Straight from the Showroom

July 26, 2007
Five days was barely enough time for shoppers, browsers, and dreamers to take in the acres of new equipment, advanced technologies, and better ideas displayed at GIFA 2007.

The ABB IRB 6620 heavy-duty robot offers strength and agility for handling heavy loads, from various angles.

DISA's new 231 produces up to 500 uncored molds per hour.

KuKA's new Titan model lifts and handle payloads up to 1,000 kg, with a reach of 3,200 mm.

M-W's new Dual Cast cold-chamber diecasting series, with closing forces of 23,000 to 40,000 kN.

There's nothing like the showroom floor to fire the imagination. Any doubts about affordability or performance seem to disappear under the right lighting, so shopping for new cars or entertainment systems seems as sensible as buying life insurance. That's part of the appeal GIFA has on metalcasters: the tools and tasks they know well are idealized in new and better designs.

In Dusseldorf, Germany, last month, all the new metalcasting equipment and technologies on display filled six and a half exhibit halls, any one of which might, on its own, be considered a successful trade show in most other places. Add to this another oneand-half halls for the accompanying THERMPROCESS expo, showcasing melting and heat-treating systems; and two more halls for METEC, exhibiting metallurgical process technologies; and still one more hall for NEWCAST, the expo of casting design.

Of course, the event was commercial success (see sidebar, GIFA Organizers Document Successes), which the exhibitors hope will extend the appeal of the products they introduced there. But, if you weren't in Dusseldorf in June, here are some notes (by no means complete) on several products introduced there.

Robots drew lots of attention. The major introduction by aBB automation Technologies ( was its IRB 6620 heavy-duty robot for compact work cells. It can be mounted on floors or ceilings, offering agility in the standing, inverted, or tilted positions. It is lightweight (900 kilos), but sturdy enough to handle heavy cast parts or sand cores, or to perform cutting operations, or to tend diecasting machines.

ABB showed a new, pre-configured robot/software package for cleaning castings, the Force Control Machining system, which aims to improve machining efficiency and product quality, while reducing program and cycle times, and extending tooling life. FCM uses specialized software to achieve force control in different machining applications: FC Pressure, which maintains constant pressure between a tool and the work surface; and FC SpeedChange, which allows a robot to debur or deflash parting lines and surfaces at a controlled speed, slowing down when it encounters excessive burr. The FCM robot is fitted with a force sensor, and a controller linking the sensor to the process computer.

ABB also unveiled the new Foundry Prime program for protecting working robots against heat, moisture, and dirt, without extensive protective covering. "Coverage" is imparted by fabricating parts from anti-corrosive materials and assembling them together with pressurized motors, then sealing the parts and electronics against humidity, and coating the exterior with three layers of epoxy paint. Foundry Prime protects robots against 100% humidity and water vapor (e.g., from jet cleaning.)

KuKa Roboter ( used its GIFA exhibit to emphasize lifting power. The KR 1000 Titan model demonstrated its ability to lift and handle heavy, bulky, oversize payloads up to 1,000 kg (e.g., large and heavy castings), with a reach of 3,200 mm. These machines, and others, are offered with automation solutions specialized for numerous metalcasting tasks, such as casting cleaning, diecasting processes, and molten metal pouring.

To address heat, humidity, particulates, and other environmental hazards for foundry robotics, KuKA offers an optional package — ProtectionPlus— that protects drives, gear units, and the RDC (Resolver Digital Converter) boxes; and, the robots' counterbalancing systems are protected by a spiral spring that seals out dust and dirt, and withstands cleaning agents.

Also, KuKA introduced a new user interface, KuKA Smart GuI, that "parameterizes" complex processes without programming work, simplifying robot teaching procedures.

For diecasting processes, which call for simultaneous control of several axes (e.g., diecasting, unloading, spraying), KuKA Motion Control provides the range of functions for operating gantry systems and special machines, and enables positioning motions and several different movements to be controlled synchronously. Finally, KuKA showed its Safe Handling casting axis technology for automating the casting process in prototype, preseries, and small-series production, including sand casting and permanent mold casting.

Inductotherm ( contributed to the robotics offerings, too. The group's expansive presentation occupied a prominent corner of the THERMPROCESS halls, a fitting location to display various induction heating technologies. Of the several highlighted, the ARMS (Automated Robot Melt Shop) system seemed to capture the attention of most visitors. ARMS is anchored by an insulated foundry robot mounted on an open melt deck, to replace a furnace operator in hazardous duty by integrating all of an operator's duties in a programmed, coordinated system.

For example, as melting proceeds on the melt deck the six-axis ARMS robot stands available to perform its varied functions: checking the metal bath grounding; monitoring metal conditions by inserting a thermocouple lance; deslagging the melt; taking metal samples; or trimming the melt with appropriate materials. One robot can service two furnaces effectively, and can lift 30-360 kg, though much larger configurations are possible.

While the robot's movements are preprogrammed, the entire operation is overseen by operators safely installed in a control room. The operators control the movement of the furnace and its cover, charge car, and slag cart, and activate the robot's performance.

The HMI used by the operators has touchscreen displays for the several menus used to initiate and guide the processes, as well as status readings, alarms and errors, and other standard informational functions. ARMS complements other automated systems Inductotherm has developed, e.g., for pouring metal and lining push-out, optimizing melting performance.

