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The industry has to be faster and better to compete globally

Picking up on the latest trends and challenges for the international foundry community, speakers at the 56th International Foundry Conference, held in Portoroz, Slovenia in September, highlighted the impact Industry 4.0 is having on the sector.

Opening the conference, president of Drustvo Livarjev Slovenije (the Slovenian Foundrymen Society) Mirjam Jan-Blazic told delegates: “Industry 4.0 - the fourth industrial revolution - will alter and shape our work, social and physical environment along with how we live and co-exist.” Because of the significance of the trend, many of the papers presented over the two-day event pinpointed how Industry 4.0 is already impacting and what the possible implications would be for the sector in the future.
The 270 participants from Slovenia and 17 other countries were treated to 33 papers, seven poster sessions and ten plenary lectures concerning topics relevant to today’s sand, die and investment casting industries. The conference enables academics and practical foundrymen to come together to examine the challenges and indeed the developments in the industry in terms of technology, processes and materials.
In addition to the technical sessions 48 companies participated in this year’s accompanying tabletop exhibition.

A Competitive Edge
The managing director of Bundesverband der Deutschen Giesserei-Industrie (BDG) - the German Foundry Association - Dr Ing Christian Wilhelm said: “Industry 4.0 crosslinks production processes and is already being used in many modern foundries. The issues of frontloading and copy protection are only two of the many aspects of the maximum co-operation between foundrymen and the design departments, which is absolutely necessary for maintaining a technological competitive edge.”
He spoke of the future opportunities for foundries in an ever-changing world in particular the ongoing demands of the automotive industry, which relies on foundries continuously enhancing casting processes to be able to produce more lightweight components. He told delegates: “The traditional way of processing single cores and greensand moulds as well as the gravity-driven stationary casting processes alone are no longer sufficient to meet the high demands on product quality. These days, core package systems and tilt casting technologies are state-of-the-art. In diecasting, there are limits to the freedom of design. The latest developments regarding salt cores suggest that employing lost cores also in the field of diecasting will be increasingly likely in the future.”
He also said that energy, weight and price reduction was not limited. “We must improve, improve, improve - it is a never ending story. Price reduction will be achieved outside Europe so we have to improve. International competition is nothing new so we have to be faster and we have to be better.”

Process Digitisation
Speaking about the processes and materials involved with Industry 4.0, Prof Dr Ing Andreas Buhrig-Polaczek of RWTH Aachen University said research and development was critical. “There was a smooth change from the third industrial revolution to the fourth,” he said. “Industry 4.0 involves a process digitisation. Digitisation is an important tool for product and materials development. By digitising production parameters, materials and product properties can be correlated to optimise each other. Real-time data will lead to model prediction to describe the process, then when you understand that you can control the process.” However, he warned that in foundries this was sometimes difficult. “For foundry processes, a high number of relevant data has to be taken into account – the measurement of technical data in an industrial environment is especially often non satisfactory. The idea of Industry 4.0 is a step forward so a model gives you a forecast - predictive analysis. That will change a bit, we now need a constant process and constant parameters - prescriptive analysis/flexible processes is the goal. All data has to interact.”

Opening Doors to the IT World
Taking the audience into the future, Dr Ing Kai Kerber of Oskar Frech GmbH & Co showed his vision of the diecasting plant of tomorrow, but he also explained how it would be challenging for non greenfield companies. “High pressure diecasting machines last a long time so the industry can have technology that is sometimes 40 years old so Industry 4.0 has to be practical for existing equipment - a retrofit solution. To do this we have to do ‘middleware’ so old machines work like new ones. Industry 4.0 is an evolution not a revolution. By integrating everything, a company will see improved flexibility of segments. We must look to optimise the next generation with the die at least being digitally identifiable. We must let the IT environment get into engineering - the IT world has solutions that can help us.”
This is just a brief insight into the calibre of presentations at the event. Next year the 57th International Foundry Forum will be held on 13th to 15th September in Portoroz, Slovenia.

Slovenian Foundrymen Society, Tel: +386 1 252 24 88, email: drustvo.livarjev@sio