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Innovate to survive – yesterday, today and tomorrow

Over a thousand delegates from more than 20 countries took part in the 72nd World Foundry Congress, held in Nagoya, Japan on 21st to 25th May 2016.
The occasion marked the third time the prestigious World Foundry Congress has been held in Japan (Kyoto, 1968 and Osaka, 1990). This year gave the Japanese foundry industry the opportunity to showcase its resilience and ability to offer world-class cast solutions despite still recovering from the difficult economic consequences of the tsunami disaster in 2011. 
As a centre of the manufacturing industry in Japan, Nagoya is a bustling business city with a long-established industrial heritage but plenty of scenic delights to please all who attended. Such is its importance in terms of manufacturing, that car giant Toyota has its headquarters in the city.
In addition to the 156 technical presentations, four keynote speeches and 44 paper-strong poster session there was also a separate young researchers programme of nine papers dedicated to those at the onset of their careers, where they could share ideas and innovations, along with a full exhibition and several high profile works visits.
The following is just a taster of some of the topics covered during three days of parallel technical sessions at the WFC 2016, split into the following session headings: 
• Challenges and perspectives on the foundry industry
• New casting applications
• Ferrous casting production and metallurgy
• Non-ferrous casting production and metallurgy
• Mould and core making technology
• Casting defects
• Investment casting
• Diecasting
• Quality control
• People and skills
• Technology transfer and knowledge management in the foundry industry
• Simulation and modelling
• Robotics and automation
• Energy saving and environmental protection

PROBLEM SOLVING ON MASS
Welcoming delegates to the event, which was a collaboration between the Japan Foundry Engineering Society and the World Foundry Organization, WFO president Prof Myung Ho Kim spoke of how the WFO unites the foundry industry and through various ways, including the World Foundry Congress, disseminates technical information to companies and individuals around the globe. “The industry has a pile of problems,” he told delegates. “Energy, recruiting young people, competition from other technologies. We recognise these problems and are together working for a solution. The World Foundry Congress is a great opportunity for international networking.”

THREE IMPORTANT CHALLENGES
Japanese politician and member of the house of representatives in Japan, Yoshitaka Shindo, addressed delegates at the opening ceremony and said it was “an honour to have such a prestigious international conference” held in Japan.
He told those attending: “Casting greatly contributes to world economics but has three important challenges – innovation, as it is very important to adjust to change; the avoidance of price competition at the cost of quality, which requires long-term investment and training; and environmental considerations. The industry must address these three challenges on a global scale, which can be achieved at the World Foundry Congress.
“Manufacturing is the foundation of the economy and casting is the core of manufacturing. We need to be connected throughout the world to bring about success. The global casting industry contributes to a brighter world.”
Speaking about the current state of the Japanese foundry industry Tsuyoshi Tohyama, from the Manufacturing Industries Bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry predicted a slowdown of global casting production. Despite the difficulties and drop from 4,000 foundries in Japan 25 years ago to around 2,000 now, the country has maintained its position as the fourth largest global casting producer in the world - behind China, the US and India, and ahead of Germany - with 5.54m tons. He said the country was at around 80 per cent of the peak level of production in 2008.
He agreed with Yoshitaka Shindo about the main challenges and said that new materials, IT and big data and new technology, like multi-layer techniques, would prove more and more important in the coming years.
“Fukishima was a major blow to the casting industry in Japan. We rely on overseas for energy resources,” he said. “It is also a problem that we have an ageing society with fewer children. Indeed Japan is the fastest ageing country in the world. We have to attract people into the industry. For too long 3D has stood for dirty, demanding and dangerous!
“Automation is one solution as is the Japan Foundry Engineering Society Casting College where courses are being held for a range of alloys along with common classes in various districts plus professional lectures and internships.”
He said that the industry had to manage the fact that its profit ratio was lower than other sectors, quoting the following:
Operating income margin - 1.9 per cent in metal casting; 9.5 per cent for iron and steel industry; 5.1 per cent for chemical industry; 4.1 per cent in the non-ferrous metals sector; 4.6 per cent in the automotive sector; 6.4 per cent in the machine industry.

