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5 Options for Dip Tank Maintenance

Posted by Myke Amend on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 @ 04:02 PM

Maintaining the optimum reactive level of form release agents in pipe production dip tanks ensures performance and quality.

By Bob Waterloo

dip-tank-metal-casting-release2Dip tanks play a critical role in the dry-cast pipe production process for many manufacturers. The reactive properties of the fatty acids in the form release agent enable the pipe to smoothly release from the pallet/header. Here’s the problem. The cement/ concrete residue left behind when headers are dipped begins to negate the reactive properties of the fatty acids. Left unchecked, the form release agent eventually begins to lose its effectiveness, pipes will not pull easily from the headers and quality could suffer. The solution: a regular program of monitoring and maintenance that keeps the form release at the optimum reactive release level and reduces replacement and disposal costs.


Reactive form release agents are the accepted standard in today’s precast and pipe-forming operations. Fatty acids, which are found in an infinite number of blends, are the most commonly used reactive material. Fatty acids have the unique ability to react with the free lime on the surface of the concrete, which results in a nonviolent chemical reaction. This neutralization (or saponification) forms a metallic soap, allowing the product to easily release.

There are a number of benefits to using a dip tank to apply form release during pipe-forming operations, including complete coverage, proper release and reduced chance of operator error. However, a common occurrence when using this method of manufacturing is increasing difficulty with “pulls” or “tip-outs” during stripping over a period of production time. This is generally the result of decreased reactive material in the dip tank as contaminants enter the system and negate some of the reactive material.


dip-tank-metal-casting-releaseTwo areas must be addressed in the preventive maintenance program for this type of equipment:

  1. Regular maintenance to remove sludge that accumulates in the bottom of the dip tank
  2. Regular maintenance of the release agent’s reactive levels for effective release

The sludge generated in the dip tank includes contaminants from previously dipped headers/joint rings.
These contaminants negate the reactive portion of the form release. As the reactive portion of the release agent gradually decreases, the possibility of concrete sticking to the headers increases, causing a more difficult release. The rate of decrease is gradual and depends on a number of factors, including rate of production and amount of contaminants allowed to enter the dip tank.


Rather than disposing of the entire tank of form release, transfer it to a holding tank and shovel out the sludge. Because the sludge typically contains petroleum hydrocarbons, disposal should be in compliance with local regulations. Then transfer the recovered form release agent back into the dip tank and top it off with fresh release agent.

Remember that by adding fresh release agent to the recovered material, rather than using all new release agent, reactive levels will be reduced and release problems will occur sooner unless the reactive portion is tested and brought back to a normal level. The discoloration of the recovered material from the dip tank is not relevant to the release characteristics, or levels of reactive material.


Maintaining the correct level of reactive agent in the form release is quite simple.

Test the recovered material and bring the reactive portion back to optimum levels. Test a sample from the dip tank (less than one ounce is sufficient) for the reactive level through either titration or infrared analysis. Your release agent supplier should be able to tell you the optimum level of reactive material required, and may be able to run the analysis for you. Once you determine the level of fatty acids, a number of simple calculations determine the amount of pure reactive agent to be added to the dip tank to bring it back to the optimum reactive level.

After adding the recommended amount of reactive material to the dip tank, use an air lance for mixing for a minimum of two minutes, making sure to cover the entire area of the dip tank. Then top off the dip tank with fresh release agent and air lance again for good distribution.

Depending on the amount of contaminants and reduced reactive material, the timeframe between tests will vary. One way to determine the frequency between tests is to establish a baseline. Begin with tests every 30 days, which should be recorded, until a history can be compiled to determine the needed frequency. Normal frequency of adding more reactive ingredients is typically five gallons for every six weeks of normal production.

In many cases, production workers can see the reduced effectiveness of release agents.

It’s important to train them to notify management to add additional reactive material to the dip tank. As usual, science is best, but practical application and analysis are also important.


While removing sludge and maintaining dip tanks by adding new release as needed make sense from an environmental and cost perspective, on occasion you may feel it necessary to clean the entire dip tank to remove all residual sludge and refill the cleaned dip tank with fresh release agent.


Dip tank maintenance comes down to five options. Option 1 is the least cost-effective, while Option 5 is the most cost-effective.


