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2007 Shapes Up as a Big Year for CGI

March 2, 2007
SinterCast continues to extend its involvement in production of compacted graphite iron castings around the world, and has laid the groundwork for supporting ductile iron castings production, too.

The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz features an engine block cast in CGI; micrographs showing structural arrangements of compacted graphite iron (top), ductile iron (middle), and gray iron (lower.)

When Hyundai Motor Co. unveiled its new Veracruz luxury utility vehicle last fall, it touted the fact that it is being offered with a new diesel engine. Not only is it a new engine design, the company said, but its engine block is made of compacted graphite iron (CGI).

"A vehicle as important as Veracruz was deserving of an up-to-date and exciting powertrain and that's exactly what Hyundai engineers delivered in the S-Engine which incorporates a number of important technological firsts for Hyundai," according to the latest Hyundai Motor World.

"Developed at Hyundai's Powertrain R&D Center in Namyang over a period of 49 months at a cost of approximately $233 million, the S-engine sets new standards of refinement and performance for a diesel with its maximum output of 240 ps at 3,800 rpm and 46 kg.m of peak torque in the 1,700-3,500 rpm range, figures which equal if not better the best V6 diesels today."

Hyundai continued: "Leading the list of refinements is the selection of Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) for the cylinder block. Manufactured with SinterCast technology, the CGI block is lighter and quieter than conventional gray cast iron, and demonstrates at least 80% higher tensile strength, 45% higher stiffness, and approximately double the fatigue strength of iron and aluminum, thus allowing Hyundai engine designers to improve performance, fuel economy, and durability while reducing emissions to meet the very latest Euro IV regulations."

As expected, SinterCast AB president and CEO Dr. Steve Dawson, congratulated Hyundai on the launch of the new V6 turbo diesel engine. "The new engine is the first result of SinterCast's January 2005 long-term Technology License Agreement with Hyundai," he pointed out, "and represents our first series production reference in the rapidly growing Asian automotive market." The block is being produced at the Hyundai foundry in Jeonju, Korea, using SinterCast ( process control technology.

"Following the initial application in the Veracruz LUV, the new SinterCastCGI engine is destined to appear in other Hyundai vehicles in both the domestic and export markets," Dawson said. "With the planned application of the new engine in other Hyundai vehicles and in the export market, this production activity provides the opportunity for mature volumes of approximately 150,000 engine equivalents."

2006 progress
As it stated its 2006 results, SinterCast reported that series production revenue increased by 45% compared to 2005. Another measure of increased CGI activity is that sales of sampling cups increased by 70% over year-earlier sales.

During 2006, two new SinterCast installations started up, including a full System 2000 at the Dashiang Precision foundry in China and a Mini-System 2000 at the Doosan Infracore foundry in Korea. The company pointed out that this amount of startup activity was down from 2005, but that most new CGI series production orders are being handled by foundries operating under existing SinterCast agreements in order to benefit from ongoing production experience.

Company officials expect ongoing discussions about new installations, both for cylinder block and head production and for other CGI components, to result in new installation commitments during 2007.

Currently, in the passenger vehicle sector, SinterCast is supporting series production of approximately 25,000 cylinder blocks per month for Audi, Ford, and Hyundai. Engines derived from these SinterCast-CGI cylinder blocks are available in 15 different vehicles for seven brands of autos. When auto racing applications are included, SinterCast's technology is currently being used to produce CGI cylinder blocks for each of the world's top seven automotive OEMs: General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai, and PSA.

In industrial applications, SinterCast supports series production of large piston rings at the Daros foundry in Sweden; locomotive engine cylinder heads for GE Transportation Systems and stationary engine cylinder heads for Waukesha Engine at the Motor Casting foundry in the United States; and large engine components for Rolls-Royce Power Engineering at the VDP foundry in Italy.

According to the company, when industrial and automotive applications are added together, the annual production rate using SinterCast CGI technology totals approximately 400,000 engine equivalents per year.

CGI's future applications
Pre-production castings of the MAN 10.5 liter D20 and 12.4 liter D26 commercial vehicle cylinder blocks have been produced at the Tupy Maui foundry in Brazil, and the start of series production remains on schedule for mid-2007. The MAN production provides for volumes of at least 20,000 cylinder blocks per year, and thus represents over 150,000 engine equivalents per year.

Commercial vehicle pre-production continued at a Doktas foundry in Turkey, for Ford-Otosan. The start of series production of two upgraded engines, with SinterCastCGI cylinder blocks and heads, is set for mid2007. Mature volumes represent approximately 70,000 engine equivalents per year.

According to the company, pre-production has also continued throughout the period for other SinterCast-CGI components that have not yet been announced publicly, in the passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, and industrial power sectors.

And, the increased awareness of CGI has led to the development of a variety of new automotive components beyond the core cylinder block and head applications. The motivation for these components is to provide cost reductions relative to the current ductile iron specification, through improved castability and machinability. These components tend to be less than 10 kg per piece, and are subject to severe cost pressure. Although the sizes of the components in this category are relatively small, the volumes are high and the cost pressures open new opportunities for System 2000 installations in cost-efficient manufacturing regions such as Asia.

As the EU considers reducing CO2 emissions to 120 g/km by 2012, SinterCast sees long-term market opportunities. The company's position is that reduced CO2 emissions favor the increased use of diesel engines and, in particular, the use of highly loaded small diesel engines that can provide the performance and refinement of today's larger engines. Demand for higher performance and operating efficiencies increases thermal and mechanical loads in the engine, thus increasing the demand on the materials chosen for cylinder blocks and heads.

According to SinterCast, its CGI technology supply agreements include 29 iron foundries in 14 countries that account for over 45% of the total world production capacity for cast-iron cylinder blocks. As noted, SinterCast's technology is currently used for the production of approximately 25,000 automotive cylinder blocks per month.

Currently, SinterCast 2000 process control systems are installed at the Daros Piston Rings, Doktas, Halberg Guss, SKFMekan, V. Luzuriaga, and VDP foundries in Europe, and at the Dashiang Precision and Hyundai Jeonju foundries in Asia.

With only one exception, every major cast-iron cylinder block and head foundry in North and South America has an active SinterCast license. Accordingly, SinterCast System 2000 process control systems are currently installed at the Caterpillar, Cifunsa, ICC-Indianapolis Casting Corp., Motor Castings, Teksid do Brazil, and the Tupy-Joinville and Tupy-Maui foundries in the Americas.

The technology agreement with the international Teksid group extends to all nine Teksid iron foundries worldwide.

In addition to the System 2000 installations, SinterCast also has installations of its Mini-System 2000 process control systems at the Ashland R&D facilities in the U.S., the Doosan Infracore CASKOD foundry in S. Korea, Ford's Cleveland Casting Plant in the United States, and the Grainger & Worrall rapid prototyping facility in the U.K.

SinterCast officials say they are not aware of any other company that is actively promoting or providing CGI process control technology that has any active production of CGI cylinder blocks in either the passenger vehicle or commercial vehicle sectors.

SinterCast's proprietary technology is protected by 23 patents. Its current technology is primarily addressed by 10 patents filed since 1997, which extend approximately through 2015. In all, SinterCast has 103 patents granted or pending worldwide. Eleven of these patents address SinterCast's metallurgical technology, six cover sampling technique and hardware, three cover product applications, and three are for CGI machining.

A new patent related to thermal analysis of ductile iron that was filed in January, and SinterCast believes that its thermal analysis principles can be applied to process control and quality control of ductile iron. This patent was filed to enable SinterCast to discuss the technology with potential customers, and to allow field trials to begin this year.