Different digitisation activities enable die-casting foundries to make their working processes more efficient with respect to costs and productivity. Moreover, die-casting foundries can exploit the obtained data to create further business fields.
The buzzwords "Digitisation" and "Industry 4.0" stand, simply said, for the networking of machines and processes with information and communication technologies that transmit and process large amounts of data at high speed. A key role here is played by the Internet. The "Forum Industrie 4.0" organised by the German Engineering Federation VDMA explains on its homepage that digitalisation will affect and shape all sectors of the industry. The forum, in which the national foundry industry is represented by the VDMA/BDG working group “Gießerei 4.0” (Foundry 4.0), also offers publications in English on Industry 4.0 and points out that the one right solution does not exist: “Be it a revolution or an evolutionary process – each and every company must find its own path to Industry 4.0” 1.
As such, die-casting foundries are also faced with the question of which digitisation activities make individual sense in order to work more cost-efficiently, remain competitive and be able to offer new services and added values.
Digitisation of production
Suppliers of the die-casting industry provide digital technology that makes the most of machinery performance. According to Stuart Bashford, who is responsible for the digitisation strategy of the die-casting machine construction company Bühler, many of the company's customers are interested in digitisation activities that can reduce unplanned downtime – and the financial losses linked to it: "Using our machine learning algorithms, for example, we can predict where and when failures will occur. This enables customers to schedule maintenance activities around production schedules without interruption." 2
Bühler's "Predictive Analytics" method is based on the analysis of data, supplied from various sensors installed inside a die-casting cell that enables the performance in real-time to be monitored. Anomalies, poor performance and developments are revealed and it is possible to predict where a failure is likely to occur before it actually occurs. The data analysis can be carried out in the cloud made available from Bühler or in the user’s own network 3.
For all types of die-casting machines, the Cast Quality Control System (CQC) from Electronics GmbH is suitable, for example. The universally applicable measuring and monitoring system is also based on sensors that are installed at certain points of the die-casting cell and measure various functions such as the clamping cylinder pressure, plunger movements, movements of the mould during the injection process and the de-airing of die-casting tools. Via the clamping cylinder pressure, for eg., it is possible to control the clamping force and keep it constant with the result that the mould and machine load is uniform. The machine and process data collected by sensors during production provide both indications of the technical condition of production systems as well as ultimately help optimise and sustainably increase the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
Digitising die-cast components
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials, IFAM, concentrates, among other things, on combining die-cast components with digitisation technologies. The "Casttronics Technology" developed by IFAM includes RFID transponders that are cast directly into die-cast components made of aluminum and a software that reads, manages and analyses the transponder data. This makes it possible to permanently mark parts, protect them against plagiarism and follow the entire "supply chain" of the parts from manufacture through use to recycling 4.
Holistic way of thinking
In order to be able to optimally use digital technologies in a die-casting foundry, its business operations must be holistically captured in figures. This includes transforming data into knowledge, understanding interrelationships and utilising the findings for the manufacturing process 5. Franz-Josef Wöstmann, head of the Casting Technology and Lightweight Construction department at IFAM, goes another step further and recommends foundrymen to use Industry 4.0 as a basis for additional new activities. In an interview he said that only if the user can use the data for further functions and user benefits after the production, is he able to differentiate himself from the market. For this purpose, it is necessary to understand the data that can be obtained, for example, from components and using the interface with customers as a platform for new services. The afore-mentioned "Casttronics technology" and the associated digitisation of the die-cast components also create the opportunity to exploit the data and extend the value chain 4.
1) Forum Industrie 4.0, Publications, found in https://industrie40.vdma.org/viewer/-/v2article/render/26340807
2) Michèle Bodmer: Technology is an enabler, not a solution in itself. in: diagramm – the Bühler magazine, #176, November 2017, pages 11-13.
3) Laszlo Jud: Higher Uptimes with Predictive Analytics. June 2018, found in https://www.buhlergroup.com/northamerica/en/industry-solutions/die-casting/latest-news/details-30772.htm
4) Intelligent genug für Industrie 4.0. (Intelligent enough to Industry 4.0.; in German). in: Giesserei, 31.01.2019, found in https://www.giesserei.eu/magazin/interview/2019/interview-ifam/
5) Dieter Leibfried: Paradigmenwechsel in der Druckgussfertigung. Teil 1: Einführung. (A Paradigm Shift in the Die Casting Process. Part 1: Introduction; in German). in: Giesserei-Praxis 4/2019, pages 41-46.
This article first appeared on www.spotlightmetal.com.