Moulders and coremakers work in foundries where metal is melted and cast into parts. These range from metal components for cars and industrial machinery to ships' propellers and church bells. Metal is heated until it becomes liquid before being poured into moulds or hollow shapes to make the castings.
Moulders and coremakers use various moulding and casting methods to make the moulds and 'cores' (these are used in moulds to form cavities in the metal castings):
Greensand Moulding is the most basic method, in which loose sand, bonded with clay, is packed around a shape or pattern.
Chemically-bonded Sand Moulding (or resin sand moulding) uses sand mixed with liquid binders to produce the mould. When the chemicals set, this produces a hard mould into which the molten metal can be poured.
Die Casting uses permanent moulds, usually made of heat-resistant metal. The dies are expensive to produce, but can be used to make many thousands of castings. There are three main types of die casting - high pressure, gravity and low pressure.
Shell Moulding is similar to resin sand moulding. The pattern is coated with a mixture of resin-impregnated sand that is heated so the resin melts and holds together the grains of sand to form a shell. Shell moulding is more expensive than sand moulding, but the moulds are very smooth.
Investment Casting or Lost Wax Casting involves pouring wax into a shape, leaving the wax to set, removing the shape, and dipping the wax mould in a heat-resistant slurry to form a ceramic coating.
Lost Foam Casting is a process in which loose sand is vibrated around a polystyrene pattern. Molten metal is poured down an exposed polystyrene feeder. The polystyrene pattern burns away leaving an identical metal casting in its place.
Electric Discharge Machining (EDM), known as spark machining or spark eroding, uses electrical discharges which cause sparks to cut intricate contours or cavities in pre-hardened steel moulds to soften and re-harden them. It is mainly used in plastic moulding processes.
Moulds come in many different shapes and sizes. Some moulds can be easily lifted by one person while others take a team of workers several days to assemble. Many processes are now automated, which has reduced the amount of heavy physical labour that is required.
Most moulders and coremakers work 37 hours a week over five days, although many foundries operate a shift system involving evening and weekend work. Overtime is common.
The working environment varies according to the moulds being made. Moulders and coremakers work at a bench or, at other times, in a specially designed moulding pit. They wear protective overalls, safety footwear, and eye shields and ear defenders when necessary. The work can be strenuous and involves bending and lifting.
The starting rate for a moulder or coremaker may be about £15,000 a year. With more experience, this may rise to about £18,000. The highest salaries may be around £20,000 a year.
Shift and overtime payments can considerably increase basic pay.
There are foundries in most industrial areas in Britain, especially the West Midlands, the north of England and Central Scotland.
Generally, the foundry industry in the UK has declined in recent years mainly because of a move towards manufacturing using other materials such as plastics. However, there are many foundries producing complex or high-value castings for specialist markets, and foundries using highly automated, computer-controlled equipment which continue to be successful.
Jobs are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices in areas where foundries operate.
There are no formal entry requirements. Entrants can join a company as an unskilled foundry operative and work through a company training scheme to become a moulder or coremaker.
Young people may also be able to start on an Apprenticeship. Entry requirements are usually set by the recruiting company. Generally applicants should have at least three to five GCSE's including English, maths and science. GCSE's in engineering and manufacturing may also be available. Diplomas in engineering, and manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this area of work and Apprenticeships may be available.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is no age limit for work as a moulder or coremaker, although physical fitness is important and applicants may be given a medical.
New workers usually receive induction training covering basic work practices, and health and safety issues. They then train on the job.
All Apprenticeships involve work-based training combined with block or day release for college courses. Apprentices usually work towards NVQ's and, in some cases, BTEC National and Higher National Awards and City & Guilds qualifications.
Relevant qualifications include:
The following colleges offer courses that are directly relevant to the castings industry:
- Bradford College
- Chesterfield College
- Rotherham College of Arts & Technology
- Sandwell College
The Institute of Cast Metals Engineers (ICME) runs a wide programme of short courses in many aspects of metallurgy, casting and foundry operations. Courses generally run for one to five days. Details are on their website.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Foundry moulders and coremakers need:
Moulders and coremakers with good organisational and interpersonal skills may progress to become supervisors and managers.
People who show a particular aptitude during their training may be offered an opportunity to train as a technician and work in cast metals technology, or mechanical or electrical engineering. Additional qualifications may be required.
Castings Technology International,
Advanced Manufacturing Park, Brunel Way,
Rotherham S60 5WG
Tel: 0114 254 1144
Engineering Connections - EEF West Midlands,
Reddings Lane, Tyseley, Birmingham,
Tel: 0121 7071414 Freephone 0800 917 1617
Institute of Cast Metals Engineers (ICME),
47 Birmingham Road, West Bromwich,
West Midlands B70 6PY
Tel: 0121 601 6979
SEMTA (Science, Engineering
and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Women's Engineering Society
Tel: 01438 765506
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.