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As your Metals Partner, it is our goal to educate you on various casting processes. Feel free to browse around to learn more but if you have questions or need to submit an RFQ, please contact us. MetalTek International. Because You Demand More Than Metal.

History of Metal Casting

Posted by Dave Olsen on 10/16/18 1:56 PM

Today, metal casting is a complex and intricate process which requires exact chemistry and flawless execution. While current methods may be relatively new when compared to the history of human civilization, the first casting of metals can actually be traced all the way back to around 4000 BC. In those times, gold was the first metal to be cast because of its malleability, and back then, metal from tools and decoration was reused because of the complications of obtaining pure ore. However, a copper frog is the oldest existing casting currently known; it is estimated that it was made in 3200 BC in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Bronze then became the metal of choice to cast with because its rigidity compared to gold, and it was melted and cast into various tools and weapons by way of permanent stone molds. The process of casting made its way to Egypt by 2800 BC, and effectively performing this process was tremendously influential on their gain of power during the Bronze Age. Around 1300 BC, the Shang Dynasty in China were the first to utilize sand casting when melting metals. Then around 500 BC, the Zhou Dynasty introduced cast iron to the world, but it was used mostly for farmers. Cast iron did not become a military tool or decoration until the Qin Dynasty almost 300 years later. 

Fast forward almost 1000 years, religion played a major role in advancing and innovating foundry technology during that time. Extraordinary evolution came from the construction of cathedrals and churches, melting and mold-making processes advanced rapidly to keep up with the demand of the dominant Catholic church. This also marked the boundary of the period between casting for the purpose of art and viewing casting as a technology with unknown potential. It was not too long after the advancements of bell casting that, ironically, a monk in Ghent (present-day Belgium) was the first to cast a cannon in 1313 with the same technology. Over 150 years after the first cast cannon, Vannoccio Biringuccio, also known as the father of the foundry industry, recorded the first written account of casting and foundry practices. His work, De Le Pirotechnia, was separated into 10 sections that covered many subjects including minerals, assaying, smelting, alloys, casting, as well as alchemy; it is one of the oldest technical documents still around from the Renaissance era.

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Topics: Casting Process, History, Centrifugal Casting, Sand Casting, Investment Casting, Continuous Casting, Lost Wax Casting

Hi-Ho Silver: The History Of Silver

Posted by Dave Olsen on 10/15/18 3:27 PM

Some metals found early popularity primarily because of their appearance.  Silver is one such metal.  Relatively scarce – but not too scarce – so that it was considered valuable, silver has been an important form of currency, jewelry, and decorative pieces for thousands of years.  Only as industry has understood the other interesting and powerful qualities of silver in the last couple of hundred years has the metal grown beyond the beautiful.

The first confirmed formal mining of silver can be traced back to Turkey around 3000 BC.  More extensive mining through the Mediterranean areas to Spain and then other regions of what is modern Europe expanded its use as a trading commodity. Larger deposits of silver were developed once the Americas were “discovered”.  Central and South America became major sources of silver through the 1600’s and 1700’s.  Even today, five of the ten largest silver mines in the world are in Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru.  China, Russia, and Australia are now significant producers of silver; only about 7% of the world’s silver is produced in the US and Canada. 

Much of the accessible high grade ore was found and recovered by the end of the 1800’s.  Some areas, often those around hydrothermal activity, still support direct mining, but today most of the silver is recovered as a (more valuable) bi-product of mining for other minerals. When mining for copper or lead, for example, the minor silver content can have more value within the ore than the primary metal.  Silver is selling for more than $16 per ounce today, while lead or copper are at a dollar or two per pound, so silver is greater than 100x more valuable.

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Topics: History

The History of Copper

Posted by Dave Olsen on 10/12/18 11:25 AM

The “Metals of Antiquity” were the only known metals until the 13th century – and there were seven of them (gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, iron, and mercury).  That number has since exploded to a current count of 91. 

Copper is one of the earliest identified metals.  Evidence of smelting of copper can be traced back to around 4000 B.C., but the metal may have been discovered some 5,000 years before that.   About ten years ago, UC-San Diego archeologists uncovered a copper foundry at Khirbat Hamra Ifdan near the Dead Sea, a 70-room operation that dates back to about 2700 B.C. – one of the earliest confirmed formal metals factories.

Copper may be used in its (near) pure form, but is often alloyed to produce brasses and bronzes that deliver properties demanded by a specific application.  There were significant early pockets of copper development, most notably from 2,000+ years ago in China and in Egypt where copper piping installed then is still intact today.  But an expansion in copper’s use is evident in the late middle ages.  

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Topics: History

The Golden Age: The History of Gold

Posted by Dave Olsen on 10/11/18 11:50 AM

Often considered to be the first metal discovered by humans, gold has occupied a central point in the history of man.  Were this an economics newsletter rather than one concerned with metals, the treatment of gold as a basis for currency in the last century alone is a subject that fills volumes.  But in the early days, it was more about appearance than its value in trade.

Dating back more than 5,000 years, the widespread presence of gold - albeit usually in small quantities  - attracted the eye of early man nearly everywhere.  And unlike most metals, gold often appears in nature in its pure form so it need not be refined.  Because the metal is very shiny and does not tarnish, is easy to work with, and carries its natural beauty forever, it has been the decorative material of choice throughout history. 

As a precursors to modern casting processes, the “lost wax” method was used to create jewelry more than 3,000 years ago.  That process is still broadly used in jewelry making today - and in industry as well. 

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Topics: History

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