International Truck & Engine Corp. Waukesha Manufacturing Facility. (2003 Foundry Casting of the Year).
The firm's existing cope and drag mold lines were too small to effectively produce it, and its green sand molds wouldn't be able to hold the necessary tolerances or achieve the quality levels required of the design. A new approach had to be taken.
Given three months of time, a team from International-Waukesha developed an idea for a new molding system that would utilize its existing cope and drag green sand line and a new intelligent, vision-enabled, automated coldbox core package production and delivery system.
"All we wanted was the chance to show what we could engineer," said Gary Wick, director of advanced technology/sales and marketing and the product development manager who headed the team developing the new system.
This technological advancement in mold production and delivery has earned International-Waukesha the 2003 MODERN CASTING Foundry of the Year Award. Following is a look at the path International-Waukesha took to accomplish these innovations.
Developing a Mold Line
In March 2000, International Waukesha expressed its interest in taking over production of the bedplate castings. These components were critical to the V-8 and V-6 engines to be produced under the well-publicized Next Generation Vehicle platform by International Truck and Engine Corp. International decided to hear the foundry out and gave it until May to develop a presentation on how the components would be produced.
"It gave the plant a chance to show what it could accomplish," said Kevin Holley, plant manager, who arrived at International-Waukesha in September after serving as assistant plant manager for an International truck assembly plant in Springfield, Ohio.
Drawing from the successful core package system that had been developed by International-Waukesha's sister foundry, Indianapolis Casting Corp. (ICC), Indianapolis (see "ICC's Robotics Revolutionize Coremaking," January 2002, MODERN CASTING), the foundry went to work on a new production design. It bad to produce 64-lb V-8 and 56-lb \J-6 bedplate castings (80-55-06 ductile iron) with walls as thin as 4 mm and as thick as 0,75-in. The firm knew this couldn't be produced solely in green sand.
"ICC allowed us to learn from its mistakes so that we didn't have to make the same mistakes twice," said Wick. "With such a short development time, eliminating mistakes was key."
The first production design development for the new 13 molding line was a coldbox core package for the bedplate casting (Fig. 1). This core package encapsulates the casting geometry, providing the dimensional stability against sand expansion and contraction to produce the necessary wall thickness while also maintaining tolerances. But to accommodate the 110-lb core package for blowing and assembly as well as insertion into a mold, a new mold system was required.
International-Waukesha reconfigured an existing 24 x 24-in, cope and drag line to produce 24 x 30-in, molds, large enough to accept the core package. The design of the completed mold package used the green sand portion of the mold only to support the bottom-fill gating system for the casting, with the casting geometry resting solely in the core package.
Beyond the mold package, the layout of the molding machine had to be re-engineered as well. When redesigning the mold line, the foundry took the drag line production occurring below the cope line production and moved it side-by-side with the cope to allow for manual filter placement in the drag as well as an automated delivery of the core package.
With the re-engineering, the mold line now was prepared to deliver completed molds to pouring.
Developing a Core Package
The next hurdle to overcome was to determine how the core package was going to be produced and delivered to the mold line.
The core package is made up of nine individual coldbox cores. Another lesson international-Waukesha learned from ICC was that it would be best to blow the entire package on one machine at once, eliminating the need to transport cores between machines to complete a core package. While this wasn't possible at ICC due to the core package size for engine blocks, International-Waukesha accommodated the bedplate package by expanding the three coldbox core machines to use larger tooling and increase blow capacity. The three machines each produce one complete core package every 50 sec.
Once the cores are produced, they shuttle out for two workers (per machine) to inspect and assemble into one package. International-Waukesha developed its own pallets for the cores to be assembled on. Each pallet holds two packages and has grooves machined into it to ensure the proper cores are assembled in the proper place on the pallets.
"The pallets were one of the least expensive advances we made for this system but they guard against any mistakes in core package assembly," said Wick, "The scrap savings alone justified the development."
Once the packages are assembled, a cover is placed over each and two staples are used to hold it together. The pallet is then transferred via an automated conveyor to the storage and retrieval system that begins the intelligent vision process.
International-Waukesha along with Electric Controls & Systems, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama, designed the vision-enabled core storage, retrieval and setting system. According to the foundry, this is the first time vision inspection has been applied to core setting.
"Vision technology had made its way into the casting industry with cleaning and finishing and machining," said Habib Chaudhry, business team leader--technical services. "But, it is a new step to use it on a core and mold production line."
"We are taking error and downtime out of the system," said Wick. "From core package production to shakeout, intelligent cameras are in charge of the production for the most part."
Before the pallet with two core packages enters the floor to ceiling storage system (which can house 2184 bedplate packages for 8 hr of production), a smart camera inspects the package and reads a barcode to determine the casting type and production time. The pallet then is transferred by automated conveyor and robot to a storage rack to rest until needed for the mold line.