ESI Group ( demonstrated its newest versions of the QuikCast and ProCast simulation packages, two components of the group's portfolio of digital prototyping softwares. ESI aims to accelerate the coordination of design prerogatives with process capabilities, and vice versa. Specifically, the goal is "multi domain" simulation, i.e., a program that is standardized on common platforms, so that product designers and production engineers can share insights and discoveries.

QuikCast predicts results in the stages of casting, allowing users to simulate the process from filling to solidification, including defect development. ProCast couples thermal-flow and stressanalysis functions, based on finite-element analysis, with metallurgical (alloy) and process (casting methods) models. ProCast offers modules for high- and low-pressure diecasting, gravity diecasting and tilt pouring, investment casting, shell casting, and sand casting. And, it identifies problems (cold shuts, misruns, porosity, air entrapment, shrinkage, die life, hot tearing and cracks) and analyzes the effects of proposed solutions.

The latest QuickCast package is streamlined and user-friendly, bringing to foundries a complete industrial solution with realistic predictions for each casting stage. The newest version of ProCast includes automatic mesh generation, thermal analysis with radiation effects, mold-filling analysis, coupled thermal, flow, and stress analysis, and advanced metallurgical options.

All of these capabilities are performed in a streamlined, visual setting that's integrated with a suite of simulation solutions.

Raytek's ( new MM3M video pyrometer system for low-temperature metal producers, and modular CS200 thermal imaging system, were presented as preventive-maintenance tools, to prevent equipment damage and avoid downtime and scrap, as well as to improve product quality and uniformity. The Marathon MM 3M sensor measures low to medium temperatures (100°-600°C), regardless of emissivity. Its sealed user interface and precision focus optics allow it to be installed quickly. The CS200 is recommended for kiln-shell temperature monitoring, control, and analysis, to detect refractory hot spots and prolong production runs.

For diecasters, Muller Weingarten ( presented a new series of cold-chamber pressure diecasting machines. DualCast is available in four models with closing forces from 23,000 to 40,000 kN; a clearance between the machine uprights of 1,500 to 1,850 mm; and a machine-dependent die height of 800 to 2,000 mm. With new closing-part technology, the increased clamping surface, and modified control system, the system offers flexibility, operator comfort, and reduced set-up and cycle times.

The system hydraulics, with servo pump drives, saves energy, while the cycle times can be reduced thanks to the ability to move the core pulls simultaneously when setting and pulling. System pressure up to 230 bar also speeds production. DualCast series machines also take up about 20% less floor space than preceding models.

Molding machine specialists DISa ( unveiled its new DISA 231, a machine that produces up to 500 uncored molds per hour, with a machine-dependent mismatch of no more than 0.10 mm. The 231 has improved hydraulics; a redesigned automatic mold conveyor; advanced process monitoring and control; and a new, linear-movement core setter with better speed control and less stress on cores during setting.

DISA, which has expertise in cleaning systems, too, introduced the DISA Mac shot-blasting machine for high-tech light alloy components (e.g., cylinder blocks, heads, etc.), which operates at up to 200 pieces/hour. It works with an industrial robot, so movements are programmed to blast-clean each part with specificity, and abrasives are continuously removed. The new DISA Bat machine combines innovations in shot-blasting technology with batch machine capabilities, for an advanced modular blasting system that is economical and customizable.

GIFA Organizers Document Successes

The organizers of GIFA, METEC, THERMPROCESS, and NEWCAST report that the 2007 staging of the four expos resulted in an attendance increase of 8% over the 2003 event. Messe Dusseldorf — which organizes the four trade shows for simultaneous presentation every four years — said this year's events (June 12-16) drew more than 77,000 visitors to Dusseldorf.

GIFA is the International Foundry Trade Fair, now having completed its eleventh staging; METEC is the International Metallurgical Technology Trade Fair, in its seventh presentation; and THERMPROCESS is the International Metallurgical Trade Fair, in its ninth staging. NEWCAST, which just completed its second presentation, is the International Castings Trade Fair.

More than 50% of the attendees at the four events were from outside Germany, in particular from France, Italy, and Austria, with a notably higher number of visitors from Asia (and India, in particular) than was recorded in 2003.

Visitor surveys indicate two-thirds of those attending were executives with decision-making authority in their organizations, and the organizers credit this fact for a noteworthy number of contract placements during the event — as well as with the exhibitors stated expectations for increased business following the events.

As for exhibitors, more than 1,700 companies, associations, and research institutes from 50 nations took part in the four events. Of all those exhibiting at GIFA, 58% were from countries other than Germany, led by Italian, British, and American firms. Among the METEC exhibitors, 56% were from beyond Germany, especially from China, Italy, and the U.S. At THERMPROCESS, 44% of the exhibitors came from countries other than Germany, most from Great Britain, France, Italy, and the U.S.

Messe Dusseldorf plans to coordinate the four events again in 2011, however, the significant rise in the number of exhibitors and visitors to NEWCAST has led to a decision to stage that expo on a two-year cycle (including co-staging with GIFA, METEC, and THERMPROCESS in the synchronous cycle.) Designers, producers, and buyers of castings favor more frequent gatherings, "in sync with the fast pace of innovations occurring in this sector," according to Messe Dusseldorf. The next NEWCAST will be held June 23-25, 2009.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)