation systems enable manufacturers to locate the units immediately within the machining, testing or build areas, placing the solution right where it’s needed.
All systems are PLC controlled. This means that data acquisition, an essential in today’s manufacturing environment, can be baked-in to the process to strengthen the plant’s overall quality production system. Individual data points on all key parameters can be collected and stored with individual part serial numbers. If questions arise, a system audit will provide valuable data on every part that has been impregnated.
Control of Quality
In-house processing equipment uses robotic handling, or has better ergonomics for the operator to move parts between modules. This repeatable processing increases recovery rates, and eliminates handling damage and process contamination. By contrast, traditional impregnation service bureaus use batch impregnation systems. Due to their design and functionality, batch systems pose significant quality concerns. Handling damage and process contamination are frequent problems.
Manufacturers are specifying lighter materials, like aluminum, and thinner walls in order to meet higher performance requirements. By integrating modern impregnation systems in-house, companies can remain competitive by controlling the production process, meeting their production volumes, and continuing effectiveness at eliminating casting defects.