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A Look at the Greenfield Foundries of 2020.

Engineering consultants share their visions of a greenfield operation built to meet the casting
supply needs of the third millennium's first 20 years.
With the 20th century coming to a close this month, we will see and hear all sorts of projections
on what the next 100 years will hold. With the last 100 years seeing the birth of the massproduced automobile, airplane, computer, television, and equipment that has propelled man to
the moon and beyond, it boggles the mind to ponder what the next 100 years hold.
The last century has been no small one even for a mature industry that has been around for 5000
years. Within the last 50 years alone, we've seen the development of too-many-to-count
revolutions that ranged from new binders to computerized process modeling to automated
molding methods. Not to mention the advances seen in "new cast metal materials, nor all
the incremental
advancements that have altered the face of metalcasting.
Because 100 years could well be beyond our wildest comprehension, the year 2020 was selected
as the point of reference for crystal ball gazing into how the industry might appear to the next
generation of metalcasters.
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Casting industry forecaster Ken Kirgin, Stratecasts, Inc., projects U.S. casting consumption to be
17.9 million tons in 2020, a 23% larger market "pie" than that of '99. By 2020, he expects gray
iron casting use to have fallen 20% while ductile iron and aluminum shipments increase 50%
and 100%, respectively, over current levels.
While noting that the number of US. foundries may shrink from
today's 3000 plants to 1800 in 2020, Kirgin expects that 2 million tons of captive tonnage will be
released to independent foundries. He also predicts that a foundry surviving in 2020 must
achieve man-hour/ton marks that are 50% of today's standards.
In an effort to characterize a 2020 casting operation, modem casting asked several firms to put
on their "prognosticator" hats to express how a newly constructed casting operation might
appear. In doing so, participants The Mouat Co., Georg Fischer Disa Engineering and Gemco
Engineers were asked to project themselves 20 years into the future and develop a design for a
particular casting operation (as though they were under contract for a client) using technology
current to that era.
Among the many conclusions that can be drawn from this exercise is that the foundry of 2020
will: have a specialized product mix; require less but higher skilled labor; be fully automated to

the degree in which non-automation will be a dramatic exception; be precisely controlled and
monitored via a sophisticated central control system; and harmonize all production cells into one
integrated manufacturing system.
Green Sand Gray and Ductile Iron Foundry
Design: The Mouat Co.
Products: 4-30 lb castings for industrial truck and automotive markets.
Capacity Data: 30,000-40,000 tons of gray and ductile

Key Drivers: 1) all systems, subsystems and equipment will be operated and controlled by openarchitecture computers that allow data and features to be fully utilized for operations,
management, quality control, maintenance and sales; 2) all materials are to be handled either
automatically or in an automated manner to remove manual labor and better control the process.
Plant Notables: 5 man-hr/ton productivity; 2% or less scrap/reject levels.
The 2020 foundry will have no "coreroom," per se. Core machines will be arranged to produce
and transfer cores directly to the mold for truly synchronous operations
As such, a coldbox process with immediate curing will be required, and this core material will be
completely compatible with the molding sand
upon breakdown, presenting no additional environmental requirements. High density cores
eliminate the need for finishing.
Chemical scrubbing of core machine exhaust gases will continue to be utilized, and most core
machines will be completely enclosed for fume containment. Area exhaust-to-fume collectors will
provide a "clean room" operating environment for the highly sophisticated equipment. In all but
the lowest volume jobbing foundries in 2020, operators are needed only for monitoring and
troubleshooting activities, which are directed from the central process control center.
Two vertically parted, high-mold-density molding machines
produce green sand molds. This system provides precision and efficiency and will be fully
operated automatically from a remote location in 2020. A two-machine configuration provides an
efficient layout in terms of peripheral equipment utilization and in product output/capital cost

A camera system detects a misplaced/dropped core or a sand sticker on the pattern and signals
the process control center. An automatic core removal device sweeps any fallen cores from the
molding chamber. Likewise, an automatic airblast system, which can be manipulated from the
process control center, attacks stickers. Only as a final resort will a technician ever manually
remove dropped/broken cores or clean stickers from the pattern.
The mold machines and core storage and retrieval equipment are monitored from a central
process control center, from which a highly trained technician is based.
The sand processing and handling system, from sand and casting separation through delivery of
prepared sand to the molding machine, also will be automatically controlled from the central
process control center. Return sand will be automatically and continuously monitored for
temperature and moisture, with the proper amount of water added for cooling and for transferring
to mixing/mulling.
Metallics will be automatically removed and conveyed back to melting (scrap storage bunker).
Cooled sand chemistry and sieve analysis are to be determined automatically, and computer
controls dictate precise amounts of new sand, bond and baghouse fines (if desired) to be added
to the mixer/muller.
Melting/Metal Transfer
Two coreless induction melting furnaces (with medium-frequency power supplies) will provide a
balanced, efficient operation that allows full production even when one furnace is down for
maintenance. The increase of power density and advanced refractories allow the crucible size of
the furnaces to be smaller than that of the 1990s.
Scrap charging and alloy addition systems will be totally automatic, with controls to compensate
(in subsequent charges) for over- or undercharging of individual items, Due to labor costs and
the need for high production, such automatic systems will be standard in most production
foundries by 2020.
Slagging consists of both automatic and highly automated tools to distance the operator from the
rugged environment of slag removal. Once removed from the furnace, slag is transferred
automatically to a disposal point.
Highly developed computerized furnace controls will closely monitor all phases of the melting
operation, including precise signaling of when to reline, automatic temperature and chemistry
measurement, and adjustment to set points.
With advanced environmental hood designs, virtually no smoke or fumes
escape the immediate furnace area.
Pouring is to be handled by an on-line automatic stopper rod pouring vessel, with electric
induction heating to maintain close temperature control. All functions will be closely monitored
and controlled, including final post-inoculation, temperature, launder
metal level, pouring rate (exact pouring profiles automatically stored in computer for each
casting) and pouring cup level.
A camera system will confirm a change in pour cup location, which is programmed into the

computer for each pattern, and signals the computer to move the furnace to the proper location.
The camera system also monitors pour cup level and signals the pour control device to
compensate for changes.

& Cleaning/Finishing
Major efforts to remove labor from the onerous degating environment resulted in an automated
system to remove the casting "cluster" from the mold, remove the majority of the loose sand and
present it to a continuous cooling conveyor. Such an arrangement maintains the integrity of the
cluster for further automatic processing.
The cooling conveyor takes the clusters through a continuous shotblast machine. After cleaning,
a robotic mechanism removes the downsprue and runner system from the cluster. A vision
system detects short-pours or defects that would disrupt downstream automatic operations, and
the cluster is placed automatically in a container for manual inspection and processing.
Then, castings (with risers intact in some cases) are automatically placed in one of two
automatic trim press cells, where fins, risers and gate pads are automatically removed. Each cell
includes anultrasonic

test unit that automatically tests and stamps the castings requiring such certification. Castings
are then automatically placed in shipping containers, which are subject to any final inspection
requirements for specific castings.
In addition to close-capture environmental hooding that minimizes fugitive emissions, dry-type
dust collector baghouses (except for chemical scrubbing of core gases) with low air-to-cloth
ratios will provide high efficiencies and low maintenance. Some portion of the collected material,
such as sand system dust, is metered back into the system. The remainder of
collected particulate

is transported to a central storage and processing point, where it will be conditioned and
prepared for disposal in local public landfills.
This foundry is compartmentalized
to segregate

operations and to provide excellent containment of fugitive emissions. All areas, especially final
finishing and inspection, are well-lit. Tempered makeup air is balanced with dust collection to
provide a comfortable working atmosphere and minimize outside contaminants from being
drawn into the foundry.
--Phil Duke, vice president, The Mouat Co., Birmingham, Alabama
Green Sand Aluminum Foundry
Design: Georg Fischer Disa Engineering.
Products: Aluminum castings for the automotive market, in order to take advantage of the
expectation that aluminum per vehicle will surpass iron starting in 2007.
Plant Data: Highly-productive 200-employee operations will be the norm in 2020. The number of
aluminum plants will increase significantly as new facilities are built near end-users' plants.
Key Drivers: 1) facility is modular-planned based on pre-engineered building block approach; 2)
designed to produce near-net shape parts and thin-wall designs at a high yield with little returns.
Plant Notables: This foundry, like others in 2020, will share adjacent floor space to machining

operations, no longer operating as isolated functions.

Green sand molding for aluminum foundries will come of age at the first part of the millennium as
the extraordinary productivity of high-density impact horizontal molding and sand shot in
combination with squeeze vertical molding will be universally recognized. Compared to today's
batch processes, these molding centers will typically produce 200-400 molds/hr with multiple
The many improvements in molding technology will typically be subtle upgrades of components
and controls that resulted in a higher degree of performance and reliability. Additionally, molding
machines will utilize low-cost and easily manufactured (directly from the drawing via CAD/CAM
) hard plastic tooling capable of extended use, gaining a further significant advantage over other
Among the many examples of incremental molding improvements that will be embraced over the
next 20 years are:
* vacuum-assist for exact filling and molding of complicated shapes;
* uniform filling of contoured patterns in horizontal lines

* in-cycle screening of the sand immediately prior to filling;

* the capture of strike-off sand at the machine and its return to the fill hopper,
* mold accuracy and hardness suitable for near-net-shape production;
* verification of mold accuracy and contour immediately upon formation;
* an automated "pick-up" system utilizing shape recognition for casting handling, automatic
despruing and fixturing for casting finishing;
* prototype tooling in combination with computer-simulated solidification

models to hasten lead-times at a low cost.