  • Option 1: Drain the dip tank, dispose of the sludge and old release material, then refill only with fresh form release agent.
  • Option 2: Remove the form release from the dip tank, dispose of the sludge, refill the dip tank with fresh form release, then use the recovered form release to replenish the dip tank as necessary.
  • Option 3: Remove the form release from the dip tank, dispose of the sludge, refill the tank with recovered form release, then top off with fresh form release.
  • Option 4: Remove the form release from dip tank, dispose of the sludge, test the recovered form release, add reactive ingredient to bring it back to an optimum level, then top off with fresh form release.
  • Option 5: If there is not enough sludge to remove but the release is not as good as it should be, test for the reactive level of the release agent in the tank, then add reactive material to return it to an optimum level.
In the long run, a little care and attention to the reactive content level in the dip tank will help to reduce labor costs and maintain or improve casting appearance

Bob Waterloo is technical sales manager, Concrete Release Agents, Hill and Griffith Co., based in Indianapolis

The author has summed up the entire problem and solution of dip tank maintenance in poetic fashion.
To read the poem, please visit precast.org/diptank

Tags: Hill and Griffith, Concrete, Permanent Mold Release Agents

GM Bedford Die Casting Facility to get an additional $22.6 million

Posted by Samantha Farris on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 @ 09:48 AM

Five plants in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio to share capital improvements for engine, transmission production.

By Robert Brooks 12/16/13


A General Motors worker operating a high-pressure aluminum diecasting machine producing transmission parts at Bedford, IN. GM photo/AJ Mast

General Motors outlined plans to invest almost $1.3 billion more at five GM Powertrain plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, part of a continuing capital program supporting new engines and transmissions. GM noted the announcement brings this year’s investments in its domestic operations to $2.8 billion.

GM also said the new capital program would support its vehicle quality improvement programs and streamline logistics. Specific investment plans were not announced.

Many of the investments are directed at GM’s new 10-speed automatic transmission and new V6 engine. The automaker said these new products would be detailed at a later date.

Among the plants targeted for the new is the aluminum melting, diecasting, and permanent mold foundry at Bedford, IN, where GM casts small engine blocks, transmission casings, and converter housings. Earlier this year, Bedford was identified as the site of a $29.4 million investment program to install capacity for GM’s new small gas engine, and new 8-speed and existing 6-speed transmissions.

Now, Bedford Castings is due for $22.6 million more, to add capacity to produce GM’s 10-speed transmission, and $6.6 million for producing components for the 6-speed transmission.

Bedford now has 486 hourly and 116 salaried employees, and GM estimated 40 new or retained jobs would result from the investments. Plant manager Eric Gonzalez said the program “signifies a commitment to the men and women of Bedford Powertrain and their dedication to build the best Engine and Transmissions in the world.” 

The other four plants in line for new investment are the Flint (MI) Assembly plant, where $600 million will support general site updates, and addition of a new paint shop; the Romulus (MI) Powertrain plant, where $493.4 million are in line to prepare for producing the new 10-speed automatic transmission, and to increase capacity for a new V6 engine; the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan, $121 million will develop a new logistics optimization center; and t

In total, GM predicted the new investments would “create or retain” about 1,000 jobs across the five sites.

“GM is committed to a strong American manufacturing base and creating jobs in dozens of communities throughout the country. Today’s announced plant upgrades continue the momentum of a resurgent auto industry,” stated GM executive vice president and North America president Mark Reuss. “More importantly, these investments add up to higher quality and more fuel-efficient vehicles for our customers.”

Thanks to Foundry Management Technology Magazine  

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Bulletins and Technical Papers for Metal Casting Products

Tags: Die Casting, Die Casting Release Agents, Permanent Mold Release Agents, Permanent Mold

Help Available to Growing Automotive Aluminum Die Casting Companies

Posted by Samantha Farris on Tue, Sep 03, 2013 @ 09:52 AM

Examples of automotive and aerospace suppliers who are using state-level grant, loan, and reimbursement programs successfully to overcome financial gaps and other obstacles to investing in new equipment, adding space or new facilities, and creating jobs.

Both the automotive and aerospace manufacturing industries have high-tech and capital-intensive operations, requiring highly skilled and specialized labor. Indeed, many of the required inputs, materials, and production processes are common among OEMs and suppliers across both industries. For example, Ford and Boeing have a longstanding collaborative relationship, sharing research and knowledge in the development of new production processes. The Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology initiative, a new method of constructing low-volume and prototype parts, is a recent example. The automotive and aerospace industries also share many government-mandated and consumer-driven challenges that are heavily impacting OEMs and their largest suppliers and, consequently, being forced down through supply chains (see Chart 1).

Most states have business assistance programs to help companies overcome financial gaps and other obstacles to investing in new equipment, adding space or new facilities, and creating jobs. This article discusses some common problems faced by small and mid-size manufacturing companies, describes select programs that may be used to resolve these issues, and provides illustrative examples of automotive and aerospace suppliers that used these programs to improve and expand their businesses. Of course, these challenges do not solely exist within the automotive and aerospace supplier industries, and this article will be of interest to any company developing strategies to overcome these and similar obstacles.

Finally, since both industries require frequent capital investments, this article focuses on grant, financing, and reimbursement programs that provide up-front or early-stage assistance; thus, tax credits, tax abatements, tax-free bond programs, and tax increment financing arrangements are omitted. While such programs are helpful, their benefits accrue slowly, over a number of years. Also, they are already among the best-known and most-used programs.

Chart1 resized 600

Up-Front Assistance vs. Reimbursements
Broadly speaking, business assistance programs may be divided between those that provide cash or loans and others that provide reimbursement for qualified incurred costs. The first group includes grants and deal-closing funds (often structured as performance-based, forgivable loans), collateral support and loan participation programs, direct loans, subsidized loans, and loan guarantees.

Typical reimbursement programs include training grants and energy-efficiency rebates. Training grants are readily available and reimbursements can be received a few weeks after pre-approved training expenses are incurred. Energy-efficiency rebates have been somewhat underutilized. They will remain available for at least the next two years under a federally mandated program that may vary from one state or utility to another. Lighting and electrical retrofits (or in the case of new construction, upgrades beyond current building code requirements) have a quick payback period when rebates are factored in. Less common, more complex energy-saving measures (production process improvements, for example) can be included under customized incentives.

Business Development and Closing Fund Grants

Many states have business development programs that provide grants, loans, and other economic assistance to help companies close financial gaps and move forward with investment and job creation plans. Sometimes called “deal-closing funds,” they can also be used to help win competitive projects.

A Michigan company that designs and manufactures parts and tooling for the aerospace and automotive industries was “on the ropes” in 2009. The company recently won substantial new work. Retaining its original building, the company leased two nearby buildings and spent almost $3 million in repairs and upfitting. It will invest more than $6.5 million for machinery and equipment for the new buildings. The tipping point in making the project feasible was an $800,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Business Development Program. The result was a commitment of almost $10 million in private investment and 188 new jobs (tripling the current work force).

In 2012, South Carolina awarded $6.2 million from the Governor’s Closing Fund to 18 projects throughout the state. One of the deals was an $825,000 grant for building upfit, site preparation, and infrastructure for a plastic automotive components maker, which then committed to establish its new facility in South Carolina with an investment of $12 million and 119 new jobs. In June 2013, the fund awarded $300,000 for building upfit to entice a maker of tubing for aircraft fueling systems to relocate its operations to the state. Private investment is projected to be $5.5 million, with 100 new jobs.

The Use of Collateral Support Programs
To facilitate growth, a 250-employee aluminum die casting company serving the automotive and heavy truck industries needed to refinance existing debt and increase its working capital line of credit. A new lender committed to the refinancing, subject to collateral support for the increased working capital line through a state-administered, federally funded program known as the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The state pledged $2.4 million for collateral support, enabling the new lender to refinance $8.5 million of existing debt. This resulted in a project with total private investment of nearly $13 million and the creation of 88 jobs.

An automotive stamping supplier, producing medium-sized components, as well as a larger, more complex Class “A” stampings and assemblies operation, needed new equipment to increase capacity and improve efficiency. The total cost was $7.5 million. The total financing package was made possible by $3.7 million in SSBCI-funded collateral support. The new equipment will enable the company to add 45 new jobs.Both examples above are from Michigan, which created new state programs for collateral support and loan participation in 2009 and then persuaded the federal government to establish a nationwide program built on the Michigan model. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 created the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), with $1.5 billion in direct funding to states for programs that expand access to credit for small business (fewer than 500 employees for Capital Access Program loans, and fewer than 750 for all other programs). States leverage private lending with federal funds to help finance small businesses and manufacturers that are creditworthy, but unable to get the loans they need to expand and create jobs.

