Robotic Mold-Cleaning System Increases Quality, Saves Time, and Improves Working Conditions

June 17, 2009
The cleaning cell includes an integrated shuttle system so operators may load or unload one mold set while the robot cleans another in the closed chamber.
The cleaning cell includes an integrated shuttle system so operators may load or unload one mold set while the ABB robot cleans another in the closed chamber.

KS-Aluminum Technologie AG, a business unit of Germany’s Rheinmetal Group, manufactures aluminum engine blocks for automotive customers (including Audi, BMW, Porsche, and the VW Group.) The engine block casting molds, made from low-pressure casting, require cleaning every 1,000 -1,200 uses because of build-up of mold release agents and aluminum metal residue.

To clean each of the different molds for 15 different engine blocks that KSAluminum casts, the molds must first be taken out of production and disassembled into their multiple pieces. Next, a worker wearing a protective suit must take the parts into an enclosed area, sandblast each piece, rinse it with high-pressure water, reassemble the molds, and then prepare the mold surface before entering it back into production. This time- consuming process was labor-intensive, of course, but it was often inconsistent. This impacted casting quality and created an unpleasant working environment for employees. For a solution, KS-Aluminum contacted KMT Robotic Solutions AB to evaluate and test various system concepts.

KMT’s proposal won the order, and the group provided KS-Aluminum with a single ABB IRB2400 robot mounted on a track inside an enclosed cell. The cell includes integrated shuttle tables that allow the system operator to load and unload mold parts on one side of the space while the robot is cleaning another set of mold parts inside.

The cell also includes a pallet system with dowel pins for accurate part placement, and a non-contact coding system. The robot is outfitted with KMT’s standard Rotojet cleaning head – a pneumatically-driven rotating nozzle body with up to four waterjet orifices.

The KMT design enabled KS-Aluminum to improve its moldcleaning results, which led to improvements in the quality of finished engine castings. The installation also saves process time by enabling the metalcaster to double the number of molds cleaned every day. The system eliminates the manual sandblasting process, thereby preserving the life of the molds and improving working conditions for employees.