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Foundry technology in the 1990s; immense changes in metalcasting technology will mark the 1990s, offering both foundries and their suppliers challenges and opportunities.

Foundry Technology in the 1990s

Immense changes in metalcasting technology will mark the 1990s, offering both foundries and their suppliers challenges and opportunities.

The next decade will be one filled with dramatic changes and opportunities for those willing to discard "old ways" and move progressively into the future.

Changes occurring today and in the next decade will be second only to the Industrial Revolution. Those who can adapt to these changes will survive. Others, as we have already seen, will not.

Iron casting production tonnages will continue to decrease as aluminum and other materials continue to capture a "larger share" of the casting business. In the automotive business, for example, all future passenger car cylinder heads and some truck heads will be aluminum. Aluminum blocks already are starting to make inroads.

Weight reduction in our business is still an important driving force. The lighter we can make our iron castings, the less likely they will be replaced by aluminum or some other lighter material. The message is clear: The demand for near net shape iron castings will increase.

Foundry customers' needs are changing dramatically. Those who respond adequately and timely to these needs will survive; those who do not will fall by the wayside.

We, at the Casting Div of Ford, are committed to more effective involvement of suppliers to encourage their planning and input and ensure that mutually advantageous technologies are developed on a timely basis. This means the suppliers are our partners in our quest to meet the increasingly demanding needs of our casting customers.

Customer Wants

During the next decade, far greater demands will be placed on foundries by their customers than ever before as designers strive for optimum value while providing the best possible performance and reliability in components. In addition, these demands must be met while reducing the time required to take a product from concept to production.

The cost of a casting will be evaluated in terms of its contribution to the total cost of a component. Factors such as machining, shipping costs, ease of repair and service life will be considered in determining a casting's value.

Since virtually every step in a manufacturing process can affect total production economics and timing (and these steps are highly influenced by the basic design), a much closer working relationship must be established between design and manufacturing functions with the customer and the foundry.

This link will be established in the early design stages and will be made possible by the interaction and implementation of new information systems, such as computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing stations at the customer and foundry. The complexity of castings will increase as designers strive to eliminate costly assembly operations by integrating functions while taking weight out of the assembly.

Cast-in features and casting designs never before possible will emerge as design engineers realize and capitalize on the full potential of new processes, such as foam pattern casting (FPC). The close working relationship between customer and foundry, already mentioned, will assure an optimum design that provides good castability, highest reliability and lowest total manufactured cost. In other words, a casting that offers the highest value will be provided to the customer.

As casting section sizes are reduced, improved tensile properties will be required to maintain sufficient strength-to-weight ratios. It will be highly desirable from a cost standpoint to produce these properties in the as-cast condition.

More specialized types of iron will be required, not only to satisfy the need for improved tensile properties but to meet increased demands in other areas, such as impact strength, fatigue strength, corrosion resistance, modulus of elasticity and wear resistance.

Ultra high-speed drilling, milling, tapping and boring will be extensively used in the mid-1990s. Machining rates will increase, on the average, by 200% over today's technology, with some operations having the potential to increase 500-1000%. With a cutting tool moving at these rates, hard spots cannot be tolerated.

In a continuation of a trend already started, foundries will be asked to provide a machined casting that is ready for assembly. This will provide added incentive for the foundry to produce a near net shape casting. Casting customers will prefer those foundries that are capable of providing value-added features and a machined casting or component assembly. This also can be attractive from the foundry's perspective in terms of pricing and quality control.

Casting Technology

As we enter the next decade, the very nature of how foundries conduct business will change dramatically. Being a full-service supplier with design, testing, machining and development capability will be a must. Changes will touch all areas of a business from the organizational structure to manufacturing facilities and beyond.

Quality excellence will be expected in all areas of business, from casting design to follow-up at the customer's plant. Implementation of advanced technologies in foundries will accelerate to an extent never before seen in the industry.

Leading this technological explosion will be a rapid evolution of the computer in design, engineering, manufacturing and office operations. Communications among all operations will be rapid, direct and will occur on a real-time basis, whether internal or external to the foundry.

Computer aided design systems in the foundry will make it possible to interact directly with the customer in the design of castings and components. The use of techniques such as finite element analysis will be routine in the development and optimization of a casting design.

Computer aided manufacturing will be used to generate required tooling without the time-consuming process of making models. This tooling will be very accurate because it will be produced directly from the data base developed jointly by product engineering and foundry tool and manufacturing engineers. Multiple tooling sets will be produced rapidly and with extreme accuracy.

