This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 16, 2002

General Motors Investigates Energy-Efficient Metal Casting

General Motors Corporation (GM) completed in early October the first phase of a $1.37-million project to improve an energy-efficient metal casting process now being used at its factory in Massena, in upstate New York. GM is trying to perfect the "lost foam" casting process, in which polystyrene foam is formed into a shape like the parts to be cast—in this case, engine blocks or cylinder heads. The foam shape is placed into a box of compacted sand, and molten metal is added. The hot metal vaporizes the foam shape, leaving behind a precise metal mold of the part to be cast.

The lost foam process uses 25 percent less energy than traditional casting methods and allows the molds to be designed in more complex shapes, eliminating some of the finishing steps required with traditional methods. To improve the process, GM worked with Buffalo Wire Works and others to develop sophisticated equipment that measures the quality of both the coating applied to the foam shapes and the sand packed around them. DOE is providing a $500,000 grant to the project, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is providing an additional $125,000. See the NYSERDA press release.

Lost foam casting is being improved through DOE's Metal Casting Industry of the Future program, which aims to increase energy efficiency and productivity in metal casting processes. See the Metal Casting Industry of the Future Web site as well as the program's fact sheet on lost foam casting (PDF 138 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.