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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present
i General Conditions
ii Iron and Steel Production
iii Aluminium Technology
iv Innovative Copper Refining Process
v The EDIM-4WD Load-Haul-Dump Vehicle
vi Copper Rod Production
vii Copper Wire and Cables
viii The Diecasting Industry
ix Automotive Components
x Whitegoods or Consumer Durables
xi Hardware
xii Some Recent New Industries
xiii The National Measurement System
xiv Manufacturing Industry in this Decade
xv Acknowledgements



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The Diecasting Industry

Early developments towards a diecasting industry seem to have stemmed from general engineering workshops run by men with enquiring minds and an innovative streak. The first steps taken in Australia were due to Ralph H. Lawrenson in 1913, when he developed a crude prototype to make some brass castings. History has it that the casting was successful even though the machine sprayed molten metal all around. A number of redesigns was undertaken in the following years; by 1917 a completely redesigned machine was produced which turned out to be much more reliable in operation and stronger in construction. A casting pressure of 250 MPa was achieved with zinc base alloys containing some copper and tin. Lawrenson found that a small amount of aluminium also increased the strength and castability of the alloy. In that year, a major contract to cast spur gears for the railways became the foundation of a new diecasting industry that was to continue to the present day.

New machines were produced at regular intervals each containing innovative designs to overcome some shortcomings of earlier machines, or for use with other alloy systems. By 1927 five diecasting machines were in constant use producing zinc alloy and aluminium diecastings. However, developments overseas were taking place at a rapid rate and units of quite different design to those made here were imported, others were imported during the war. In 1981, Lawrenson Diecastings Pty. Ltd. were to win the Grand Award of the American Diecasting Institute for a zinc diecast air conditioner grille.

Huckson Diecastings of Melbourne had its beginnings in the engineering company, N. J. Huckson and Co. of Wagga Wagga, NSW, a company which was re-established in Melbourne in 1929. Shortly before this H. J. Huckson had designed a diecasting machine for which the first Australian patent was granted for this type of unit. With this unit, a range of aluminium-bronze alloy articles such as gas taps, hardware fittings and bronze nuts and bolts was cast. Another machine was built in 1936 when mass production started with an order for 200,000 drum seals in two sizes. Hucksons also produced diecastings for the businesses of Henry Lane in Newcastle and Edwin Wood in New Zealand. In 1977 the Company was the winner of the AZDA Award of Distinction for a redesigned diecast soap holder which increased productivity so that profit per kg metal sold, increased from $1.62 to $3.96.

Many other Australian firms entered the diecasting industry between 1950 and 1970 as the industry increased manufacture of components for mass produced cars, domestic appliances and builders' hardware. In Australia, the Society of Diecasting Engineers was formed to improve education and technology transfer in the industry, while the Diecasting Institute brought the management together at a common forum. It was appreciated that in the industry as a whole, instrumentation and control were less than optimum and there was considerable variation in the quality of product.

A co-operative technical development programme led by a CSIRO team was instituted which also brought in technical representatives of the metal supply industries. In 1973, CSIRO produced the first pressure diecasting in Australia where the important manufacturing parameters such as flow rate, pressure and temperature, were measured. From such work, instrumentation was developed that could be applied to machines in the factory. This led directly to much improved machine and die designs. In addition, it showed that reduced casting pressure could be used, allowing the castings to be made on smaller machines at lower cost. Rapid progress was also made in designing for thin (less than 1 mm) castings which placed the Australian industry ahead of the world in many aspects of diecasting technology, particularly as it related largely to zinc base alloys. A survey in 1984, however, indicated an increase in the number of firms concerned with only aluminium base diecasting and there is evidence that the pre-eminent place the Australian industry enjoyed some years ago, is being lost.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - CSIRO; Diecasting Institute; Henry Lane Ltd; Huckson Diecastings; Lawrenson Diecastings Pty Ltd; Metal Manufacturers Ltd; N. J. Huckson and Company; Society of Diecasting Engineers

People in Bright Sparcs - Huckson, H. J.; Lawrenson, Ralph H.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 900 - 901, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher