SinterCast Introduces New CGI Process Control Package

Feb. 18, 2010
Third generation offers options for high-volume and niche production
SinterCast’s third generation of process control technology for CGI is available in two systems: the System 3000 (left), which will be deployed at Cifunsa; and MiniSystem 3000 (right), which has been license by China’s FAW Foundry Co. Ltd.

SinterCast introduced a suite of new technologies it calls the third generation of its process control for compacted graphite iron (CGI) production. System 3000 includes updated internal hardware components, a new operating system, new process control software, and extended measurement capability of core thermal analysis sampling technology.

The first commercial license for System 3000 has been reached with China’s FAW Foundry Co. Ltd. It will install the research-scale version of the new package, SinterCast Mini-System 3000, at its R&D center in Changchun, China, in support of product development across the manufacturing group.

FAW Foundry is an operating subsidiary of the China FAW Group Corp. China FAW Group manufactures passenger and commercial vehicles, and collaborates in vehicle development, production, and sales with various global automakers, including Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

The FAW Foundry Co. Ltd. research foundry, in Changchun, China, will install the research-scale version of the new package, SinterCast Mini-System 3000, at in support of product development across the manufacturing group.

SinterCast also reported that the Cifunsa, the Mexican automotive foundry, upgraded its SinterCast System 2000 to System 3000 as a result of “intensified product development activity and anticipated increases in the overall market demand for CGI engine castings.”

CGI is an increasingly popular as an alternative to gray iron and aluminum for automotive engine designs. It offers higher tensile strengths, fatigue strength, and stiffness than those materials so automotive designers may achieve engine performance and fuel economy with low component weight, lower noise factors, and low emissions.

Currently, SinterCast process control is widely used commercially by foundries producing CGI components that range in weight from 2 kg to 17 metric tons, with high customer satisfaction ratings, it says.

SinterCast president and CEO Dr. Steve Dawson said the global economic recession led the group to focus its engineering resources on “a comprehensive review of our deliverable technology.

“The resulting suite of System 3000 technologies provides a new base for our further development, ensuring that we continue to satisfy the needs of our foundry customers for flexibility, robustness, accuracy and independence,” according to Dawson.

System 3000 is modular, like its predecessor, so it’s flexible enough to be installed for any foundry or process flow. It can be configured for foundries that produce CGI from pressurized pouring furnaces or by ladle pouring.

The new hardware platform is based on an industrial computer with a solid-state hard drives, and includes power filtration to protect against surges or brownouts. Operator interfaces are displayed on a 19-in. touch-screen display, custom programmed in the local language and configured to each foundry’s preferences. System 3000 also has hardware diagnostics and troubleshooting functions that are accessible via a laptop link-up to one of the serial ports.

System 3000’s process control component is the latest version of SinterCast’s software, PCS 6.0, operating on an embedded XP platform. This is the sixty-first software release issued by SinterCast since it introduced System 2000 in 1999. “This frequency of software development – approximately one new release every two months over the past decade – underlines ongoing development intensity within SinterCast,” the developer states.

“The PCS 6.0 software provides improved operator friendliness and expanded access for customer engineers to independently configure the metallurgical software parameters and to perform maintenance,” SinterCast continued. “The results from each thermal analysis measurement are stored by the System 3000 and are available for automatic transfer to the foundry’s quality-control IT system, for real-time logging of series production data and traceability.”

Following what it called “extensive field-testing,” the developer also introduced a new version of its sampling cup. The SP-05 is based on an updated reactive coating that improves the resolution of SinterCast’s patented Wall Reaction and at the same time counteracts the influence of tramp elements. (Such impurities are an increasing factor for foundries in developing countries, where scrap supplies are less than optimal.)

An illustration of the thermal reaction of molten iron within the sampling cup — one of the distinctive features of the SinterCast CGI process.

The thermal reaction of the molten iron within the sampling cup is one the distinctive features of the SinterCast CGI process.

“As a result of the enhanced Wall Reaction,” SinterCast reports, “the SP-05 technology also extends the analysis capability toward higher carbon-equivalent levels. Together, these improvements reinforce SinterCast’s ability to consistently control CGI series production within a narrow range at the low end of the ISO 16112 Standard 0-20% CGI nodularity specification, where casting defects are minimized and thermal conductivity and machinability are optimized.”

Dawson explained that since late last year all of the developmental work at SinterCast’s Technical Centre in Katrineholm, Sweden, has been conducted with the updated sampling cup, and that future System 3000 foundry installations would be commissioned with the SP-05 technology. (Current SinterCast customers have the option to upgrade to SP-05 at any time, but both options will be available.)

Notably, SinterCast also is launching a research-scale version of its control hardware. The Mini-System 3000 uses the same updated sampling technology and software as System 3000 in a condensed package, conceived for CGI product development, prototyping, and niche-volume production.

The Mini-System 3000 does not include an integrated wire feeder, because most developmental work involves ladles smaller than 500 kg. SinterCast indicates that foundries can use a separate wire feeder and manually install the magnesium and inoculant wire addition results provided on the operator display screen. “All product calibrations developed using the Mini-System 3000 can be directly transferred to the fully automated System 3000 for series production,” it explains.

“SinterCast’s third-generation technology incorporates foundry production experience gained from the initial System 1000 process control system launched in 1996, the System 2000 launched in 1999, and an intensive R&D campaign conducted over the past 14 months” states operations director Steve Wallace. “The new System 3000 platform has successfully undergone extensive full-load simulation testing, corresponding to the continuous production of more than 3 million cylinder blocks under typical foundry production conditions. We look forward to supporting the future CGI needs of the foundry and automotive industries with this new platform.”

For now, FAW will serve as test site for the new control suite. “As the largest vehicle manufacturer in China, FAW has taken the initiative to become the first Chinese OEM to adopt the SinterCast technology as part of its overall strategy to develop and produce state-of-the-art engines that meet the stringent Euro-style emissions legislation that has been adopted in China, and to satisfy consumer demand for improved performance, refinement and fuel efficiency,” summarized Dawson.