Sand System
The sand system of 2020 will undergo the biggest change in order to produce sound, tight
aluminum castings. The significant changes that will occur are:
* use of sands such as zircon
or minerals such as crushed magnetite for improved cooling and reduceddendrite arm spacing;
* the addition of chemicals such as calcined fluid coke to achieve rapid cooling and improve
surface finish;
* the separation of green sand from chemically coated core sand following shakeout via a series
of cascading magnetic separators;
* the replacement of shakeouts by an air impact device that reduces noise and shotblasting
* near-complete sand reclamation spurred by high disposal costs.
Metal Delivery and Pouring
Metal matrix composites
(MMCs) and other exotic alloys such as aluminum-lithium (Al-Li) will significantly impact the new
millennium. While taking a long time to become cost-competitive and proven, these
developments will allow for further benefits in strength-to-weight ratios.
The special handling and know-how required of these alloys will trickle down
from the aerospace industry. For example, the MMC material is in suspension within the matrix
and must be stirred while it is molten. By 2020, special single phase/three phase coiled electric

induction furnaces will achieve this requirement. Once solidified, the alloy exhibits exceptional
strength and wear characteristics.
The Al-Li alloy will offer even greater advantages in weight-to-strength ratios, but, it too has
special handling requirements. Since it can flare in the air, inert gas will be used for safe
handling of the alloy throughout the melting, transport and pouring cycles. The remelt must be
similarly treated.
For conventional alloys, the melting method of choice in 2020 is fossil-fuel fired break-down
furnaces in combination with electric furnaces

for refining and holding.

The melt shop will feature:
* continuous and automatic feeding of remelt from the desprue lines directly into the melting
* trunion-pouring technology to initiate a quiescent
bath movement (oxide forms at the point of turbulence);
* direct molten aluminum transfer to molding lines via electromagnetic pumps through sealed
and heated launders. Further, the molten metal is continuously delivered through inert gas and
integral ceramic filters to reduce hydrogen and oxides;
* accurate dispensing of metal (by several simultaneous units) via automatic dosing through the
mold bottom;
* pressure or "active feeding" for feeding the cavity and reducing risers;
* the continuous monitoring and adjustment of metal chemistry;
* reuse of waste energy from fossil fuel

furnaces to preheat

the charge;
* reuse of waste heat from induction furnaces and other devices for use in plant showers and
space heaters.
The coreroom will gain in importance as casting designs increase in complexity. Improvements
will take the form of:

* environmentally friendly, nontoxic binders with excellent breakdown characteristics (no core
* high-speed core extrusion;
* exact reproductions with zero flash;
* excellent penetration tolerance due to additives (no dipping or coating required);
* automated, robotic cells that produce, handle, stack and transport cores (no manual
* predictive models that allow for fast pattern/corebox changes;
* automatic retrieval of tooling from highdensity storage and computer-controlled installation into
the machine;
* machine capability for both high-speed production and low-cost prototyping.
Cleaning Room
The most significant change will be the disappearance of the cleaning room, the foundry's
largest labor burden. Chipping and grinding operations will disappear. Some functions such as
shotblasting will still be performed, but will be a part of the extended and enhanced molding
These achievements will be possible through the combined result of:
* excellent dimensional tolerance (electronically verified) in molding and coremaking;
* hard molds with no deflection

* improved and easily maintainable plastic tooling;
* consistent process control in preparing sand;
* molding media additives to prevent bum-in, etc.;
* good control of metal chemistry and temperature;
* accurate pouring.
Overall, consistency will be achieved in all process parameters resulting in near net-shape (and
finless) high-quality aluminum castings.
-Ralph Y. Perkul, vice president and general manager, Georg Fischer Disa Engineering,
Green Sand ADI Foundry
Design: Gemco Engineers

Products: Austempered ductile iron (ADI) to specialize in steering/suspension parts for

