Overview of the 2021 R&D Strategic Plan and Roadmap

This article presents a review of the 2021 NADCA R&D Strategic Plan and Roadmap, this features research results from select projects, and presents a brief objective and current research for each project in the portfolio.

The NADCA Research & Development Strategic Plan and Roadmap provides guidance for the current and future direction of the NADCA R&D Program.  This plan is updated on an annual basis.   The NADCA Strategic Plan and Roadmap is in alignment with the most recent Metalcasting Industry Roadmap which was released in mid-2016. The development of the Metalcasting Industry Roadmap was managed by the American Metalcasting Consortium (AMC) for the entire metal casting industry and funded by the National Institute for Standards and Testing (NIST). The research needs identified in the AMC Roadmap, as well as input from members of the NADCA Technical Committees and the die casting industry are considered for the NADCA Strategic Plan and Roadmap. To address the needs, specific research projects are defined. Based on the defined projects and level of available funding, the 2021 R&D Strategic Plan and Roadmap consists of 21 projects with a total leveraged value of these projects (funding plus cost share) of $6.0 million. This supports a portfolio of projects that addresses various needs within reasonable time periods.


The NADCA Strategic Plan identifies main topic areas that have been identified by industry as strategic.  This plan also ensures that efforts are applied toward further development and advancement of the main topic areas.  Several strategic areas have been identified and are targeted for technological advancement. The primary strategic areas are Process, Materials, Design, and Workforce. Each of these primary areas contains sub-categories such as cast materials development, computer modeling, die materials and die surface engineering, process technologies, additive manufacturing, and others. Process, Materials, and Design are covered in the Die Materials and Research and Development committees.  Workforce, the fourth main topic, is covered in the NADCA Education Program.  Process, Materials, and Design each have sub-topics or focus areas such as additive manufacturing, smart machines and manufacturing, advanced casting technologies, cast materials, die and tooling materials, design tools for manufacturing, and design tools for casting. Within each of these focus areas are more detailed research focus areas and actionable paths to advance a specific state of technology. It is these detailed focus areas that define the NADCA roadmap and specific R&D activities or research projects. Technological advancement of the detailed focus areas is targeted to provide many benefits such as: higher performance alloys, solder reduction, cycle time, productivity improvements, scrap reduction, cost reduction and lead-time reduction.

The NADCA roadmap currently has 21 research projects. (See Table 1). A brief statement of objectives for each project is provided under the Current Projects section. The total leveraged value of the portfolio of current projects, as mentioned above, is approximately $    6,104,679.00.  Sources of funds include the United States Department of Defense (DOD) Defense Logistics Agency R&D (DLA/R&D) Program, and the American Metalcasting Consortium (AMC) and NADCA.

Research Results

Additive Manufacturing

Project 219: Evaluating Material and Powder Size Characteristics for 3D Printed Die Inserts

Research Objectives:  Investigate the relationship between the metal power characteristics and 3D printed part quality and mechanical properties.    Study the 3D printed die properties and performances. (Dr. Yeou-Li Chu)

Key Accomplishments: The planned approach for this project is to start with identification of a tool insert to be manufactured using powder bed fusion - 3D metal printing. The insert is then thermally examined using 3D modeling and thermal simulation to determine an optimum conformal cooling design. After selection of the metal type and powder size, a powder bed fusion 3D printer will be used to construct the selected insert. After the insert is printed and final machining is completed, the insert will be put into a production die cast die to produce castings and evaluate the printed design. At this point, the project has produced several inserts with different cooling designs to evaluate, design, create materials and process to improve the die castings being produced using 3D conformally cooled inserts in a production die cast environment.

Project 213: Rapid Creation of Tooling with Conformal Cooling – Additive Manufacturing (DR. C. Soderhjelm,  WPI)

Research Objectives:  Develop and qualify additive manufacturing design guidelines, processes, and materials for fabrication of rapid tooling, and rapid tooling with conformal cooling lines. Using additive manufacturing as the production process for the tooling.  Die components such as cores and inserts, also referred to as tooling, will be identified from production dies and targeted to be replaced with additive manufacturing methods

Key Accomplishments: WPI has had several conformally cooled inserts built and are currently at Mercury Marine running in high pressure die cast molds.

Project 227: Development of Specifications for Additive Manufacturing of Die Casting – Additive Manufacturing (Dr. S. Midson,  CSM)

Research Objectives:  Develop specification guidelines, using Additive Manufacturing for fabrication of die casting inserts.  

