This classification is comprised of establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing die-castings of aluminum (including alloys).
331521 (Aluminum Die-Castings)
Aluminum die-castings differ from other types of aluminum castings because of the difference in the type of mold used and the process by which the molten metal is delivered to the die. Whereas casting molds may be made of many different materials—including sand, plaster, iron, steel, and polystyrene—dies are made only of metal, most frequently steel. In die-casting, the die is filled with molten metal that is forced into it under pressure, unlike other casting processes where liquid metal is poured by gravity. Die-casting techniques are used to produce greater volumes of cast products than other types of casting.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 300 establishments operate in this category. Industry-wide employment in 2000 totaled 27,051 workers receiving a payroll of more than $896 million. Within this workforce, 22,621 of these employees worked in production, putting in more than 46 million hours to earn wages of more than $678 million. Overall shipments for the industry were valued at almost $3.9 billion in 2001.
Herman Doehler, founder of Doehler-Jarvis, developed the first die-casting machine around the turn of the twentieth century. The first commercially produced aluminum die-castings in the United States were manufactured in 1915. In 1946, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that aluminum die-casting production totaled 73 million pounds, representing about 16 percent of the total die-casting production for all metals that year. Prior to the late 1960s, zinc was used in a majority of die-cast products, but, in 1967, aluminum production surpassed that of zinc. Throughout the 1970s, aluminum production continued to expand dramatically, and, by 1988, aluminum die-casting production reached the 1.5 billion-pound mark.
As the die-casting industry entered the 1990s, aluminum remained in the top position. Its chemical and physical properties offered many advantages to industrial users. For example, aluminum die-castings weighed about 60 percent less than identical iron products, resisted corrosion, and were stronger than permanent mold or
sand castings. Automated production methods produced high quantities at low per-unit costs. By the late 1990s, the automotive industry had discovered the benefits of aluminum and consequently became the largest market for aluminum castings, buying 25 percent of all aluminum produced and nearly one-half of all aluminum diecastings produced.
In 2001, the value of U.S. shipments of aluminum diecastings totaled $3.8 billion. The value of goods shipped had fluctuated throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, peaking at $3.9 billion in 2000, a level below 1995 shipment levels of $4.2 billion. Most industry establishments are centered in the Great Lakes area because of its proximity to the automotive industry. Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois accounted for almost 50 percent of die-cast production. Establishments generally employ twice as many workers compared to all of manufacturing, and pay them an average wage of $14.59 an hour.
Leading this industry in overall sales was ACX Technologies Inc. of Golden, Colorado with 1998 sales of over $988 million on the strength of 5,600 workers. ACX developed innovative new technologies for its die-cast aluminum products, such as vibration damping for its baseball bats and mountain bike suspension systems. Eventually, ACX Technologies changed its name to Graphic Packaging International. In 2003, it merged with Riverwood International Corp. to form a new entity with two billion dollars in annual sales.
Second-place Amsted Industries Inc., which acquired Varlen Corp. in 1999 for $790 million, generated sales of just under $1.4 billion in 2003 and employed 9,000 workers. Other industry leaders included Pace Industries of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Gibbs Die Casting Corp. of Henderson, Kentucky; and Ohio Decorative Products Inc. of Spencerville, Ohio.
Another industry leader in terms of innovation is Doehler-Jarvis, inventors of the first die-casting machine. During its long history, the company boasted many "firsts" in die-casting technology, including the first transmission case casing, the first die-cast oil pan, and the first automotive cylinder block. In 1979, the company made another breakthrough when it introduced computerassisted design, or CAD, a technology that permitted dies to be made with electronic information and eliminated the need to make blueprints. In 1980, Doehler-Jarvis introduced the "doehlercore system," a patented and proprietary process using expendable cores in high-pressure castings. This process enabled the company to cast parts with complex internal shapes.
Doehler-Jarvis decided to automate its production in 1997, with a full line of robots on the production line. With CAD and robotic production, Doehler-Jarvis remained on the leading edge of technological methods and product precision. Several robots, implemented in the summer of 1997, were to handle and produce all complex die-castings, including products for Doehler-Jarvis' largest market, the automotive industry. By the early 1990s, Doehler-Jarvis operated three casting centers with combined manufacturing space totaling 2 million square feet. The company reported annual shipments of 75,000 tons valued at $300 million. In the mid-1990s, Doehler-Jarvis employed 1,500 workers and reported revenues of $200 million. Harvard Industries Inc. acquired the firm in 1995 and eventually shuttered the firm due to high operating costs.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipments for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .