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Digital Cell is a step change for the diecasting industry

At GIFA 2019 Bühler Die Casting introduced its vision of the Digital Cell, a solution that aims to deliver 0 per cent scrap, 40 per cent less cycle time, and 24/7 uptime to make the diecasting industry more profitable and efficient.

Three solutions launched form part of the future Digital Cell, the first of which will be every future Bühler diecasting cell’s smart digital brain – the SmartCMS (smart cell management system). With the capability to collect and manage information from every component and peripheral, it will improve process performance and make it possible to significantly increase OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). The second breakthrough is a set of digital services, among them Predictive Analytics, which can deliver a tenfold reduction in downtimes thanks to predictive maintenance. The third key development is Fusion, Bühler’s next-generation, three-platen diecasting platform.

The company says the Digital Cell has the potential to transform diecasting. It is the vision to monitor, control, and manage the complete cell. “To achieve a step-change in diecasting, it’s not enough to focus on single components. To significantly boost productivity, we have to tackle the system as a whole,” says Jonathan Abbis, managing director at Bühler Die Casting. It will deliver key benefits for foundries around the world. 

With higher productivity levels and around-the-clock uptime, the Digital Cell will enable car manufacturers and suppliers to use aluminium and magnesium parts profitably across the entire automotive range.

0 per cent scrap

By analysing data points of all key processes in real-time, the Digital Cell will ultimately recognise quality issues and immediately optimise itself to correct the problem. 0 per cent scrap would be a game-changer for the economics and sustainability of the diecasting industry.

40 per cent less cycle time

At the moment, about a third of average cycle time may be taken up with the thermal management processes. Harmonising micro-spraying, conformal cooling, and infrared cameras within the Digital Cell will significantly reduce cycle time – potentially by as much as 40 per cent.

24/7 uptime

Today, when there is a problem in a process, the cell may detect it, but it cannot proactively do much more than halt the process until it is fixed. The plan for the Digital Cell is for it to use machine learning, artificial intelligence algorithms, and other technologies to make smart decisions without the need for intervention, cutting costs, and boosting productivity thanks to 24/7 uninterrupted production.

SmartCMS – the Digital Cell’s brain

The Digital Cell brings all of the individual diecasting components together under one smart digital brain called Smart CMS (smart cell management system). “If we think of a diecasting cell like a human body, with lots of different tasks carried out by different parts, the SmartCMS is the brain, ready to co-ordinate all of that activity in the most effective way,” says Abbis. It lays the foundation for the smart management of entire diecasting cells, with the capability to collect information from every component and peripheral in a single control system. Initially available at the cell level, SmartCMS delivers improvements through equipment connectivity, cell automation and operation, centralised alarms, data collection, flexible part flow, and recipe management. It will improve process performance and make it possible to significantly increase overall equipment effectiveness.

Digital services keep downtime to a minimum

The Digital Cell, with its Industry 4.0 and IoT technologies, can create opportunities for a wide range of digital services aimed at improving diecasting performance. The Die Casting Dashboard offers a visual platform for machine monitoring, alarms, remote support, and historic performance data. This is the first important step to giving foundry managers and owners timely information and strategic insights.

Predictive Analytics uses machine learning from sensor data on each cell. Instead of dealing with an unexpected breakdown that can cost a foundry around 30 hours until the system is back in operation, Predictive analytics cuts those 30 hours down to three hours because it calculates ‘engineering parameters’ of key machine parts and suggests scheduled interventions. It cuts expensive and time-consuming downtime tenfold. Validated accuracy of prediction is 95 per cent. This will soon be extended to include even more critical processes to cover the components typically responsible for around 80 per cent of unexpected downtime in the diecasting machine.

Each hour of downtime on a single cell can cost a customer thousands of Euros and puts pressure on delivery schedules. Understanding more about what is causing downtimes and applying proactive fixes can save significant sums. Downtime Analysis is a comprehensive cloud-based failure analysis tool, providing root cause reporting from the diecasting machine. Analysis can help to reduce downtime on a single machine. It can then inform changes on other machines within the foundry, helping to drive best practice. While data is provided on several diecasting machine parameters, an extension to cover the entire cell is planned in the near future. All data is securely stored in the Bühler Insights IoT platform powered by Microsoft Azure.

Fusion – superior control, speed, and efficiency from a flexible, modular solution

Fusion is Bühler Die Casting’s next generation, three-platen diecasting platform, designed to deliver exceptional OEE. It can make full use of Smart CMS’ future machine-learning and artificial-intelligence capabilities. With its closed-loop control, modular energy frame, and Industry 4.0 automation capability, Fusion is a flexible solution for high-quality aluminium and magnesium diecasting parts. Smoother servo-driven hydraulics can cut cycle time and reduce energy consumption by up to 40 per cent. 

With digital technologies applied by experts who understand the processes, the time is right for diecasting to fully adopt the power of digital. The vision for the Digital Cell is driving development for the future, and the first steps to this breakthrough are here now.

For more information on the Digital Cell, visit: www.digitalcell.buhlergroup.com/