Matchplate System for Higher Throughput, Less Scrap

Feb. 15, 2022
At the Ford Meter Box foundry, the first version of a machine design is fulfilling every expectation for simple and reliable green-sand molding with automatic core-setting.

Ford Meter Box in Wabash, IN, recently updated its matchplate molding operation with a DISA Match 14/19 machine that includes an automatic core-setter – the first Match series machine in the new 14/19 size to be delivered to a foundry customer. Established in 1898, the nonferrous foundry has developed numerous products for waterworks projects: founder Edwin Ford invented the in-ground meter box over a century ago, and the group’s innovations range from a 1916 patent for its original water-meter test bench to 1960s-era ball valves, to check valves that prevent contaminating backflow in meter pipework introduced in the 1980s.

Today, Ford Meter Box casts a range of brass hardware for new construction; and it produces a full line of stainless-steel pipe products, repair clamps, and restraints at its Pell City, AL, plant.

Using green-sand molding to produce various small (up to 3 lbs.), low-lead and lead-free brass castings, the Wabash foundry has a mix of automatic matchplate and semi-automatic molding machines. With its automatic machines beginning to age, the search began for replacements.

“We started looking for a new molding machine around mid-2019,” recalled foundry technical engineer Andrew Iannettoni. “We talked to a few vendors and compared the advantages and disadvantages of the equipment available. DISA didn’t offer a Match 14/19 at that time, but the foundries we talked to that had bigger DISA Match machines like the 20/24s were very impressed with the support, how well the machines operated, and the excellent reliability.”

Iannettoni continued. “Based on that and the reputation of their vertical machines, our thinking was that if DISA made a Match 14/19, it would perform as well as the others. We asked them to do it and just hoped that they would – something of a shot in the dark.”

A casting dream comes true

Because many of its castings carry water, Ford Meter Box sets a lot of cores to form the required channels – and its legacy automatic molding machines require manual core setting.

“That really cut into the number of molds per hour we could produce,” Iannettoni explained. “The cycle time and quality also very much depended on operator skill and the size and number of the cores. In-cycle coresetting with DISA’s auto core-setter promised substantial productivity gains, so that was a big attraction too.”

Combining a DISA Match with DISA’s automatic core-setter became Ford Meter Box’s dream solution.

“Matchplate molding is very popular with U.S. foundries and we had many requests from customers who wanted to upgrade their existing 14/19 format machines to a DISA Match model,” recalled Roberto Ramirez, director of Foundry Sales at DISA Americas. “Optimized to suit the smaller pattern size, the new 14/19 machine retains all the speed, accuracy, quality, and flexibility for which DISA Match is famous.”

“When DISA confirmed they would develop a 14/19 model, that made us very happy indeed,” Iannettoni said. The very first Match 14/19 was delivered to Wabash in February 2021.

The DISA Match 14/19 produces up to 180 uncored molds per hour with fast pattern changes – ideal for foundries like Ford Meter Box that specialize in short to medium runs. Its matchplate adaptor means the foundry can continue to use jolt-squeeze pattern plates or patterns from other vendors’ matchplate machines, with minimal modification, so upgrading is simple and low-cost.

“This was our first DISA machine," Iannettoni noted. “They helped us to adapt all our existing matchplates to fit our new machine, which was a huge benefit to us. We decided not to use the normal DISA adaptor but all it took was a couple of simple changes to the pin configuration of our existing patterns and they all fitted straight on.”

The installation went smoothly, with DISA’s engineers getting the new machine ready to operate within two days. Once Ford had the peripheral equipment in place – power, air, water, sand, mold transports, and so on – it was time to start testing.

Full speed, quickly and easily

Trained by DISA’s engineers, Ford Meter Box operators learned quickly how to handle the user interface, make the required core masks, and choose the right settings for each pattern. DISA also showed the maintenance team how to change service components and how to overcome small set-up challenges.

“They helped us to ramp-up production, answered all our questions, and stayed with us until the machine was 100% ready and we were completely happy,” Iannettoni said. “We’ve subsequently had a few technical queries on subjects like mold heights and they have worked closely with us on that too.

“Quite simply, the machine likes to make molds,” he continued. “The mold quality is very consistent and that makes our casting finish equally consistent. It’s as fast as they said it would be – if not faster – in and out, every day, it just keeps going. It’s easy and intuitive to operate and has given us very few problems.”

Ford’s DISA Match is digitally enabled with DISA’s Monitizer | CIM supporting data collection, sub-process automation, and other features. Recipe management (storing the optimal machine settings for each individual pattern) has proved particularly useful.

“Digital is new for us, and we like recipe management a lot, especially when we’re running different shifts,” Iannettoni explained. “Once we set up a pattern’s parameters, we get less trouble with operators adjusting things. In the past, that made troubleshooting hard: ‘Is it the machine? Is it the settings?’ Operators really like this standardization.”

Matchplate quality, time after time

“The automatic core-setter has really lived up to expectations too,” he said. “It has impressed us with its speed and consistency – it’s exactly the same every time. It’s also cut down a lot of the scrap related to manual core setting.

“Overall, I know we’re able to produce more molds more quickly than with our old matchplate machines, it’s definitely improved our throughput,” Iannettoni stated. “We usually have quite short runs and, between the speed of the core-setter and the DISA Match’s flexibility, we can complete more of those jobs each day or week.”

The DISA Match’s taller mold height capability also has helped Ford with certain castings that are problematic for its other machines.

“With the DISA Match, we can open it up a bit further and one particular casting now runs only on the DISA machine for that reason,” he said. “DISA Match’s consistency also means that some jobs where we’d previously had flashing and had to do some grinding, we get a good tight close on the molds. So that’s cut out the need for finishing on some parts.”

Simple design maximizes uptime

DISA Match’s simple design has minimal moving parts, so maintenance is quicker and less frequent and uptime is maximized. Its fixed cope chamber, along with overall rigidity, help to reduce mismatch to a maximum of 0.2 mm (0.008 in.) and offers extra-precise stripping.

“With or without cores, casting quality is better due to DISA Match’s very low mismatch,” Iannettoni said. “We had problems with plate misalignment on our previous machine where the independent cylinders would wear and move differently. Our maintenance team particularly like the Match for that, as they don’t have to spend any time aligning plates.”

Overall, Ford’s maintenance crew prefer the DISA Match machine to the other automatic molding machines. Parts are accessible and easy to work on, and they appreciate the machine’s build quality and functionality.

“Apart from our machine’s excellent performance, the service has been phenomenal too,” Iannettoni continued. “Once or twice, we’ve seen an error code we’re unsure about and we’ve called the service techs in the middle of the night and they pick up straight away, every time. Parts availability has been great as well.

“The machine has to function well but that secondary support is critical to any foundry,” he concluded. “It’s been a really positive experience all the way – and that’s why Ford Meter Box has ordered two more DISA Match 14/19s.” 

Doug Engel is the senior account director for DISA. Contact him at [email protected], or visit www.disagroup.com