Moulds for zinc die-casting EDM-trio offers service and menu like a 5-star restaurant

Source: Sodick Reading Time: 6 min

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The zinc die-caster Wissler & Rademacher knows that the production of die-cast parts depends squarely on the tools. If a mould is defective, large series production of millions of units comes to a standstill. To prevent such unplanned downtimes, the zinc foundry has equipped its high-performance mould construction department with three new EDM machines.

Every day, the EDM team led by Thomas Munkert ensures that the moulds are ready for use at all times.
Every day, the EDM team led by Thomas Munkert ensures that the moulds are ready for use at all times.
(Source: Sodick)

When the two founders of Wissler & Rademacher started out in 1957 with two grinders, they could not have imagined that 60 years later their company would become one of the largest zinc die casting foundries in Europe. Around 200 employees work in three shifts to produce castings with the required surface quality and wall thickness to a high degree of precision. The throughput of 7,500 tonnes of zinc die castings per year is staggering, ranging from small batches of 1,000 pieces to large series with several million die castings per year. On the state-of-the-art die-casting machines, 4-gram parts are cast just as well as 4-kilo zinc parts. This range is possible because the machines have clamping forces of between 20 and 315 tonnes. This makes Wissler & Rademacher one of the very few die-casting foundries in Europe with this kind of machinery.

The customers of the contract foundry come from almost all industries, because die casting is a popular material: from the zip claw to the handle on the razor to the zinc cast housing in high pressure cleaners. “The range of applications for our castings is extremely diverse,” knows Gerd Bühner, Head of Sales at Wissler & Rademacher. “We supply all industries, but our biggest customers are the window and door fitting manufacturers, who order all the zinc parts they need from us.” For this group of customers, the service goes far beyond the production of the die-cast parts; the zinc die-casting foundry takes care of the complete assembly of components, manually or automatically, right through to customised packaging. “Our customer gets his door handles and die-cast fittings ready-packed and only has to put them in stock.”

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High vertical integration across all manufacturing processes

In addition to die casting, the company covers almost all manufacturing processes: machining (drilling, threading, milling, grinding), a wide variety of blasting and vibratory grinding processes (barrel finishing) and thermal deburring. “We have a high vertical depth in production and also camera monitoring for various applications; only the coating is done on an extended workbench,” explains Thomas Munkert, who is responsible for technical sales and design at Wissler & Rademacher. “The customer requests our services with his drawing or a model, and gets the complete package from us: toolmaking, casting, machining, electroplating through to the assembled and packaged product.”

Everything depends on mould making. If anything is not running perfectly here, the subcontracted orders cannot be produced on time. “Repairs on the tools must be carried out quickly and precisely because the order from the customer must continue to be produced,” says Thomas Munkert. Last year, the contract manufacturer from Velbert therefore invested in new EDM technology for its mould making department. “We visited the Sodick demonstration centre in Düsseldorf — the linear motor technology, the high-quality ceramic machine table and the modern control system impressed us straight away.”

Then, in December, the trucks pulled up. No fewer than five existing machines were exchanged and replaced with the latest Sodick EDM: Three Sodick sinks (2x AD35L 1x AD55L), one wire (VL400Q) and one starting hole machine (K1C). After a short briefing by a Sodick technician on site, the ten-man mould making team around Thomas Munkert was able to get started immediately. Later, together with the Sodick eroding specialists, they received more in-depth training on the new machines. After all, Thomas Munkert has to get as much as possible out of his new EDM. Mould making at Wissler & Rademacher covers the areas of new construction, preventive maintenance and servicing. “Our mould making department works in 2 shifts to ensure that the zinc casting tools are always ready for use and that there are also sufficient spare and wear parts in stock.”

With the Sodick EDM machines, we are well prepared for the future and now have our EDM machine partner virtually right on our doorstep.

Thomas Munkert

Besides about 70 new tools a year, however, the main focus is on repairing and maintaining the 2,800 die-casting moulds that are now in use. And the spare parts warehouse with its 1,300 storage slots also needs to be constantly replenished so that productivity can be maintained. “New mould construction is only a small part of our work, the main focus is on preventive maintenance and spare parts,” specifies Thomas Munkert. “In order to cope with the huge amount of work we have to do every day, the new Sodick machines with intuitive controls, higher throughputs and much shorter runtimes are just what we need.” Stack machining enables us to machine several workpieces in a set-up-optimised manner, nightly ghost shifts are also possible. That was not feasible with the old machines that did not have extinguishing systems. In addition, all Sodick machines are equipped with automatic tool changers. Although the mould maker has been using the new EDMs for less than half a year, the improvements are noticeable every day. “With the Sodick EDMs, I no longer have to worry that a defective tool or a missing spare part will lead to a production stop in our zinc foundry, the pressure is gone,” says a satisfied Thomas Munkert. “We can thus provide an effective all-round support for our zinc die-casting moulds.”

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Service and menu like in a 5-star restaurant

Those who acquire new technology may sometimes be a little overwhelmed at the beginning. Not so the mould making team from Wissler & Rademacher. Once again, the value of a machine control system with intuitive menu navigation can be seen. Anyone who is able to operate one Sodick machine can immediately switch to another, thus facilitating multi-machine operation. “The control system has menu guidance via dialogue and is much more convenient, the error rate has dropped dramatically as a result and downtimes have been noticeably reduced,” says Thomas Munkert enthusiastically about his new machines. “It's also fun to work with the Sodick machines: When you have old software and old controls, a lot of things always have to be entered quite awkwardly, and that's when errors begin to occur.” And also the high precision and surface quality that can be achieved with the new machines can no longer be compared to the past.

The zinc die-casting foundry Wissler & Rademacher has invested heavily in the future in recent years. Investments have been made in all areas in state-of-the-art technology, new machinery and equipment as well as buildings. The acquisition of the new Sodick machines was ultimately the logical consequence of this investment policy. The workforce of 200 employees is also to be increased significantly. Only recently, additional capacities for expansion were created with a new industrial area: the previous factory area of approx. 7,500 sqm was doubled in the process. Sales manager Gerd Bühner looks positively into the future: “With the investments in technologies and the additional space, we are meeting the demands of the market and thereby also ensure shorter lead times. We are trying to counteract the omnipresent shortage of skilled workers by increasing the number of apprentices. Unfortunately, fewer young people are interested in the profession of mould maker or foundry mechanic at the moment, although it is a very interesting, future-oriented profession with many opportunities,” says Gerd Bühner, who himself worked for many years at the die-casting machine manufacturer Oskar Frech in Schorndorf.

With the Sodick machines, the spare parts and repair department in the mould shop is optimally equipped and the production flow in the zinc foundry is secured for the long term. “We have to be fast and precise when it comes to mould repairs. The new machines have simplified everything: dialogue-based menu guidance, maintenance with water and filter change, improved wire guidance, high precision thanks to the linear drive and integrated temperature monitoring — no wishes are left unfulfilled,” is Thomas Munkert's conclusion. Even for unscheduled work, he now has machine capacity.