Key Accomplishments:  Dr. Midson has started a literature search for all additive processes and the application to the production of die cast tooling.  

Cast Materials

Project 218: High Ductility Alloys;  This project will carry on from work performed in previous high ductility work, to examine the impact of T7 and annealing heat treatments on the ductility of conventional die casting alloys. For.   (Dr. S. Midson,  CSM)

Research Objectives: The objectives of this project are to characterize the impact of T7 heat treatment and annealing on 360 type alloys.    This project will also characterize the solution heat treatments on strength for low-iron die casting alloys containing copper.  

Key Accomplishments: Testing for mechanical properties for the low-iron A360 alloys obtained in each temper.  This alloy can achieve exceptional levels of ductility for low-iron conventional die castings produced without vacuum.   

Project #221: (ReMade)  Development & Validation of thermodynamic, Kinetic, and process models for material manufacturing involving secondary feed stock.   (Dr. A. Luo,  OSU)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to use this optimized process to produce AA390 solid material in industrially relevant wall thickness with uniform ultrafine microstructure and excellent mechanical property combination of high strength >500 MPa and good ductility >15%. The project will deliver an optimized ultrafine versions of A390 alloys meeting these requirements for lightweighting materials for transport sector.

Key Accomplishments: This project is currently in the literature review.


Die Materials  & Die Surface Engineering

Project 220: Effect of Duplex PVD Coated H-13 Steel on Thermal Fatigue Cracking  (Dr. M. Willard,  CWRU)

Research Objectives: The proposed project will use the thermal fatigue tester in the Case Metals Processing Lab to measure 7 steel samples.    Three specimens are different grades of die steels and the other four test duplex coatings on premium grade H13 steel. 

Key Accomplishments: This project is still in its starting phase.    The test equipment at CWRU has had some maintenance issues and is being prepped for the testing.    The Testing is expected to be started in early June 2020.  

Project 222: Shot blast resistant laser marking of die cast parts.   (M. Petro,  Cascade Die Cast)

Research Objectives: The objectives of this project are to laser mark a series of die cast parts using the initial parameters developed in the Landry et al 2018 paper.   Initial parameters to be used are; fill rate of 80%, cell size of 500 µm to 900 µm, cell depth of 0.55 mm to 0.60 mm.   These parts will be subjected to shot blasting using a steel media and then using a DM262X camera, this will be used for data matrix code (DMC) verification.     The goal of the project is to develop a process for reading a laser etched bar code that is then subjected to a shot blast process on a standard die casting. 

Key Accomplishments: Castings have been produced,  Bar codes have been placed on the parts.   Part presentation to the laser is not repeatable.  

Project 214: Advanced Engineered Coatings with Extended Life for Tooling.   (Dr. S. Midson,  CSM)

Research Objectives: The objectives of this project are to identify and develop permanent die coatings that can be applied to commercial die cast tooling that are truly non-wetted by molten aluminum and to improve the die coatings, so they can survive as long as the life of the die inserts.

Key Accomplishments: This project started with a Literature review of other projects regarding aluminum adhesion and how to prevent adhesion of aluminum.  Three types of bonding forces are being investigated, Mechanical, Chemical and Physical bonding forces.  By understanding the mechanisms for aluminum bonding, CSM is working to design materials that are non-adhesive to aluminum.   Aluminum wetting on solid surfaces is also being studied.   CSM has built an improved test rig for testing of the developed coatings to be used for trials.       

Project #229:  PVD coating on zinc die casting dies  (J. Anderson,  Anderson Die Casting,   R. Winter, Eastern Alloys)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to use PVD coatings on Zinc die cast dies and evaluate the effectiveness in terms of spray reduction and cycle time improvement.  

Key Accomplishments: This project is in the initial starting phase.  

Design Tools / Computer Modeling

Project #215: High Pressure Die Casting Process Simulation Development for the Shop Floor. (DR. J. Moreland, Purdue Northwest)

Research Objectives:  The objectives of this projects are to develop a virtual die casting machine and incorporate flow simulation to allow interactions with process variables and display 3D images of parts based on process variations.  Also, to develop two virtual aluminum melting furnaces (reverberatory and stack melter) that utilize process parameters to determine quality of the metal extracted from the furnace. The virtual furnace will allow users to visualize and optimize the melting process inside the furnace.

Key Accomplishments: Purdue has developed an interactive 3D model of a die casting machine, operator panels and a working virtual model showing the sequencing of the process parameters for a realistic operation of a virtual die cast cell.   


