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Trends and challenges – diecasting industry of the future

The progress made in diecasting technology, project partnerships, energy and cost-efficient machines and the possibilities that arise from digitised production are helping diecasters guarantee and enhance their competitiveness.

The diecasting industry has been fully integrated in the further societal and technological development. In this, the automotive industry, which buys 80 per cent of die cast parts, plays an important role. The trend away from the combustion engine and towards alternative drives has inevitable effects on the demand for die cast parts. While a combustion engine contains approximately 220 of those parts, only about 25 – that is, only one tenth of them – are needed for an electrical drive. Changes in the mobility behaviour of people such as car sharing, the use of robocabs or autonomous driving could have the additional effect that far fewer vehicles and thus far fewer crash-proof components are required. Nevertheless, diecasting foundries can be optimistic about the future because for each vehicle parts such as structural components or sensor casings, which satisfy strict specifications and can be produced cost-effectively by diecasting, will continue to be necessary. Also, electric motors require die cast parts such as battery housings.

Networks and partnerships

Modern diecasting facilities are accustomed to manufacturing demanding parts and meeting economic challenges. “Many companies”, says Gerd Röders, CEO of G A Röders GmbH & Co KG and president of the German Die Caster’s Association VDD, “have been engaged in material-sciences for a long time. Therefore, the diecasting technology has developed strongly with regard to alloys, production processes and application possibilities. Nowadays, it is possible to produce diecast parts which are weldable and can be glued or riveted. At the same time, procedures are available in order to finish the surfaces according to the application. All this was unthinkable a decade ago”. Such parts, which incorporate a lot of development effort, meet the requirements of demanding customers with regard to criteria such as light weight design, strength and crash behaviour.

Also, internal processes in diecasting facilities have changed. In the past, it was normal to manufacture parts purely according to drawings; today, companies such as the family-run Röders company with a staff of approximately 400 are integrated via simultaneous engineering in the customers’ development processes right from the start. Another strength is that the companies – at least in the German-speaking regions – are integrated in well-established networks. Together with universities which carry out applied research and companies which are specialised in complementary technologies, project-based partnerships can be formed quickly.

Cost saving potentials

European diecasting foundries operate under high pressure to perform and to act in a cost-effective manner, which is increased by the competition with other materials such as steels and plastics, the shifting of market places towards East Asia, and the growing influence of Chinese market participants as well as their market and business strategies. Particularly in those countries where energy and labour costs are high, this pressure can be lowered by using modern diecasting machines that are practically available around the clock and are economical in terms of raw material and energy consumption. The trend is moving towards an increased material efficiency, i.e. a production with a scrap rate which goes to zero per cent. For Marcello Fabbroni, head marketing and product management diecasting of the Swiss-based manufacturer of diecasting machines Bühler AG, improving cost efficiency is a huge potential for optimisation, and he points to in-house activities: “At Bühler AG, with respect to new developments we pay attention to the topic 30/30, that is to say that with new projects we try to reduce 30 per cent waste and to reduce 30 per cent energy. For all development projects these goals must be taken into account in the specifications”.

Also, 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. Furthermore, production data can be clearly and comprehensively documented. This is becoming more and more important regarding responsibility matters.