While SSBCI is a one-time federal grant to the states, each state’s loan repayments will remain the property of that state in perpetuity. “Recaptured” monies can be used as revolving funds for state-operated business credit programs over the long-term. Automotive and aerospace suppliers with fewer than 750 employees under the same ownership should take a look at SSBCI if they have any issues with access to credit. Under SSBCI, states can undertake all or part of the permitted activities. They can also tailor and name their funds. (Tennessee calls theirs “INCITE Fund.”) The basic funding types are described in Chart 2.

Chart 2 resized 600

Training Grants
Training grants provide financial support to businesses that are creating jobs and need to recruit and train new employees or increase skills in their existing work force. There are multiple sources for grant-funded training. Find contacts for federally funded programs in each state at American Job Centers. Institutions of higher education, especially community colleges, frequently have direct sources of funding for training they provide.

Called “Alabama’s Number One Incentive,” AIDT is a notable example of a comprehensive state initiative to recruit, screen, and train workers for expanding businesses, usually at no cost to the business. AIDT is affiliated with several training centers, including one focused on robotics. Most states have one or more training centers that are focused on targeted industries like automotive and aeronautics, or a broader priority like robotics, and provide hands-on training, classroom training, and other business services.

Energy-Efficiency Rebates

Many companies have not yet taken advantage of energy-efficiency rebates, which will be available through 2015, or perhaps longer. “Green” projects can improve competitiveness and business sustainability by reducing ongoing costs. The immense savings (at current energy costs) can be sufficient to offset the entire project cost within a few years’ time, even absent rebates or business assistance programs. While lighting is relatively inexpensive and has a quick payback, building envelope, HVAC, and process improvements often have large up-front costs, and without the ability to fund these, the benefits cannot be realized. To address this problem, several programs exist to enable businesses to carry out energy-efficiency projects. A Kentucky facility had a free lighting audit, arranged by its electric provider. To upgrade 660 fixtures was $167,000 and would result in an annual savings of $50,000. There would also be a reduction of maintenance costs and tax deductions. With a $30,000 rebate, the payback period was reduced to about 2.75 years. A heavy manufacturing facility in another state would benefit greatly from infrastructure improvements, but the cost was several hundred thousand dollars. Payback through energy savings was about five years. Rebates cut payback to less than four years. If needed (and if the company qualified), project financing was available to purchase and install upgrades with no out-of-pocket costs; the contractor/lender would be repaid by splitting the energy savings for six to seven years.

In Sum

While a number of business assistance programs are available in most areas, many companies fail to utilize them, often because they are simply unaware of them. Also, many companies are hard-pressed to find the time to track down which assistance programs they qualify for, and navigating the bureaucratic processes and requirements of each program can seem daunting. When a company is challenged by financial, technological, work force, equipment, or facility needs (among others), help should be sought from:

    • Local and state economic developers;
    • Small Business Development Centers/Small Business Technology & Development Centers;
    • Local agencies delivering work force development and training services under the auspices of the Workforce Investment Act; and Business development and site selection/incentives procurement consultants.

Business assistance programs exist beyond the well-known tax abatements and tax credits. While the examples in this article focused on automotive and aerospace companies, these and similar programs are available to most businesses. These lesser-known and often underutilized resources may provide essential aid to businesses looking to expand their operations, upgrade their production processes and technologies, or improve efficiency and sustainability.

Authors: David B. Munson, Program Development Associate, Center for Automotive Research and Michael Schultz, Industry Analyst, Center for Automotive Research (2013 Auto/Aero Site Guide). From Area Development Site and Facility Planning.

We're looking forward to seeing you at the Die Casting Congress next month. Come by Hill and Griffith's Booth 315 to learn the latest technology, ongoing research and die casting, squeeze casting and permanent mold release techniques that will enhance your competitiveness. The Hill and Griffith Company is known for our hands on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend products that suit your needs.

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Metal Casting Products

Tags: Die Casting, Die Casting Release Agents, Permanent Mold Release Agents, Squeeze Casting Release Agents

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