automotive customers.
Plant Data: Annual shipped tonnage of 40,000 tons/year.
Key Drivers: 1) incorporate total manufacturing, total network integration and high-frequency
supply and output in order to meet manageability, efficiency and responsiveness requirements;
2) minimize skill shortages and other labor issues through a green field design that is labor lean,
rich in employee control skills and environmentally refined.
Plant Notables: 519 tons/man/year; 5 man-hr/ton productivity.
The environmental "utopia" of "raw materials in, only finished product out" still will be
unachievable in 2020 because of the unavoidable creation of byproducts in casting.
Although increasingly stringent legislation and taxes will force foundries to consider the
environmentally friendly processes and effective recycling systems, it was another view that
prompted improvement. As the Castings Development Centre in England has stated: "There are
four good reasons why foundries should consider alternatives: economics, economics,
economics and because competitors will."
Knowing that "prevention always is better than cure," in 2020, waste inefficiencies and pollution
will be addressed by incorporating the most environmentally friendly processes in melting,
molding and coremaking, and recycling (internally and externally) any subsequent waste.
Coremaking will remain principally the same, however, the sand mix in 2020 will contain a small
quantity (about 1%) of a water-based, food-grade binder such as sodium silicate and is cured
using warm air. This system also will be watersoluble and allow simple reclamation without longterm contamination effects.
The foundry's horizontal/vertical coreblowers will produce about 1200 cores/hr (average weight 5
lb). Handling features fuzzy logic, three-axis robot manipulators.
Green sand also will continue as the primary molding method due to its costeffectiveness,
recyclability and environmental friendliness. Benefits will be found in the next 20 years in
inorganics, nontoxic properties, recyclability and reclamation.
An in-line, vertically parted, high-speed green sand molding (average mold dimension 0.7 x 0.6 x
0.3 meters) system is used in conjunction with automatic core placement and mold
transportation. An integrated,walking beam
mold conveyor is employed. The system provides a net output of 300 complete molds/hr.
The sand plant features twin, high-intensity mixing equipment (468 gal each), nonspill belt
conveyors,bucket elevator and pneumatic conveying and produces an average 65 tons/hr.
Melting & Casting
Raw metallic material processing has traditionally produced the majority of a foundry's fumes.
This usually has been generated by contaminated

raw materials; bulk melting (large batches); alloying, refinement and treatment; prolonged metal
holding; and extensive transport between melting and casting.
The 2020 foundry will utilize a single, pre-alloyed, refined and treated metallic material that
conforms to the required metal composition. It will be supplied in standard lengths and to one
specific diameter.
In the 2020 foundry, small stocks are stored adjacent to the melting/casting area. As is
demanded by theintegrated production control system, the billet is "cropped" into lengths
equivalent to the requirement for one mold. They are fed to a melting/casting machine situated
at the pouring position on the molding line.
The melting/casting machine consists of a carousel that supports six small induction furnaces
(average batch weight 100 lb). The inside lining diameter of each furnace is on the order of the
billet diameter itself. A disposable lining base is placed in the first available furnace and a "precropped" billet is inserted to fill the crucible.
Each induction unit is fitted with a high-efficiency, high-frequency induction coil

that rapidly melts the billet (around 110 lb/min). During melting, the whole furnace is indexed on
the carousel toward the pouring station, which is reached after the crucible contents are molten
and superheated

to the correct casting temperature.

At this point, the crucible base is withdrawn and the material flows, by gravity, into the mold.
Flow rate is regulated by a further energized coil arrangement between the mold and crucible
base and is controlled by conventional laser technology.
This technology virtually eliminates fumes, enhances the operator environment, minimizes
external process emissions and provides high-energy efficiencies all in a compact system.
Handling consists of fuzzy logic, three-axis robot manipulators. Output is 15 tons/hr.
Heat Treatment
The foundry will austemper its castings in-house, and its own natural gas-fired furnaces will
feature a pull-through, continuous, twin-system with a controlled atmosphere

and an intermediate oil quench

facility. The 1-cumeter baskets are handled via chain conveying, drop bottom dunking
and post-treatmentvibratory

conveying. Average output is 20,000 lb/hr.

Due to the new benefits in melting and casting, the main recycled material is surplus green sand,
generated by the need to use cores in the process. Green sand reclamation will be handled by
mechanical cleaning in which a horizontally rotating grinding wheel removes the
hard bentonite layer from the sand grains. The system will be simple, does not damage the base
material and yields a product capable of reuse for coremaking in proportions up to 80%. Such
reclamation promotes the "raw material in, only finished product out" approach and minimizes
Jan van Wijk, commercial manager, and Mark J. Ainsworth, foundry technologist, Gemco
Engineers, B. V., Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Labor Overview of Gemco's Austempered Ductile Iron Foundry
Manning Level
Grouping Day Shift (1) Day Shift (2) Night
Metallic Material Preparation direct
Melting & Pouring
Coremaking & Setting
Molding & Sand Plant
Separation & Blasting
Finishing & Machining
Transport (Internal)
Total (Direct Staff) [*]
Quality Control
Systems Engineering
Total (Indirect Staff)
Total (Management)
Metallic Material Preparation
Melting & Pouring
Coremaking & Setting
Molding & Sand Plant
Separation & Blasting
Finishing & Machining
Transport (Internal)
Total (Direct Staff )
Quality Control
Systems Engineering
Total (Indirect Staff)

Total (Management)


(*.)Direct staffing levels are set according to

hourly requirements. Deficiencies through sickness, holiday leave, etc. are overcome through
multi-skills of both direct and indirect personnel.