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Digital Diecasting Reconceives the Whole Process

Adopting new information gathering and reporting technologies offers potential for significant increases in productivity and OEE

One aspect of technological progress in metalcasting is the challenge to synchronize the advances in production processes with the pace of development in information technology and data networks. Diecasters, for example, operate at a very high rate of throughput – making it difficult to pause to incorporate changes meant to improve productivity.

Bühler Die Casting is cutting through the problem with its introduction of Digital Cell — a concept for diecasting that aims to deliver 0% scrap, 40% lower cycle time, and 24/7 uptime. If it all pans out as promised, diecasting productivity will be more efficient, and more profitable.

The concept has three elements. First, the SmartCMS (Smart Cell Management System) for collecting and managing data drawn from every component and peripheral of the production cell to improve process performance and make it possible to increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE.)

“If we think of a diecasting cell like a human body, with lots of different tasks carried out by different parts, the SmartCMS is the brain, ready to coordinate all of that activity in the most effective way,” explained Bühler managing director Jonathan Abbis. It lays a foundation for “smart” management of entire diecasting cells, with the ability to collect information from multiple data sources in a single control system. Initially available at the cell level, SmartCMS delivers improvements through equipment connectivity, cell automation and operation, centralized alarms, data collection, flexible part flow, and recipe management. It will improve process performance and extend OEE.

The second element is a series of digital services, including predictive analytics, which Bühler claims will deliver a 10X reduction in downtime thanks to predictive maintenance.

By analyzing data points of all key processes in real-time, the Digital Cell will recognize quality issues and immediately optimize itself to correct the problem. Thus, 0% scrap becomes a possibility, effectively changing the economics and sustainability of the diecasting industry.

Further, at the present time, in diecasting about a third of average cycle time may be taken up with the thermal management processes. Harmonizing micro-spraying, conformal cooling, and infrared cameras within the Digital Cell will significantly reduce cycle time by as much as 40%, according to the developer.

Currently, when there is a problem in a diecasting process, it may be detected within the cell process control system, but it cannot proactively address a problem in the process. The Digital Cell will use machine learning, artificial intelligence algorithms, and other technologies to make smart decisions without the need for intervention. Uninterrupted, 24/7 production cycles then becomes a real potentiality.

The third element is "Fusion," a new, Bühler three-platen diecasting process that can make full use of SmartCMS’ future machine-learning and artificial-intelligence capabilities. With closed-loop control, modular energy frame, and Industry 4.0 automation capability, Fusion is a flexible solution for forming high-quality aluminum and magnesium diecastings. Smoother, servo-driven hydraulics can cut cycle time and reduce energy consumption by up to 40%.

According to the developer, the Digital Cell presents the ability to monitor, control, and manage the complete diecasting process. “To achieve a step-change in diecasting, it’s not enough to focus on single components,” according to Jonathan Abbis. “To significantly boost productivity, we have to tackle the system as a whole.”

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