Given the opportunity to show their stuff, equipment builders like to show big stuff: If you’ve got something to show, their logic seems to be, make certain everyone sees it. There’s no better way to make an impression on a curious customer or a prospective buyer.
Apparently, it works. At CastExpo ’08 in Atlanta last month there was a lot of oversized equipment on display, leaving the impression that there is a lot of ingenuity and capital at work developing new metalcasting technologies. As for the exhibitors themselves, many of them left Atlanta with a positive impression, too: There weren’t as many visitors to the event as were seen at the last staging of CastExpo most of them agreed, “but there were a lot of good leads” more than one equipment builder concluded.
To be sure, several large systems displayed signs indicating their shipment destinations once the trade show had ended and future contract announcements will make clear which deals were struck there in Atlanta. What follows here, then, is not a complete summary of the exhibits at CastExpo ’08, but a broad study of what was seen, heard, and noted.
Robots grab attention
Arriving at the main entry, Cast Expo visitors got their first glimpse of outsized displays with Vulcan Engineering’s (www.vulcangroup.com) prominent presentation of its Megabot series, the “world’s largest combined payload and reach robots.” The exhibit showed a unit designed for handling investment casting patterns,though Vulcan supplies Megabots for various metalcasting tasks. This includes molten metal pouring, mold and core handling, and similar tasks demanding strength, precision, and repeatability.
The Megabots are promoted for having a large “work envelope” (height / width), continuous five- or six-axis rotation, 400° axis-1 rotation, and high wrist torque for heavy payloads at extended reaches. Vulcan has powered the robots with all-digital, AC servo controls, to enhance handling precision and smooth operation. The equipment developer also drew a lot of visitors’ interest with its automated casting cleaning and grinding systems, but it was the robot that made the big impression.
KUKA Robotics’ (www.kukarobotics.com) KR 1000 Titan made its U.S. debut, demonstrating that it is “the world’s first industrial robot that can lift a payload of 1,000 kg with a reach of 4,000 mm.” Its work envelope is 78 m3; the unit displayed at CastExpo repeatedly lifted, turned, rotated, and transferred an eight-cylinder engine block to demonstrate its power and agility over that range. KUKA calls the KR 1000 Titan “a technology powerhouse (that combines) payload, reach, and precision thanks to an innovative drive concept.”
Inside the steel frame, the robot is powered by nine motors that achieve speed and flexibility, as well as lifting power. In axes 1 and 3, two motors feed into a single gear unit. Axis 2 is also powered by two motors, each with its own gear unit. KUKA claims the KR 1000 Titan can withstand a static torque of 60,000 Nm. And, because the robot is “series manufactured,” it’s offered as a cost-effective solution in terms of payload capacity, reach, and handling flexibility.
Noted foundry robot supplier ABB (www.abb.com/robotics) aimed to demonstrate versatility over scale, introducing the IRB 6660 “pre-machining” robot with a 205-kg payload and a 1.9-m reach, for high-performance milling, grinding, cutting, sawing, and similar material-removal applications. It’s said to have “superior stiffness” to support process accuracy. The robot is paired with ABB’s Force Control software, to improve machining performance. ABB also demonstrated a new machining software package for speeding up robot programming. It helps users to create cutting paths for premachining of castings, in a graphical PC-based environment.
Still more robots were exhibited by FANUC Robotics America Inc., whose new M-710iC/50 SE FoundryPRO robot is “IP67 protected” for operation in harsh surroundings. FANUC Robotics product manager Virgil Wilson adds that it also features “coated bolts, and double oil seals at the joints, making this a truly waterproof robot.” The entire machine is coated with a special epoxy, its wrist has protective covers to withstand high-pressure washing, and its base purges air to avoid vapor entrance. It is a six-axis design capable of handling payloads from 20 to 70 kg, with a 1,360 to 3,110-mm reach.
The FoundryPRO can be mounted from floors, ceilings, angles, and walls, and Wilson adds that it has one of the largest work envelopes in its class. “In addition, its compact size and ability to flip over and work behind itself maximizes flexibility for work cell design, and saves valuable floor space.”
