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History And Evolution Of Metal Casting

History And Evolution Of Metal Casting

The earliest evidence of metal casting dates to the Bronze Age, when people started making tools from metal rather than stone. It has evolved into a complex metalworking technique with many uses. Continue reading to learn more about metal casting technologies development and foundries' rich history.


Metal casting is now a complex, sophisticated operation requiring precise chemistry and flawless execution. Despite modern techniques being relatively novel in human civilization, metal castings date back to 4000 BC. Due to its malleability, gold was the first metal cast in those days. Because it was difficult to obtain pure ore then, metal from tools and decorations was often recycled. However, the earliest casting is a copper frog, created in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) around 3200 BC.

Because bronze is more robust than gold, it was chosen as the preferred metal for casting. Bronze was melted and cast into various tools and weapons using durable stone molds. Using open stone molds, the earliest metal castings were created. This technique produced items with a single flat side, which restricted creativity. Casters turned wax models into plaster molds through the lost wax technique, which has existed since 3,000 B.C. Through the lost wax process, they produced more complex shapes, such as ornamental statues and figurines.

Egypt had mastered casting by 2800 BC, and their skillful application of this technique greatly influenced their ascent to prominence during the Bronze Age.

Ancient China also saw the rapid development of metal casting. Chinese metal casters invented the first method of metal casting during the Shang Dynasty. They were the first to use sand casting, mixing crushed sand with clay to create molds.

Later, in the Zhou Dynasty, approximately 500 B.C., casters created cast iron, mainly used for agriculture. This iron, sometimes known as pig iron, was exceedingly fragile and unsuitable for many objects.


In the 7th century, the Carolingian emperor Charlemagne revived the faltering craft of bronze casting. He most notably ordered massive cast bronze gateways for the Palatine Chapel in Aachen, Germany.

Fast-forward approximately 1000 years, and foundry technology underwent significant advancements and innovations thanks to religion. The construction of cathedrals and churches led to extraordinary creation; melting and mold-making techniques evolved quickly to meet demand from the Catholic church. This also delineated the transition between casting as an artistic endeavor and casting as a technology with untapped potential.

Ironically, a monk in Ghent (modern-day Belgium) was the first to use the same technique to build a cannon in 1313, not too long after bell-making technology advanced. The first description of casting and foundry procedures was written down by Vannoccio Biringuccio, also called the father of the foundry industry. This was more than 150 years after the first casting cannon. One of the earliest technical texts from the Renaissance, his work, De Le Pirotechnia, was divided into ten sections that addressed various topics. These topics included minerals, assaying, smelting, alloys, casting, and alchemy.

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After European settlers to the New World, metal casting developed further throughout the empire. The Saugus Iron Works in Saugus, Massachusetts, which opened in 1645 and ran for 30 years, was the earliest foundry on American soil. It is currently a museum and a national historic site.

By using coke instead of regular coal to power his foundry in 1709, English ironmaster Abraham Darby revolutionized metal casting for good. Coal is heated in a small, airtight chamber to create coke, a carbon-rich porous substance. Coke helped Darby's foundry become more productive and economical. Additionally, it made it possible to build furnaces far more significant than before.

The Cupola Furnace was created by French scientist Réne Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur in 1720, more than ten years later. The two apertures in the dome-shaped furnace are located at the top and bottom, respectively, where the charge is inserted and the furnace is emptied. Even though electric techniques have mostly taken their place, they are still used today.

Reaumur created the first malleable iron, European Whiteheart, allowing iron masters to move away from brittle pig iron. This new, more vital iron had additional uses than pig iron. Between 1756 and 1767, Shropshire's timber rails were replaced by refined cast iron rails by English ironmaster Richard Reynolds. The first time iron rails were used for transportation was at this point.


Centrifugal casting was created in the early 19th century and patented by A.G. Eckhart in 1809. Molten metal is poured into a revolving mold during centrifugal casting. A homogeneous metal coating is essential for high-quality castings, and the spinning action guarantees this.

Later, in 1837, Jarvis Adams Co. created and offered the first molding machine for sale on the open market. With this apparatus, J.J. Sturgiss developed the first die-casting device, primarily used to produce print types for printing presses.

One of the most significant advancements in metal casting was the Bessemer Converter. Sir Henry Bessemer discovered 1856 that steel casters could remove extra carbon and impurities and make metal easier to pour. This was done by blowing oxygen into molten metal. Today's techniques are still similar but more accurate.


Most contemporary methods are built on the development of casting technology and processes in the 20th century. The first time X-ray technology was applied to gauge casting quality was seven years after World War I. Following that discovery, all castings created for U.S. military aircraft had to be approved by these examinations to be used.

The next significant casting advancement occurred fifty years later, in 1973. This was when ESCO Corp. became the first steel foundry to produce alloys using the Argon Oxygen Decarburization (AOD) method. Until the 1980s, when programs like MAGMA-soft, ProCast, and Flow3D first hit the market as mold simulation solutions, there was no commonly used method for modeling metal solidification or filling molds.

Today's foundries frequently use an electric induction furnace, which heats metal using a high-power alternating current. Eddy currents that flow through the metal give it a better finish by increasing homogeneity and reducing gain segregations. Permanent molds were created thanks to this technology, which increased productivity and decreased single-use mold trash.


Modern metal casting is a complicated process requiring meticulous chemical measurements and execution. Modern metal casting advancements are motivated by the following:

  • Raising the level of industry competition.
  • Improving energy effectiveness.
  • Addressing the labor shortage.
  • Strengthening the nation's security.
  • Enhancing financial security.

For instance, automation is increasingly used in foundries today since it is more accurate and efficient than manual procedures. Additionally, it enables foundries to keep production high even during labor shortages.

A second technological improvement is simulation software. These computer programs, created in the 1980s, allowed casters to model the filling of molds and the solidification of metal. This eliminated the need for numerous trial runs. Modern metal casting is significantly more accurate and efficient because of this technology.

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