Light metals casting is being made more energy and material efficient thanks to our Small is Beautiful project.

Key Facts

    • Our Small is Beautiful project focuses on reducing the amount of energy used in manufacturing processes.

    • One part of this is looking at how to make light metals casting more energy and material efficient, which has led to a new technique called CRIMSON.

    • It is hoped that energy usage will be reduced by a third, by adopting new guidelines and potentially investing in foundries, using new approaches from the Small is Beautiful project.

  • Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Impact of our research

We are looking at how to make light metals casting more energy and material efficient as part of the Small is Beautiful project.

A new technique called CRIMSON has been introduced which could reduce the energy costs of light metal / aluminium foundries by at least 50%. This enables foundries to heat only enough material needed to fill a single mould rather than whole batches of metal melted as in their current approach.

CRIMSON (which relies on a counter-gravity casting method) minimises the oxidation of liquid metal which develops during the traditional method’s pouring process, leading to improved yield as well as a better quality material.

Why the research was commissioned

The UK is at the forefront of light metal casting and investment casting technologies which are vital to the global aerospace and automotive industries. There are some 400 foundries based in the UK; there are also around half of the European investment casting foundries located in the UK.

We currently use the energy equivalent of every man, woman and child boiling a kettle twice a day, every day of the year, just to melt the aluminium for casting in the UK.

Also, the last available figures (2012 world census) suggested 16 million MWhrs (megawatt hours) of energy is used every year in British foundry manufacturing processes, which is 4% of the entire energy use of the UK.

Why Cranfield?

We provide tailored solutions to issues around manufacturing processes for industrial clients, using a systems approach to identify the root causes of problems and recommending evidence-based solutions.

A different mindset towards the scale of metal casting activities accompanies these new processes. CRIMSON advocates ‘small is beautiful’, only using precise amounts of raw material for casting and aiming for this to give higher yields than found in traditional techniques. The castings produced are of a higher quality than under previous techniques, leading to a reduced scrap rate and lower remelting costs.

Facilities used

CRIMSON Laboratory.