Foundry pilots digital dosing optimisation
05 January 2021
INTERNATIONAL ALUMINIUM die casting business, Alupress, is piloting a new data-driven solution to improve productivity at its Hildburghausen foundry site in Germany.
The automotive parts specialist, which also has locations in Italy and the US, has adopted Monitizer Refill Monitor from StrikoWestofen to optimize metal supply for its dosing furnaces.
Developed by StrikoWestofen in partnership with Norican’s in-house Digital Lab, the solution uses sensor data to continuously check furnace fill levels against the metal consumption of the die casting process. It then presents the analysed data as informative online dashboards which clearly show in real time when each furnace will need refilling, with which alloy and the amount of metal required.
“When we heard about Monitizer Refill Monitor we could see it offered an innovative solution to a number of practical challenges we face”, explained Enrico Sonnefeld, head of maintenance at Alupress Hildburghausen.
“Our melting furnaces are located quite a distance from our die casting halls. To accurately check the real time fill levels of our 32 dosing furnaces takes time, and the logistics involved mean there is always a risk of refilling with the wrong alloy, overfilling or underfilling. As well as being unproductive, these factors can also result in undesirable stop/starts, for instance if melt is not ready, downtime and also problems further down the line with casting quality – in particular if fill levels have dropped too low.”
As part of the pilot, 8 of Alupress’ dosing furnaces have been connected to the Monitizer Refill Monitor solution, including 5 Westomat furnaces from StrikoWestofen and 3 from a third party.
“This was actually one of the things that impressed us about this innovation”, added Enrico, “because the data collection mechanism used is supplier agnostic, we can connect any of our furnaces to Monitizer Refill Monitor. We also didn’t need to have any pre-existing digital infrastructure or IIoT experience.”
A key feature of the system is that the dashboards are completely tailorable to show, at a glance, the information that is going to be most valuable to the particular foundry. This includes setting colour codes – green, amber, red – to indicate priority actions required. The level of customisation is something Alupress has already taken advantage of.
Florian Kulawik, Development Engineer at StrikoWestofen, commented: “Alupress has configured its dashboards to display overall furnace fill level as a percentage, and also the exact time left until the furnace is at 40% capacity, as refilling before this point produces optimal results in terms of melt quality and for continuous production. Clear colour coded indicators change as the threshold is reached. The dashboards can be accessed in the melt shop and are displayed on a dedicated monitor in the production hall. The forklift operators responsible for transferring the liquid metal from the melting furnace to the production hall also have securely authorised access to this real time data via a tablet in the vehicle to ensure optimal fill levels are maintained.”
The pilot project is ongoing but Alupress has already seen the benefits of real time data monitoring. Enrico said: “Since the solution was installed our dosing furnaces have been in continuous use because at any single point in time, we can see what’s needed to optimise the process. What’s more, because the solution is completely scalable, we know it will be an easy job to expand the number of furnaces – old or new – connected as and when required. It’s great.”