Thanks to a University in the US, foundries might have a new material which they can use as a binder when producing sophisticated moulds: sugar.
Researchers at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, believe that sugar can act as a binding agent to glue materials together, such as sand, during the mould making process.
The foundry sector produces metal castings for a whole range of uses and customers, including all the major industries. The process is becoming increasingly sophisticated and the more modern technologies use a wide range of materials which act as binders.
But now sugar is being seen as the new wonder material.
One of the biggest drivers behind the introduction of sugar as a viable materials is environmental concerns. The downside of using such materials as furan resins and phenol formaldehyde resins, is that they can emit toxic fumes.
The researchers belong to the University’s College of Forestry and have applied for a patent covering the use of sugar as a binder in the moulding process.
The team behind the discovery believe that the use of sugar has a number of key advantages, not least that it performs well when it comes to sophisticated foundry techniques. But equally important is the fact that it’s cheaper than many existing binders, is a renewable resource and does not create toxic fumes.
Lead researcher for the project, one Professor Kaichang Li, who works within the University’s College of Forestry, has gone on the record saying that the team were surprised that sugar was such a good binding agent. The team also looked at other carbohydrates which were also good for this task. They said all performed well and benefitted from the fact that they were abundant, cheap and created less toxicity when used.
As a result of the research project, the University discovered a new way to make sand/sugar moulds which were extremely strong and water resistant.
The researchers experimented with just sugar by itself, but also used in various combinations of materials, including soy flour and hydrolyzed starch.
Although the research has far reaching implications for the foundry industry, the second stage has now been reached and the University is on the hunt for investors and partners to take the product to market.
The proportion of mouldings which use sand is believed to be over 70%, so the implications of being able to use sugar as a new wonder binding agent are very significant for a sector keen on reducing costs and improving environmental issues.
Harry Barrett is a director of McKinlay Electrical Ltd, a UK based engineering company which specialises in Mould Making, Resin Casting, Coil Winding and CNC Machining.