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Automatic Molding Anchors a Forward-Moving Foundry

March 27, 2022
H&H Castings is operating its latest in a series of machines in support of its high-volume production program, and gaining the advantages of a highly intuitive control process and fully digital analytics.

There are various standards for identifying a “modern” foundry – but automatic molding is surely a primary indicator. Automatic molding helps foundries fulfill all of the goals that casting buyers prioritize: High throughput, consistency, and lately accessibility for data analysis and reporting. With three automatic molding lines in operation now, H&H Castings surely meets the standard.

The newest machine – a Sinto FBO-V unit, along with a mold handling line and sand-handling equipment – arrived at the York, PA, plant in 2019, but the modernization effort goes back several decades.

H&H Castings started as a full-service aluminum foundry in 1965, in Wrightsville, PA, established on the principal that quality products promote customer loyalty. Its initial focus was on small-run casting jobs, with an emphasis on technical proficiency. The operation continued in that spirit for 24 years, until demand exceeded production and the need for a larger facility became apparent.

A new foundry was opened in York, PA, in 1989. It allowed H&H Castings to increase production volumes and expand production capabilities with modern production machinery. The current operation covers 90,000 sq. feet, with in-house core and pattern production and five furnaces for melting roughly 3.2 million lbs./year of various aluminum alloys. As customers may require, finished castings may be heat treated, machined, painted, or anodized. 

The turning point

But the fulcrum of activity for H&H Castings is automatic molding. It’s the primary reason that a small foundry has been able to grow to process several million pounds of molten aluminum annually.

The decision to automate molding came in 1995 when H&H acquired its first Sinto automatic molding machine. Sinto was a no-brainer decision for us back then and even now,” according to production manager Dylan Hammill. “They have custom programs designed exclusively for us.”

A total of seven Sinto automatic molding machines have been acquired over the past 27 years, and three of those are operation today: the FBO-II (16x20-in. mold size, 5-to 8-in. mold height from cope and drag; the FBO III (20x24-in. mold size, 5- to 8-in. mold height from cope and drag); as well as the latest addition, the FBO-V.

One of the benefits H&H Castings has drawn with the different Sinto automatic molding machines is that operators become very familiar with the functionality of the brand’s equipment: the control panels are similar in presentation to the maintenance interface, accessing the same performance analytics. In the current jargon, the machines are truly “plug and play.”

An automatic hit

H&Hs FBO-V automatic molding machine received its first pour in November 2019, and it stands as one of two Sinto FBO-V machines in North America operating for aluminum casting. The mold-handling system and sand plant integration package installed at the same time were fully customized by Sinto engineering teams according to H&H Casting’s specifications and production needs. 

According to Dylan Hammill, the addition of the FBO-V has seen H&H Castings expand its range of customers with the ability to pour larger products.

The machine’s 32x32-in. mold size comes with an 11-in. mold height from the cope and 14-in. mold height from the drag. The flaskless design can accommodate two or four patterns, with “aeration” sand filling. It’s capable of producing 80 molds per hour without core setting, or up to 50 molds per hour with core setting.

The operation also is Industry 4.0-ready with integrated data analytics.

With the automatic process, its a closed loop,” according H&H executive v.p. Jacob Hammill. “It’s the push of a button. The consistency from mold to mold is unparalleled compared to manual molding.

“With some of the jobs that we immediately converted over to the FBO-V, were seeing 40-50 molds an hour, so a 500% increase right off the bat in production,” he added.

Both H&H Castings and FBO series developer Sinto ascribe to the notion that a modern foundry needs more than an individual machine: it takes the whole foundry working in unison to get the best results. Toward that ideal, Sinto offers training and service technicians that help foundries achieve it. Sinto provides tailor-made solutions, … from engineering to training programs,” commented Dylan Hammill. “They will send someone on site and give a custom training program to get people up and running quickly.

“We are able to train people in days now instead of weeks or months,” he added.

For H&H Castings, the training programs along with the machines’ ease of use has resulted in higher quality molds. I learned how to run the FBO-V in four days,” recalled operator Ernesto Alcala Iniguez. “I feel comfortable running it just because I know I have the support of my team and Sinto if I need it. What I really enjoy about running the FBO-V is the pace; youre not working on the same thing all day.”

Digitalization process

Having gained proficiency in automatic molding, H&H Castings found its way to implementing Industry 4.0 practices in a metalcasting environment. Since 2019 the aluminum foundry has digitalized all its PLC-driven processes using a tool from the Sinto Smart Foundry platform, envision Process Visibility System (ePVS.) With digitalization, H&H has been able to visualize machine performance with real-time analysis and optimize its processes using real-time data by focusing on areas where performance changes are indicated.

Digitalization means that H&H machine operators and maintenance managers are able to view the live analytics on a dashboard at the machine, as the machines are running.  I think there is a direct correlation between production revenue and bottom-line metrics – in relation to the efficiency of automatic molding, and how many of them (machines) we have,” commented EVP Jacob Hamill.

The analytics’ effect on production is immediate. We can be proactive instead of reactive, and I can see what the machines are doing throughout the day instead of waiting for a piece of paper at the end of the day,” explained production manager Dylan Hammill. “We can see if a nozzle is blocked or if a gasket is going. There are so many tools that the maintenance department can use from the office instead of in the back of the machine.”

And those effects are felt downstream, too. “Customers have seen more consistent products with our newer machines,” Jacob Hammill revealed. “It has also reduced a lot of handling time in our finishing department