The packages are retrieved from storage on a first-in, first-out basis to ensure quality. They travel to the mold line on automated conveyors and an elevator brings the pallet from ceiling level (where it left storage), to the mold line.
At that point, an automated gantry with an intelligent camera hovers above the first package on the pallet and inspects the axial alignment of the package to the mold line (Fig. 3). The package image (riser hole/parting line) must be within 1-in, of the inspection point or it will not be picked up. Once this determination has been made, the gantry picks up the package and carries it 4 ft to hover over the drag portion of the green sand mold.
At this point, two intelligent cameras positioned at the mold line examine the mold, looking for two locator points. The gantry uses both the information from the initial assessment of the package and the mold line to place the core package in the mold without touching the mold walls.
The clearance between the outside core wall and the inside mold wall is less than 0.01 in. Therefore, the gantry robot and its vision system must be exact when aligning, picking up and placing the core package as there is no room for error. This minimal clearance is required to maintain the dimensional stability of the mold and resultant casting.
At two molding stations, International-Waukesha also has two monitors that display the images of four different cameras placed throughout mold production. These cameras are separate from the vision systems and examine the cope portion of the mold at various stages including, mold closure and the drilling of the sprue cup. The goal of these cameras is to allow the mold line workers easy visual access to critical points on the mold line.
Once the package is set, the mold is poured automatically via a 7.5 ton pressure pour unit with special back-tilt capabilities to remove iron from the furnace in case of power failure, The pouring unit is fed by three 21-ton coreless induction furnaces and two 50-ton holding furnaces.
After pouring, International-Waukesha designed a cooling room into the production line to allow it the opportunity to adjust casting cooling times to meet the necessary mechanical property requirements. After shakeout, the castings proceed to preblast, semi-automated gating knockoff and an automatic cabinet shot blasting system that uses casting trees.
Winning the Bedplate Job
International-Waukesha only had designs for the new casting production line when it met with its parent firm to win the bedplate job. But these design ideas were a strong enough foundation as International-Waukesha was awarded the job in June 2000 as well as the permission to invest $22 million into its plant for the new production system.
"While we were excited about the opportunity, the delivery schedule left no room for error," said Wick. Using crude technology to replicate the ideas of their design, the firm met its first deadline to present sample bedplates to the machine shop in December 2000. From that point, manufacturing of the frill production system began and in July 2002, full production was ramped up.
The sample parts were such an accomplishment for International-Waukesha because of the speed of delivery on a new system and the quality standards required on the part. Level 2 X-ray quality is required without defects. This is especially difficult in the two oil seal groove areas of the component where the bedplate attaches to the block as there can be no microporosity.
The path to full production for International-Waukesha wasn't as simple as drawing up the idea and manufacturing the production system. Two major pitfalls the firm experienced were 9/11 and the bankruptcy of its engineering firm.
While Waukesha, Wisconsin is far from New York City and the tragedy of 9/11, International-Waukesha was directly affected by the freeze on travel that occurred after the terrorist attacks. Members of the development team at International-Waukesha were scheduled to travel to Germany to perform dry runs on the core machines being installed and inspect and test the cores they were producing. However, 9/11 made that impossible during the required period of time.
As a solution, its core machine supplier, the German firm Laempe, and its U.S. arm, Laempe + Reich, Trussville, Alabama, shipped off a video-conferencing system to the foundry and set up a 24-hr camera in the facility in Germany that was test running the core machines. The operators running the tests would hold cores up to the camera for inspection while International-Waukesha would watch on their computers at their desks.
Another issue arose in June 2002. When manufacturing of the new 13 casting system was 70% complete, the engineering firm International-Waukesha was relying upon to coordinate the entire endeavor closed its doors. Blindsided, the foundry was forced to pick up the pieces and take control of the various subcontractors themselves to complete the project.
"What were we going to do? Stop?" said Wick. 'We had to focus on what was in our control."
International-Waukesha completed the project within a month and began the road to full production of 342,000 V-8 and 30,000 v-6 bedplates. The 13 is expected to produce 12,000 tons of castings this year.
Expanding the Offerings
Beyond the bedplate production, International-Waukesha designed the new mold system to be flexible enough to handle other components for production. The firm currently produces right and left-hand exhaust manifolds (60-45-12 ductile iron) for the V-8 engines in addition to 20-lb truck spring hanger brackets (80-55-06 ductile iron) on this line. The pallets and core! molding line can be reprogrammed to accommodate anything that fits in the molding capabilities. As a result, the firm is now making a more dedicated effort to solicit business outside of the heavy truck and engine market.
"We have to be a viable part of company assets and profitability," said Holley. "We have to be good at producing truck components. We have to be good at casting production."
