Although their results may be nearly indistinguishable to the untrained eye, welding and casting steel are two very different processes, each carrying its own advantages and disadvantages. Despite their differences, they are often used together; in many cases, a fabrication project is actually made up of both cast and welded parts to reach the most cost-effective solution possible. Understanding the difference between these two forms of steel manufacturing and when to use each is the key to maximizing your production efficiency, labor costs, and flexibility and ensuring a better end-product for your business.
Casting's main advantage over welding is that it can be used to create a large number of parts in a relatively small period of time. Where welding requires skilled workers to complete every project by hand, casting simplifies manufacturing by pouring molten metal into a pre-made cast, which forces it to cool in the desired shape. If your products are in high demand or require plenty of cheap, interchangeable parts, casting is often an essential step to reduce labor hours and ensure products ship on time.
If your project is limited in scale, on the other hand, casting may not be an economically feasible option. Before a cast can be made, plans must be drafted for both the parts in question and the casts that will shape them. Without the savings involved with mass manufacturing and sales, welding is often a more efficient choice. Welding is similarly better for product lines with high variability or customization options; rather than create a cast for each new configuration, it can simply be manufactured on a case-by-case basis. Fabricating in this way also allows you to begin with materials on hand which can speed up manufacturing on small projects.
As a general rule, the strength of welded and cast steel is roughly the same, with most variation coming from the actual quality of the metals used. Welded steel fabrications are designed to primarily absorb stress along the pattern of the weld, a limitation that cast metals do not have. Cast parts also tend to be lighter weight since they do not need additional joints and welds, and they can be cast into more complex shapes. These differences must be accounted for in the design process, but both manufacturing methods can result in strong, durable metal components. The right ratio of cast and welded components for your particular product is highly variable, so consult with your local steel fabricator to get a better idea of the unique needs and possibilities of your manufacturing project.
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