The history of metal casting part 2

The history of metal casting part 2

This is the second in the series looking at the history of metal casting through the ages. The origins of metal casting date back at least 5000 years, this blog will look at the 18th and 19th centuries which saw great strides in infrastructure development and science.

The 18th century 

The Industrial Age, which began around 1760, saw the development of new techniques and machinery for mass production.  These developments opened up new opportunities for the casting industry – most notably in bridge building and the transport sector.

This was also the age of great scientific discovery. Many celebrated scientists of the day, such as Hans Ørsted (who discovered electromagnetism) and Robert Bunsen (one of the 19th Century’s finest chemists), also made important discoveries that advanced casting, as we explore below.

1777 Work begins on the world’s first cast iron bridge (Ironbridge Gorge) over the River Severn at Coalbrookdale. This is one of the milestones of the Industrial Revolution and the start of a major bridge building programme in the UK.

The 19th century

1825 Aluminium, the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, is first isolated by Danish chemist Hans Ørsted. This metal offers many advantages for casting, including its low weight.

1838 The first pressure die-casting equipment is invented. Die casting forces molten metal under high pressure into a mould cavity. The first die-casting machine is used for printing purposes.

1859 The spectroscope, for metal analysis, is developed by German chemist Robert Bunsen and physicist Gustav Kirchhoff. This tool is used to verify the chemical constituents of metal alloys during the casting process.

1863 Metallography is pioneered in England by Henry C. Sorby. This process allows metal surfaces to be etched, polished and microscopically examined for quality.

1876 The first authenticated aluminium castings are produced in Philadelphia.

1884 Cast aluminium is used in the first ever architectural application – a pyramid mounted on top of the Washington Monument.

1897 An Iowa dentist (Philbrook) adapts the investment casting process to make dental inlays.

1898 Moulds are developed with bonded sand.

This timeline shows the changing use of different metals and the huge advances in metal casting that have taken place in the previous 2 centuries.

In the next blog, we’ll be taking a close look at the use of metal casting through the 20th Century and beyond.

Haworth Castings has been producing fully finished, high-precision aluminium sand castings for the past 60 years. For further details, please call us today on +44 (0)1794 512685 or email us:



Main sources of historical information:

Muhammad Azhar Ali Khan, Anwar Khalil Sheikh, Bilal Suleiman Al-Shaer, Evolution of Metal Casting Technologies: A Historical Perspective, (2017)

Harold M. Cobb (editor), Dictionary of Metals (2012)

AFS Technical Department, Timeline of Casting Technologies