How does sand casting support electric vehicle prototyping?
Sand casting can be used to support electric vehicle (EV) development with 'Make Like Production', bespoke alloys, lightweighting, and rapid prototyping.
Driving a greener, leaner EV future with sand casting
Sand casting is a flexible, innovative and fast process. It's used to create high-precision, high-integrity complex castings which support mass production of EV components, including battery tray enclosures, EDU housing units and large structural castings.
Sand casting and EV: Market driven innovation
In the long term, and to achieve carbon neutral future, EV is considered key to achieving carbon-neutral transport globally. The upward trend of the electrification of transport vehicles in undeniable. In 2018, 2.1 million electric vehicles were sold, up 65% from 2017. Sales remained steady in 2019 but saw a 25% reduction in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, EVs will come to dominate passenger vehicle sales over the next 20 years. The study predicts that EV will make up 10% of all passenger vehicle sales in 2025, growing to 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040.
This growing demand for electric vehicles means that existing automotive manufacturers and new entrants are looking to innovate and adapt existing technologies. Innovations such as IDRA's Giga Casting machine are driving a paradigm shift in automotive manufacturing.
Given the high-levels of investment in high-volume automotive manufacturing, the ability to innovate, and produce rapid prototypes provides manufactures with a discrete competitive advantage. This ebook seeks to give an overview of how sand casting can assist in the rapid prototyping of innovative EV components.
An overview of the sand casting process
Sand casting a flexible, relatively low cost, precision and data-driven manufacturing process capable of meeting the highly technical demands required by EV.
The versatility of sand casting allows large, lightweight structural castings to be created, in almost any alloy, at any size and with complex geometries in a single part. This flexibility makes sand casting suitable for prototyping, as well as enhancing the specific material properties required in electric vehicle components for lightweighting and strength.
Read more: What are the most common casting methods?
High-integrity, reliable EV sand castings. Fast.
Design for Manufacture optimises part and process design to achieve innovative, complex castings with the Make Like Production (MLP) characteristics needed in large, lightweight parts for electric vehicles. Rapid prototyping means these can be produced quickly.
Developing bespoke alloys
One of the greatest advantages of sand casting is the ability to cast with a range of aluminium alloys. We have access to a huge range of compositions which we tailor to achieve customer attributes of strength, durability and ductility.
A sustainable production process
Sand casting is a sustainable method of manufacturing and almost 100% circular. The sand and metal used can be recycled and reused across the process.
Precision EV sand castings
Finishing, machining and inspection capabilities ensure component parts meet the high tolerances specified in EV automotive applications.
The benefits of sand casting for electric vehicles
Sand casting allows for rapid prototyping and Make Like Production (MLP) options for manufacturers looking to develop EV components quickly and cheaply.
With it's inherent geometric flexibility, sand casting offers numerous opportunities for EV manufacturers to experiment with part count reduction, new alloys and materials, plus much more.
Here, we look at four key areas where sand casting can add value to your programme.
1. Innovative rapid prototyping with sand casting.
3D additive sand printing of cores and moulds enables rapid prototyping of components for electric vehicles. We're a leader in this technology and have a large 3D additive sand printing facility in-house at G&W.
Rapid prototyping delivers proof of concept, design validation and safety testing quickly, as well as the ability to alter or optimise structural part designs. This allows us to replicate fully the production intent ahead of mass production, getting production started very quickly.
For fast moving EV automotive projects, this versatility and speed is extremely valuable.
2. Producing large, lightweight castings for EV in any alloy, at any size.
Sand casting is limited only by the size of mould produced. This means that large, lightweight structural parts can be produced in any alloy and at any complexity. While upscaled production is unlikely to be a sand casting, fully replicating function, shape and performance relevance with a high-precision sand casting will save your project time and cost in the long run.
The flexibility of sand casting has huge benefits for electric vehicle components, allowing large structures such as EDU housings and battery trays to be cast in a single net part. This reduces the need for extra joining, reducing weight.
3. Maximising material properties of EV components with bespoke aluminium alloys.
Sand casting offers huge versatility in achieving the mechanical and material properties required in each EV components. The ability to create bespoke, lightweight aluminium alloys means EV properties such elongation, strength and conductivity can be maximised by controlling the solidification rates - often without requiring additional heat treatment.
High-tech simulation using Magma can also model alloy behaviour.
4. Proving concept with high-integrity Make Like Production prototyping capability.
Prototyping with sand casting delivers Make Like Production (MLP) parts quickly, accurately and at a relatively low cost compared to other manufacturing methods.
For EV automotive, this delivers proof of concept at a MLP integrity level. This is true for product and concept, but it also fast tracks proof of manufacturing concept. Ultimately, this will speed up manufacturing and reduce programme risk, while also supporting the move into low volume and potential mass production; testing for safety, tolerance and specification.
Driving casting innovation with make like production
IDRA's Giga press casting has been used by Tesla to massively drive casting innovation, effectively casting half a car. The benefits for electric vehicles are huge- including 370 fewer parts, 10% mass reduction, 14% range increase.
With the right type of innovation, sand casting can be used to prototype large structural parts that exhibit production properties (i.e. similar characteristics to parts produced using high-pressure die casting). The prototype development time can be measured in weeks. It helps provide proof of concept, validates performance, design, safety and material properties, before moving into mass EV component production.
This advance in casting technology presents exciting opportunities for the EV automotive industry, driving technical innovation and potential to hit the price points required for mass adoption.
Adopting a "Make Like Production" approach to prototyping can help shorten product development cycles significantly. Ensuring that your foundry has access the relevant skills in casting simulation, rapid core printing, alloy/material selection, and casting validation techniques (e.g. CT Scanning, GOM, etc.) is critical to capturing the benefits of rapid prototyping and MLP.
How can sand casting help you over the valley of innovation?
The journey from the ‘art of the possible’ to reliable production of a complex metal part can be a difficult (and expensive) path for engineers to navigate, particularly in producing EV components. Many projects do not survive the Valley of Death.
But sand casting can provide the solution. Its ability to manipulate material composition and properties, part structure and process design enables moving from design theory to 'lighter, faster and cleaner' production much more likely.
Prototyping with the sand casting process, including with 3D sand printing is fast, allowing for various iterations and innovations in design and production to be made quickly, and at a relatively low cost. This allows the necessary versatility and high tech capability required in EV automotive engineering projects.
Much of the work that we do is confidential as we are working with market leaders at the cutting-edge of innovation. However, sometimes we take on projects or research that we can share. Download a copy of the ebook to read about the research G&W have performed with specific application to EV casting technology.
We have developed insight and experience of casting battery trays, EDU housing, Front/Rear under body components, and other EV structural parts.
The graphs below provide a sneak peak into the type of work we are undertaking with alloy development and body structure castings. We achieved elongation values not typically seen in sand castings via the use of bespoke alloys and heat treatment processes.
To read more download a copy of the ebook here.