Simulation technology, solidification modeling and computer aided engineering will enable the foundry to determine the castability of a design and to make modifications without the time-consuming stages used today in the production of prototype castings. All aspects of foundry processes used to produce castings--from the melt shop to the cleaning room--will be analyzed and optimized in terms of productivity and quality using computer aided engineering.

Computer aided manufacturing will be widespread in the foundries of the next decade. Artificial intelligence (AI) or expert systems on the foundry floor will provide a degree of process control never before seen.

Material usage will be controlled by AI systems having a direct interface with chemical and metallurgical analytical equipment in the lab and weights and measures equipment on the foundry floor. Dispensing of these materials will be fully automated and tightly controlled by an AI system.

Late adjustments to chemistry will be minimized by very precise control over charge makeup materials using AI. This system will go far beyond chemistry control by using a very sophisticated data base to select and order all charge materials on a least-cost charge makeup and just-in-time delivery basis. The data base will be just a small part of an extensive computer business system that will continuously monitor and make decisions that control cost and timing.

Computer aided design, engineering, manufacturing and business systems will be brought together through one integrated system: CIM or computer integrated manufacturing. This system will be the ultimate manager in monitoring and making decisions on a plant's operation.

Foundries will maintain and operate highly instrumented experimental and pilot facilities with the capability to provide customers with a fully machined casting for evaluation. These facilities will use CAD/CAM/CAE, as I mentioned previously, to provide castings in a fraction of the time it takes today. Fully equipped chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, physical and environmental laboratories for the analysis of foundry materials and processes will provide a high level of technical support.

Core/Mold Technology

In the area of molding and core processes, efforts will be concentrated on improved dimensional control and the production of a near net shape casting. To accomplish this on existing green sand mold lines, more casting surfaces will be formed by cores and less by green sand. The use of cast-in-place inserts of a wide variety of materials will become more common to meet design and performance criteria. On-line monitoring of tooling, cores and molds for dimensional accuracy will be common.

Self-diagnostic software and hardware on core and molding equipment will monitor key wear areas that affect dimensional accuracy so that corrective actions can be taken before out-of-tolerance cores or castings are produced.

Foam pattern casting, which already is well established in aluminum, will be producing near net shape iron castings. These FPC mold lines will be a substantial step toward the totally automatic foundry of the future that we have only talked about in the past. This process will be used extensively in producing thin-wall, lightweight ductile iron castings with outstanding strength and ductility.

The in-mold process for producing ductile iron will be applied to FPC and will also be used to eliminate trapped carbon from the breakdown of polystyrene often encountered in producing castings with thin sections with this process.

Austempered ductile iron castings will be well established in the castings marketplace by the mid-1990s. By the end of the next decade, ADI castings will be produced directly by controlled solidification and cooling of the casting.

Compacted graphite irons will find increased application in replacing forgings and producing near net shape castings that have strength properties that are between gray and ductile iron.

Metal Melting/Holding Technology

During the '90s many changes will occur in metal melting, holding, treating and pouring practices used in the foundry. Many of these changes will be in the category of refinements to existing processes; however, by the end of the decade innovative technology will take its place in the melt shop as well.

We already are seeing the refinement of furnace designs to improve melt and holding furnace efficiencies. Metal level indicators, rotary nozzle systems, electronic weighing and batching and automatic alloy additions are relatively recent innovations adapted from the basic steel industry. The optimization of charge makeup through the application of computer technology already has been implemented in some foundries and will be perfected in the next decade.

Plasma-fired cupolas will be used increasingly as foundries strive to lower melt losses and charge material costs while reducing environmental problems.

Computers in the next decade will literally run the melt shop. Programmed start-up cycles after relining an induction furnace will be controlled so that the furnace will ramp in temperature, hold for the correct time and then go into a meltdown mode. In a like manner, during operation the computer will monitor lining condition, metal temperature, metal level and mold line demand so that optimum power parameters are maintained.

Adjustments to chemistry will be rapid, precise and made automatically after receiving input directly from laboratory analytical equipment.

Metal holding and treatment will advance to the point where it will be possible to hold ductile iron for prolonged periods without drastic losses in nucleating ability and temperature. This will be accomplished through the development of improved facilities and new treatment alloys that greatly reduce or eliminate the "fade" we presently experience.