Despite perceptions, said Holley, the foundry isn't captive and hasn't been for a while. "There just hasn't been an emphasis until now on showcasing capabilities to potential customers."
Currently, the plant produces 10% of its castings for markets outside of heavy truck and engine. According to Holley, this figure is projected to grow to 200/a by the end of the year as the firm targets automotive components, specifically, along with other markets that fit its ductile and austempered ductile iron niche.
"Potential casting jobs have to fit the equipment and they have to be profitable," said Holley. "Those are the keys."
International-Waukesha has added sales and marketing staff to complement its in-house pattern shop and solidification modeling capability. In addition, the last few years have seen the firm strengthening strategic relationships with value-added service providers for painting, machining and heat treat to become the "one-stop shop critical to competing today and in the future," said Holley. Currently the firm provides 60% of its product as finished components (fully machined, painted, heat treated, etc.).
One of the keys to expanding its product base is to stabilize its customer demand and even-out production. "The cyclical nature of the heavy-truck and engine market is difficult on production schedules," said Wick. "Whether it is automotive, agricultural or compressors, our goal is not to live and die with the fluctuations of heavy trucks and the economy."
International-Waukesha believes a strategic advantage it plans to exploit is its capabilities with ADI. The plant began production with ADI in 1991 with the conversion of four steel castings (from a competitor) to ADI. Since that time, the firm has produced more than 40,000 tons of ADI components.
According to International-Waukesha, while the weight, strength and wear-resistance of the material are critical to what can be achieved in design, especially with conversions, the overall reduced total component cost for ADI parts that can range from 10-30% is what is going to help sell it. One recent conversion success the firm has had was with a rear suspension spring bracket. It converted the design from traditional ductile iron at 34-lb to ADI at 27 lb.
Expanding Its Vision
International-Waukesha is not satisfied with the conversion of just the one mold line to the new vision-enabled mold technology. Based on demand, the firm expects to pursue vision upgrades for its other two mold lines in the near future. In addition, the firm is exploring the possibility of adding more vision throughout the 13 line to create increased checks and balances as well as further automating cleaning and finishing.
Holley believes the sky is the limit for the foundry. "Already equipped with a strong reputation, our vision-enabled molding is another strategic advantage to complement quality ADI production," said Holley. "The biggest competition is ourselves. Only we can control our product and our costs. We must focus on what we can control, not what we can't."
RELATED ARTICLE: International Truck & Engine Corp. Waukesha Manufacturing Facility Waukesha, Wisconsin
Metals cast: Ductile and austempered ductile iron.
Mold Process: Green sand (coldhox coremaking).
Markets Served: Heavy truck and engine, automotive.
Capacity: 42,000 tons/yr.
2003 Sales Forecast: $57.7 million.
2003 Shipment Forecast: 25,000 tons
Size: 240,000 sq ft.
Staff Officials: Kevin Holley, plant manager; Sal Faltas, business team leader--metallurgy & quality; Mike Schultz, business team leader--finance & ABM; Jim VanderMale, business team leader--human resources; Marc Vuletich, business team leader--operations; Gary Wick, director of advanced technology/sales and marketing; Habib Chaudhry, business team leader--technical services.
A Foundry Within a Foundry
International-Waukesha states that it has two foundries under one roof because its new 13 line is vastly different from its two other molding operations. Complementing the 13 line, the foundry has two 18 x 24-in. cope and drag green sand lines (H1 and H2) and nine coldbox core machines.
These two mold lines run 300 molds! hr and are fed by the same three 21-ton coreless induction furnaces for melting and the two 50-ton holding furnaces. Pouring is performed manually on one molding line and via a pressure pour unit on the other. These two lines cast a variety of components including bearing cap clusters, engine mount brackets and three-piece manifolds, and are forecast to produce 13,000 tons of castings this year.
The plant currently produces 370 different part numbers. Ninety percent of production is ductile iron while 10% is ADI.
International Truck -Waukesha Named
2003 MODERN CASTING Foundry of the Year
MODERN CASTING selects its Foundry of the Year based on the recipient of the AFS Plant Engineering Committee's (1-D) Plant Engineering Award. The Plant Engineering Committee awarded this year's honor for: "The unique application of vision-directed mold location for precision core setting on the recent mold line upgrade at the Waukesha facility."
The AFS Plant Engineering Award is open to all foundries in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and judging is performed by members of the 1-D committee. Nomination forms for the 2004 AFS Plant Engineering Award are available via the MODERN CASTING website at www.moclerncasting.com.
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|Comment:||International Truck & Engine Corp. Waukesha Manufacturing Facility. (2003 Foundry Casting of the Year).|
|Author:||Spada, Alfred T.|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2003|
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