IK4-AZTERLAN develops a new technology to improve the manufacturing of high-performance cast iron components
This new development integrates different aspects such as the metallurgical quality, intelligent exploitation of process data and advanced tooling design, in order to accomplish more efficient processes and to optimize the usage of raw materials. Consequently, costs are significantly reduced, and a positive environmental impact is obtained regarding energy efficiency and reduction of the “carbon footprint”.
The casting industry is currently facing significant challenges due to the market globalization and the need to increase its competitiveness level while complying at the same time with the new environmental regulations. To cope with that situation a deep transformation of the sector is needed, transitioning from a model based on the capacities of productive media, towards a model consolidated on the knowledge economy.
It is well known that the foundry industry intensively demands energetic and material resources. Regarding this second demand, it must be said that the casting industry plays an active role in the recycling and revalorization cycle of materiales. On the other hand, to measure the energetic impact of the casting industry, it is enough to say that to produce 1 ton of cast components requires between 1.500 and 2.200 kWh consumption, depending on the level of optimization achieved. Energy is, thus, one of the main costs for the foundry industry.
With the aim of acting over this matter by improving the production yield (being able to produce a greater number of components with the same amount of raw material), IK4-AZTERLAN Metallurgy Research Centre has developed an innovative technology that integrates the metallurgical quality along with the implementation of advanced control systems and parameters, and the optimization of molding pattern design.
The innovative technology, which combines theoretical foundations that manage the expansion and contraction phenomena during the metal solidification process, allows to reduce the need to compensate the contraction phenomena produced during solidification, representing an up to 25% reduction in the amount of metal required to manufacture a sound casting.
This new development, along with the advanced management of process data captured, allows to give a qualitative leap in the conceptualization and design of foundry tooling, fostering the total or partial elimination of feeders and resizing the filling system. By doing so, it is possible to optimize the yield of molds and to achieve higher productivity levels.
After more than 6 years of development work, the new technology has been successfully validated in small-scale facilities (pilot foundry plant), as well as in diverse industrial environments.
Applied to the case of an average SME of the sector, the potential economical impact of this innovative development can represent between 1,5 and 3 Million euros a year by reducing manufacturing costs.
From the point of view of the foundry sector, the decrease of the electric consumption associated to this program can represent for the Basque iron industry 160.000.000 kWh/year. This amount equates to the electrical consumption of a 25.000-30.000 population, as well as the corresponding reduction in the emission of greenhouse effect gases.