Inoculation to control microstructure will progress in much the same way as chemistry control. Chill depth, graphite type and shape and matrix microstructure data will be entered manually or automatically into a computer that will interface with appropriate ferroalloy feeders to dispense the needed alloy amount based on weight of metal.

Automatic pouring in the next decade will become the norm for virtually all foundries, large and small, driven by the need for improved yield and better control over pouring temperature. The use of "contact pouring" methods will further enhance the integrity of castings by providing a uniform high-pressure head of slag-free hot metal to the mold cavity.

Foundry processes and machining operations in-house or at satellite manufacturing locations will be monitored and controlled on a real-time basis. A central data base will compare production process performance with historical data and pilot parameters. Machine vision systems will verify the surface and dimensional characteristics of the casting and machined part. Laser systems will code all parts for later problem analysis, if required.

The castings produced must be of consistent quality for use in flexible machining systems and dimensional integrity, hardness and soundness must be assured for the unmanned manufacturing process of the future.

Total Quality Excellence

Just as foundries are expected to produce castings of outstanding quality, the same will be expected of their suppliers. Outstanding quality of product is, of course, a fundamental part of total quality excellence and an area that has been a topic of discussion for several years.

However, total quality also includes engineering, delivery and commercial aspects. Engineering is taken in the broadest sense and includes all technical areas involved in producing a product.

Delivery involves quality of performance in meeting all agreed upon objectives to assure that all purchased materials are at the foundry when they are needed and not before. The commercial aspects deal with areas such as cost competitiveness, business capability and responsiveness to business issues.

Quality excellence begins with the design of an alloy and continues through development and testing. Suppliers will need to maintain an excellent design liaison with the foundry industry and their customers in determining how a product can help solve not only foundry problems but also problems of the casting user.

Since computer aided design, finite element analysis and process modeling techniques will be used by the foundry and casting users, suppliers also must have this capability.

An adequate research and development activity must be maintained to develop new products in support of design needs. An integral part of this research and development activity is the laboratory capability for testing new and existing products.

When a new or improved alloy is ready to be placed into production, quality excellence must continue in manufacturing and process engineering up to, through and following release of the material to the foundry industry.

Failure mode effect analysis, manufacturing feasibility, use of statistical process controls and actual foundry evaluation are important parts of these engineering phases. Open communication and involvement with the foundry and casting user is of paramount importance at this point to assure that profitability exists for all parties.

Specialized Irons

More specialized types of irons will become common as the castings of the next decade compete with other materials and manufacturing methods. These irons must have increased strength, higher modulus of elasticity and improved profitability. Foundries of the next decade must have the flexibility and capability of producing near net shape casting with these irons.

A greater variety of high-quality, specialized ferroalloys will be required to produce the chemistries and control the microstructures of these irons while maintaining adequate fluidity to feed much more complex castings with substantially reduced section size.

In producing these irons and our standard irons in the foundry industry, we need to get back to basics: the charging of high-quality basic elements to the primary melter instead of additions to the molten metal. To achieve this, foundries will need a good supply of premium quality master alloys that are available at a competitive price and are suitable for charging in cupolas and induction furnaces. Late chemistry adjustments must be minimized.

Ultra high-speed machining methods will make increased control over hardness and microstructure essential. Specifications requiring less than a 20-point spread in hardness will be commonplace in the next decade.

Meeting Customer Needs

The dramatic changes in the foundry customer's needs will be the driving force for revolutionary changes in the foundry industry. These will be changes that will touch all areas of our business, technical and nontechnical alike. They also will have a profound effect on all of us in the 1990s.

The challenges of the next decade are immense, but so are the opportunities for those who are willing to break away from tradition and be progressive. Suppliers and equipment makers in partnership will meet these challenges head-on as we arrive at innovative and profitable solutions.

PHOTO : CAD/CAM systems at both the customer and foundry will establish the link that enables

PHOTO : closer working relationships during the early phases of casting design.

PHOTO : During the next decade, computer aided manufacturing will be used to generate required

PHOTO : tooling without the time-consuming process of making molds.

PHOTO : Foam pattern casting, already well established in aluminum, will be used increasingly to

PHOTO : produce near net shape iron castings.

George N. Booth Casting Div/Ford Motor Co Dearborn, MI
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Booth, George N.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Previous Article:Investment casting without tooling.
Next Article:23rd census of world casting production - 1988.

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