Project #225:  Shrinkage Prediction and validation in high pressure die casting.   (A. Luo, OSU,  et al.)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is physically model using water analog studies and compare that modeling to several software modeling packages i.e. Magma, and then compare both modeling techniques to actual die castings.    The objective is to improve the porosity modeling systems in high pressure die casting

Key Accomplishments:  Water analog tooling has been constructed and tested using various thicknesses of die castings.   This initial modeling has been directly compared to Magma simulation and ProCast simulation.    Differences and similarities have been described.  


Project #226: Die Casting Manufacturing Analysis Tool (CastView update) (C. Monroe, UAB W. Warriner, UAB)  

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to use the initial CastView project and develop an updated version of CastView using Matlab.    This will update the cast view software to a current platform and improve the speed and abilities of the CastView software.

Key Accomplishments: The initial code has been written in Matlab and testing of the software for thick/thin sections of CAD models is currently taking place.


Process Technologies

Project #205: On-Demand Melting (Dr. C. Monroe, UAB Matthew, S. Udvardy, NADCA)

Research Objectives:  To identify and develop melting furnace options for small batch/on-demand melting, and to evaluate methods for transferring/laundering the prepared molten metal to the die casting machine shot sleeve.  To develop a computer program to accurately and quickly calculate the type and amount of master alloys to be added to the melt to create a specified alloy

Key Accomplishments: A test rig has been constructed to validate the computational model that is being developed for Energy consumption and energy efficiency.  This data from the On Demand Melting (ODM) system is being compared to conventional melting and holding technologies.    ODM shows efficiencies from 30% to 40% more efficient than traditional melting and holding systems.   The goal is to achieve a melt rate of 6 seconds per pound.   The next experimental steps are to compare the revised models to the actual energy needed for ODM for a die cast operation. 


Project #210: Develop a Better Performance Refractory for Aluminum Die Casters  (Dr. Wang,  Purdue,   Dr. Y. Chu,  Ryobi,  Various others)

Research Objectives: To understand the ingredient and mix for refractory material to resist Aluminum chemical attack, and to have good mechanical abilities to resist abrasiveness of cleaning, charging and erosive wear of refractory materials.

Key Accomplishments: The study approach has been; To understand the refractory wear conditions, complete a theoretical study of refractory types, determine an optimum refractory material,  complete lab tests of refractory materials and complete a field test of designed refractory material.  Testing criteria are being developed and used to rate refractory materials in contact with molten aluminum.


Project #212: On Demand Casting of Net-Shape Titanium Components for Improved Weapon Systems.    (Dr. C. Monroe UAB, Dr. S.Midson CSM, Dr. X.Wang,  Purdue, Dr. A. Luo, OSU, S. Udvardy, NADCA)

Research Objectives: Identify Process, Die Materials, On-Demand melting of Titanium, and Titanium composition for the die casting of Titanium components. 

Key Accomplishments: This project has 3 main focus areas from 3 universities.    Colorado School of Mines (CSM) is responsible for the development of tooling, and development of a coating for the tooling to withstand the casting process for Titanium die casting.  CSM is also responsible for the titanium alloy composition for die cast ability and high-performance properties.   CSM is completing a literature study for die casting high temperature alloys and coatings that are non-reactive to molten titanium.    The University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) is responsible for the On-Demand Melting (ODM) system to safely and efficiently melt titanium for use in the die cast process.   UAB has produced a test rig for melting high temperature alloys in an argon covered environment.   UAB has currently melted steel, and titanium in the test rig melting environment.   Purdue University is responsible for the development of an Ultrasonic degassing of the molten titanium to maintain casting quality during the die casting operation.  Purdue is currently doing a literature research on degassing methods for high temperature materials and titanium.  The research partners on this are University of Alabama Birmingham, Colorado School of Mines, and Purdue University.


Project #216: Solder is a symptom of die casting sticking (A. Monroe, Mercury Castings)

Research Objectives: The hypothesis is that solder is not the cause of sticking to the die. Instead solder indicates a propensity for sticking. Two experiments will be conducted to support this hypothesis. First, solid aluminum - solid iron diffusion couple experiments will measure the effect of iron concentration on the diffusion coefficient between aluminum and iron. Second, plant floor tests will measure the forces required to separate the casting from the die. The results of these experiments may provide a new avenue of pursuing the elimination of release lubricants

Key Accomplishments: A test Rig has been built with a drafted pin to be able to cast molten material around the pin and measure the friction force during ejection.  From that a derived equation for calculating the ejection force required to remove the pin from the cast material.   360 alloy and 380 alloy were used, and many samples were run and ejection forces measured.   Initial data shows that there was no difference seen in ejection force based on alloy.  It is theorized that the required ejection force and the alloy composition may have different effects at elevated temperatures.  