A COMFORTABLE LIFE AT THE COST OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Another prestigious speaker - Hidehiko Kadono, general manager of the Foundry Engineering Division of Toyota Motor Corporation - warned delegates: “We’ve got a comfortable life at the cost of the environment.” 
He spoke of the EU target of 30 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions. He said that attitudes were changing “Twenty years ago, consumers wanted power when buying a car and were interested in things like the top speed. Now they want good fuel consumption - times have changed.
“Efficiency and weight saving will help with the reduction of CO2 emissions, and downsizing by turbocharge engines is an option but high air cooling ability is required in turbo charged engines. In the future more and more narrow sand cores will be needed and produced so we need to improve our technology.” 
He said that the industry was always looking to innovate but that sometimes cost is prohibitive. “With aluminium body structure the cost didn’t match customer demand.”
He said that Toyota was predicting that customer demands were set to change “drastically” and that there was a large variety in sales, which were different in various parts of the world. He said that 3D printing, with its order, product design, printing, sand coring, and casting process could enable companies to satisfy customer demands more quickly.
“Demands for lighter and more compact will require us to develop new materials – combination, replacement and control. In many ways a combination could enhance strength. We must also optimise the design process.”
He said other areas for development included: stopping melt transportation by developing highly efficient pre-heating and by using automation; automated die design; and an auto connection system moving from the 40-minute conventional system to a nine-minute automated one.
He envisaged that the reduction of ‘idlying’ energy was also on the cards with a partially electric-powered diecasting machine – reducing energy used by 30 per cent.
He explained that Toyota’s tasks for the future are:
• Zero risk
• Zero loss
• Reduced CO2
He concluded that: “To do all this we must innovate production systems.”

COMPETENT TO SUPPLY
In his presentation entitled: ‘Streamlining the design, development and manufacture of grey iron brake discs through computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering’, Richard Sims of EURAC Poole Ltd (UK) said foundries needed to be competent to supply the finished product. “It is no longer good enough to just supply castings any more,” he told delegates. “OEMs want a foundry to be a tier 1 supplier and own the design process.”
He spoke of how EURAC uses 2D sketches, 3D geometry and 2D component drawings and utilises 3D printing typically for cores but also for moulds to lead to pre-production samples, following FEA data and real-life vehicle study tests. It is only after all this that the company commits to foundry tooling. “We have to ensure that the running system and the method is capable of the design we are looking for,” he said. “We semi-automate the process of the foundry tooling design using CAD and the tooling lead time is around ten weeks.”
Because they have acquired all the geometry, the company’s engineers can then write the CNC machining inspection criteria.
“The biggest impact to the process is multi-skilling,” Sims said. “Our employees are competently trained to complete the design and production engineering process but not necessarily separated departmentally. The new product introduction process at EURAC is 42 per cent shorter than previous projects. We can now offer an eleven-week lead-time, which our customers tell us is market-leading.
“Our 3D model data is the design master document, the 2D drawing is supplemental information. Multi-skilling saves a third of the time and a new rapid prototyping process saves another third. We are currently working with OEMs to encourage them to only use 3D.”

A GAME-CHANGER
“RFID is going to really change everything,” Mark Lewis of Omega Foundry Machinery Ltd cautioned delegates during his presentation on ‘Industry 4.0 and what it means to the foundry industry.’
Radio frequency identification is already being used in the industry to help reduce human error and track production. Lewis explained that it is the ideal partner for Industry 4.0. “RFID allows a foundry to track and move patterns and moulds around the whole production process,” he said. “Collecting and linking all data together allows for a much more controlled flow for consistency and quality, and enables remote observation of pieces of equipment.”
Using a cloud-based system, foundries can achieve predictive and preventative maintenance but Lewis claimed this was just the beginning. “The next stage is to connect your customer to your facility for ordering and predictive production rates.”
He said that by utilising the latest remote cloud-based technology and linking both customer and supplier in the system, trends could be predicted and enterprise resource planning would become more automated.
“Eventually the industry could embed an RFID tag in the casting itself,” Lewis said. “This is years away but it should be considered a future possibility.”
He reassured those present that cyber security had also advanced to enable the system to be robust enough to be safe from hacking.
The past, the present and the future – all encompassed under the umbrella of the World Foundry Congress. 
For details of how to acquire a copy of the proceedings from the event contact WFO secretary Andrew Turner, Tel: +44 (0) 1544 340332, email: andrew@thewfo.com