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Energy, costs and environment in mind

High energy costs, environmental impact and political targets are essential issues that lead diecasting foundries to implement measures concerning resource efficiency and environmental protection.

Diecasting foundries are energy-intensive enterprises that have to deal with the complex issues of ‘resource efficiency’ and ‘environmental protection’. Legal requirements, economic factors and, not least, ethical criteria must be taken into consideration. An intelligent implementation of resource-saving measures helps to meet targets and, often also, to open cost saving opportunities.

 

Resources

Resources are sources for the manufacture of products, but also absorb the resulting emissions(1). Apart from the natural resources of water, air and soil, raw materials, auxiliary materials and operating materials along with energy carriers and the energy sourced from them are also to be considered. Raw materials are mostly only available to a limited extent. With rising demand, this fact is reflected in increasing prices. Thus, the increased costs for energy, whether electricity, gas or oil, and for raw, auxiliary and operating materials, represent an important share in the cost structure of German foundries(2). The use of these and other resources also impacts the environment along the entire value chain. The economic and efficient use of resources helps to save costs and, in addition to other measures, to reduce the environmental impacts. Another reason for making efficient use of resources is that the legal requirements are becoming more and more strict and violations result in substantial financial penalties. In an interview, Prof Dr-Ing Klaus Drechsler, lightweight specialist at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV in Garching, Germany, points to another advantage: “With the topic of resource efficiency, the enterprises have the opportunity to shape their image positively and to generate a competitive advantage from this”(3).

 

Increasing the resource efficiency

Quantifying resource efficiency is possible within certain limits. For example, companies are aware of their annual consumption of raw, auxiliary and operating materials. Therefore, an increase of resource efficiency can be defined in terms of numbers and achieved through specific measures. This was the subject of a research project, specifically for the aluminium diecasting industry entitled ‘ProGRess’ project (Design of resource efficient process chains using the example of aluminium diecasting). This industry is an energy-intensive industry and is representative of the metals producing and processing industry, which accounts for around ten per cent of the total energy consumption of all German production areas. The results of the research project, which have been published in a scientific book, show, among other things, the variety of measures to increase the resource efficiency, whereby a bundle of measures is usually necessary to achieve significant efficiency gains. In addition, it is advisable to consider complete value chains and to analyse and evaluate individual measures across company firewalls(4,5).

 

Energy management

Power requirements in the diecasting industry are so high that savings in this area have an enormous impact on costs. By means of a computerised energy management, which is certified according to DIN EN ISO 50001, an energy monitoring of the individual production facilities is possible. In this way, for example, leaks in the compressed air supply system and other wastes can be detected early and eliminated. In this context, the topic of ‘digitisation’ (Industry 4.0) is of growing significance because by means of digital technologies, processes can be controlled more efficiently, and optimisation potentials can be better recognised and documented. And last but not least, modern diecasting machines, melting furnaces and peripheral devices, which are economical in raw material and energy consumption, make a significant contribution to increasing resource efficiency. Energy consumption analyses shows at which points of the diecasting process the energy balance could be optimised. Further ways in which energy efficiency can be improved are to use waste heat and to install sensor controlled LED lighting in the production halls.

 

Environmental protection and management

Environmental protection measures include air pollution control, noise reduction, waste recycling and the use of alloys extracted from recycled scrap metal. Suggestions on how individual process steps can be made more environmentally compatible are continually discussed in the professional press. Basic thoughts on this can be found in a brochure published some time ago by the German Foundrymen’s Association (VDG)(6).

 

Die cast parts enhance resource efficiency

Diecastings have the advantage of helping customers and users to optimise their resource efficiency. For example, diecasting can be used to replace material-intensive production processes such as machining processes. Die cast parts can be designed so that they are ideally tailored to the respective application and the material properties are optimally exploited. The use of modern machines promotes the trend towards an increased material efficiency, i.e. a production with a scrap rate which goes to zero per cent. The production is time and cost-effective, because modern simulation methods take over a lot of work from the designers. In a similar way, processes can be virtually simulated and optimised. Another benefit of using die cast parts is that they can be made from recycled metal and fully recycled once their usage time has ended.

 

The trade fair EUROGUSS 2020

An insight into state-of-the-art in pressure diecasting and suggestions as to how diecasting foundries can strengthen and expand their market position, but also around resource efficiency and environmental protection, will be provided at the EUROGUSS 2020 – International Trade Fair for Die Casting: Technology, Processes, Products in Nuremberg, Germany, 14-16th January 2020.

The EUROGUSS family includes EUROGUSS and the non-European diecasting trade fairs China Die Casting, Alucast in India, EUROGUSS Asia Pacific in Thailand and EUROGUSS Mexico.

www.euroguss.de/en/news

 

References

1. Lehmann Christian, Jäger Fabian, Resource Efficiency in the Foundry Industry: Old Hat or Essential Feature with Future Potential?’ Contribution to the 6th environment day of the BDG; in German only. www.bdguss.de

2. Resource efficiency, main feature; in German only. www.bdguss.de

3. For years a sought-after lightweight expert in research and industry; in German only. www.plattform-ressourceneffizienz.de/angebot/prof-dr-ing-klaus- drechsler/

4. Herrmann Christoph, Pries Helge, Hartmann Götz, ‘Energy and resource efficient production of aluminium die castings’; in German only. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013. ISBN 978-3-642-39852-0

5. Herrmann Christoph, Heinemann Tim, Thiede Sebastian, ‘Synergies from process and energy oriented process chain simulation – a case study for the aluminium die casting industry’. 18th CIRP International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering, Braunschweig, Germany. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg 2011, pp317-322.
ISBN 978-3-642-19691-1 https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/987-3-642-19692-8_55.

6. Integrated environment protection in foundries. Strategy and research program; in German only. VDG Verein Deutscher Giessereifachleute e.V. 2003. www.cleaner-production.de/fileadmin/assets/pdfs/Giesserei.pdf