Project #217: An Initial Evaluation of the Capabilities of Micro-CT Scanning for Measuring and Characterizing Porosity in Aluminum Castings (Dr. S. Midson,  CSM)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to utilize Micro-Computed Tomography (CT) scanning to provide qualitative data on porosity in die castings.    This study will quantify porosity in die castings and start to establish base lines for the ability of Micro-CT scanning and its application to die casting porosity evaluation.  

Key Accomplishments: Dr Midson has completed several scans on die cast test bars and is comparing the porosity found using the CT scanner to different conventional methods.   The CT scanned parts are being evaluated for porosity location and % porosity at each location   The CT scanner is showing that the skin area of the casting has almost zero porosity while the center of the casting may contain as much as 4-5% porosity.    The CT scanner is also being used to distinguish between gas porosity and shrink porosity.      


Project #223: Die Lube Splash test development (Dr C. Monroe)

Research Objectives: Evaluate Die Lubes’ performance through casting/die interfacial heat transfer coefficient (IHTC) perspective during die filing stage and early solidification stage

Key Accomplishments: Test Rigs have been built to be able to adjust the heated plate temperature up to 400 oC.   By being able to manipulate the plate temperature, it simulates a mold temperature and then the die lube wetting temperature and lubricity can be viewed by pouring liquid aluminum on a sprayed plate.   The soldering and sticking of the alloy can be observed as well as the spalling and lubricity of different lube types and ratios.   


Project #211: Properties Versus Section Thickness for Specifications and Standards and Technology Transfer.    (B. Glim, NADCA; P. Brancaleon, NADCA)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to establish typical properties for various section thicknesses of production die castings for better design guidance.  The information will be added to the NADCA Product Specification Standards

Key Accomplishments: A380  alloy has been completed for 4 cross section thicknesses.   The test bar specimens were 2.3mm, 3.4mm 4.7mm and 8-9mm. Specimen test bars were cut from the castings and each tested to determine UTS, Y, %E for each specified thickness.   B360 alloy has also been completed in the F condition and the T7 heat treated condition.   Parts were supplied by Mercury Marine and 4 cross section thicknesses were cut from the castings.   From those samples, test specimens of  2.5 to 9 mm thicknesses were used for mechanical testing.

Project #224: Reduce inspection setup cycle time and cost, using collaborative robotic 3D scanning.    (Mingu Kang,  ARIS Technology,  C. Vian,  FCA)

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to test and evaluate collaborative robotic 3D Scanning processes.   This project is focused on reducing Setup time and Cycle time of inspection of die cast parts.

Key Accomplishments:  This project is in the development phase,  more will be reported in June 2020.


Project #228: Investigate the SPR joint quality of high pressure die cast materials by using a special die set for the piercing and rivet process and compare the results to different heat treatment methods of die cast parts.   (Xuzhe Zhao,  Bollhoff,  Dr. Y. Chu, Ryobi) 

Research Objectives: The goal of this project is to Investigate how the special dies from Bollhoff (RA, RB and RS) comparing to the conventional dies (FM, SM and KA etc.) will improve the crack resistance and joint strength by joining the stamping parts (A6022-T4) and high strength parts (JAC 980 HF steel) with HPDC parts (Ryobi W3 alloy, Aural 5 and NHT alloys) using SPR

Key Accomplishments: This project is just getting started as of March 2020,  



The portfolio of projects remains as well balanced as possible considering the current level of funding support. Results and technological advancements from the R&D Program provide many benefits to the die casting industry including enhanced cast part performance, higher productivity, improved process efficiencies, and lower operating costs.

Note: Future project ideas are included in the AMC Metalcasting Industry Roadmap and NADCA has an inventory of new project ideas. However, new project ideas are continually sought and can be submitted to research@diecasting.org for consideration. The AMC Metalcasting industry Roadmap can be found at  www.diecasting.org/roadmap .

DLA/R&D Funded Projects: 205, 211, 212, 213, 214, and 215
NADCA Funded Projects:  210, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227,228, 229
ReMade Funded Project: 221




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