The rural village setting of Thurton on the outskirts of south east Norwich is an unlikely place to find a company that passionately preserves the 6,000 year old process of casting metal, but there you’ll find Thurton Foundries – an excellent example of how British engineering is very much alive and kicking in the midst of tough times in the casting industry, providing value-added services to manufacturers throughout the UK.
It’s not down to good luck. The business has had to invest in new technologies to remain competitive, while still retaining bragging rights of working with a broad range of customers. As others in the industry struggle, business is flourishing thanks to their forward-thinking attitude to what is essentially one of the oldest known manufacturing processes.
Sand casting is used to produce a wide variety of metal components with complex geometry. These parts can vary greatly in size and weight. Some cast parts include components such as engine blocks, high pressure products for the oil industry and high technology parts for gas detection.
But it is the unique flexibility to provide customers with the highest quality castings from the most accurate patterns that brings a millennia-old engineering technique fully into the 21st Century. This capability would not have been possible without their implementation of SOLIDWORKS. As a result of this investment, Thurton Foundries is the one foundry that can compete on time, price, and quality.
Embedding an advanced CAD system like SOLIDWORKS into the business has meant that they can meet the demands of their increasingly hi-tech customer base.
Ian Capps, Managing Director, says, “SOLIDWORKS has helped us to develop many more relationships by empowering us to cater for their needs and display great flexibility in our work. SOLIDWORKS was a sizeable investment for a relatively small company, both in terms of time and money; however, before long it was clear that SOLIDWORKS was going to revolutionise the business.
“It soon became apparent that SOLIDWORKS was something that we could instantly start to use and quickly apply to the production of our patterns, ultimately reducing development timescales and giving us confidence of making the product right first time. We were able to make the transition to SOLIDWORKS easier than we had first thought and rapidly generate a return on our investment.
“The process of generating the pattern, calls on the power of SOLIDWORKS to help make decisions on draft angles, material thickness, material volume, parting line positions and shrinkage. The visualisation capabilities provide a detailed understanding of the complete pattern and enable us to create complex geometry.”
The patterns are modelled in SOLIDWORKS and then CNC machined with help from by SOLIDWORKS’s seamless interaction with Gold Partner product EdgeCAM. The patterns (or moulds) used to cast metals cost a substantial amount of money and take a decent amount of time to produce. It is therefore very important that designs are done right first time – something that could not be consistently assured when designing by hand. With SOLIDWORKS, it is very easy to assemble the complete pattern with all its cores, thus giving the confidence that the part will cast correctly. It’s not a process that you want to get wrong very often.
Thurton Foundries often produce parts that are cast in multiple sections by adding bosses and recesses to each section. The advanced 3D modelling capabilities inside SOLIDWORKS mean that patternmakers can be sure that sectioned parts align properly by visualising the model as it fits together.
“Ian has a great passion for his business and has had the vision to invest in technology to keep ahead of the competition and prosper in tough times; particularly when so many similar companies have not been so prudent” said Mark Bradford, Managing Director of Innova Sytems.