The casting equipment and the metal dies represent large capital costs and this tends to limit the process to high-volume production. Manufacture of parts using die casting is relatively simple, involving only four main steps, which keeps the incremental cost per item low. It is especially suited for a large quantity of small- to medium-sized castings, which is why die casting produces more castings than any other casting process. Die castings are characterized by a very good surface finish (by casting standards) and dimensional consistency.
Die casting equipment was invented in 1838 for the purpose of producing movable type for the printing industry. The first die casting-related patent was granted in 1849 for a small hand-operated machine for the purpose of mechanized printing type production. In 1885 Otto Mergenthaler invented the linotype machine, an automated type-casting device which became the prominent type of equipment in the publishing industry. The Soss die-casting machine, manufactured in Brooklyn, NY, was the first machine to be sold in the open market in North America. Other applications grew rapidly, with die casting facilitating the growth of consumer goods and appliances by making affordable the production of intricate parts in high volumes. In 1966, General Motors released the Acurad process.
The main die casting alloys are: zinc, aluminium, magnesium, copper, lead, and tin; although uncommon, ferrous die casting is also possible. Specific die casting alloys include: Zamak; zinc aluminium; aluminium to, e.g. The Aluminum Association (AA) standards: AA 380, AA 384, AA 386, AA 390; and AZ91D magnesium. The following is a summary of the advantages of each alloy:
Maximum weight limits for aluminium, brass, magnesium and zinc castings are approximately 70 pounds (32 kg), 10 lb (4.5 kg), 44 lb (20 kg), and 75 lb (34 kg), respectively.