In other action …
Of course, many foundry processes are automated without resorting to giant robots, which did not make those presentations any less captivating to CastExpo visitors. Inductotherm (www.inductotherm.com) even incorporates a robot with its novel ARMS package. This was the North American trade-show debut for the Automated Robotic Melt Shop system, which replaces a furnace attendant on a melting deck with a 6-axis robot. It manages all the standard tasks (slag removal, metal sampling, temperature measurement, bath grounding) while the operator conducts the activities from a secure pulpit, monitoring the progress via CCTV.
Also getting a debut exhibit was the General Kinematics (www.generalkinematics.com) Ducta-Clean rotary media drum. The cleaning media “scrubs” castings and removes surplus sand, while separating the sprues and gates, all of which exit the rotating drum to a vibratory sorting conveyor that screens sand from media, and returns media to the drum.
Rival Didion International (www.didion.com) demonstrated the new version of its Mark 5 drum, which cleans and cools castings prior to finishing, but captures sand in the system to keep the plant atmosphere clean and sand management efficient. The Mark 5 uses counterflow air to eliminate fugitive emissions, cutting down airborne silica dust.
The Mark 5 is the only shakeout system that separates core sand from green sand, and discharges each at separate points. Variable-speed drives let the operator control the action, while the media bed protects nonferrous and fragile castings as it cleans and cools them. Recent improvements in the Mark 5 Series include wider and thicker interlocking liners, with 50% fewer seams; contoured rifling for delicate castings; self-relieving tapered separation chambers; split pillow block endtrucks with quick-change bearing inserts; and automatic chain tensioning.
Maus (www.mausna.com) exhibited a variety of its automated units for casting grinding and vertical turning, which are designed for continuous production, flexibility, and quality consistency. Laser technology is used to ensure part and position recognition, and surface finishes are enhanced by premium-quality tools (wheels, cutters.) The systems are designed for high-volume foundries (e.g., automotive), or job shops, as well as specialized applications (e.g., riser cutting and grinding.)
Mössner (www.reichcompanies.com) used virtual reality to demonstrate the high degree of automation achievable with its automated cells that perform high-volume decoring, casting handling, transfer, and gating and riser cut off. With part-specific tools (grippers, fixtures, pallets), the cells clean and deburr castings and perform final inspection, while separating and removing all the returns. These work cells can be designed for an in-line operation, or single compact units, with soundproofing.
Laempe (www.laempeusa.com) unveiled its new LHB series of core-shooters, which simplify tool changes, but also offer open access, process safety, and rapid cycle times for hot or cold coremaking. Operators can change the corebox in three minutes, with automatic box positioning, a sand-level laser detection system, and a specially designed shoot unit for production speed and repeatability.
The LHB and LHB-Double (a twin-station version) can be integrated with an atmosphere generator for gas-cured processes. It receives vertically parted coreboxes and incorporates a lower mandrel for hollow cores.
The Trim Press-ive machine introduced by Metal Mechanics Inc. (www.metalmechanics.com) is a quiet, clean, and energy-efficient trim press powered by hybrid servo-electric actuators that perform most of the vertical-stroke motion while carrying up to 10 tons of platen and tooling. This regenerative system is a closed hydraulic design with an accumulator that enables discharge of highpressure oil to generate the force needed to shear metal with each stroke. The 75-ton machine uses only 15 amps during operation, 1 amp while idle. It uses 80% less energy than standard hydraulic trim presses, producing 75% less noise, and consuming 75% less oil, while increasing trimming productivity.
Finally, still in the realm of automation, Visi-Trak (www.visitrak.com) demonstrated an integrated PLC interface for diecasting machine cell control. The Total-Trak extends monitoring and control to include the entire cell, according to the technology supplier, so users can create and save process recipes, monitor clamp tonnage, set core sequences, and set timers. Diagnostic screens allow quick identification of problems for data analysis. Visi-Trak also showed its Sure-Trak2 diecasting shot-control system, which controls shot velocity and pressure control in real time. Injection profiles can be run “with relentless repeatability,” the company states, regardless of the casting design.