Which trends dominate the foundry industry? What challenges and opportunities arise in the area of production due to the new technical possibilities? And what changes does the foundry industry have to face?
Digitization, shortage of skilled workers, rising production costs: trends that do not stop at any industry. The foundry is no exception. Electromobility and lightweight construction are further drivers of production change: new components for electric cars such as thin-walled battery housings, for example, or housings for sensitive electronics are in demand. The range of components is growing, and the demands for accuracy and precision are rising. According to a study by the Federal Association of the German Foundry Industry, the quantity of castings to be expected will probably increase until 2030 as a result. “For this reason, it is important that the industry is now addressing the new challenges,” says Steffen Günther, Head of Business Development Casting & Foundry at KUKA. The aim is to identify potential in order to meet the new challenges.
The increased demands placed on component quality call for the latest technologies and developments. Automation is the buzzword here. “Otherwise, the extremely high demands can often not be met in manual production,” says Günther. The smart factory is thus also moving into the spotlight in the foundry sector. In addition to automation, digitization plays a decisive role. The OPC-UA software interface standard allows data to be collected, evaluated and, in the best case scenario, processes to be optimized. Data relations become recognizable: For example, maintenance can be carried out at the required time and does not have to be replaced by feeling.
Components can also be smartly designed: If, for example, a QR code is used during the manufacturing process and scanned in subsequent processes, it can be traced back. This code can be stored with information that can be retrieved at any time. This makes it possible to document the complete life cycle of a product from manufacture to the customer. Because only those who have all the data at a glance can optimize their processes, recognize errors more quickly and eliminate them. Production becomes more transparent, thus more efficient and the company more economical.
Networked, energy- and resource-efficient and above all adaptable processes are the decisive features of future factories. And in the process, people are not replaced, but relieved. The robot takes over monotonous and physically strenuous tasks, while the worker can carry out more qualified tasks such as quality control.
Do I now have to change over my entire production abruptly? No, you don’t. “It doesn’t always have to be a completely new system,” explains Günther. KUKA tailors individual production concepts for its customers. There are applications that are designed for new systems, but there are also solutions that can be integrated into existing production systems and thus pave the way in small steps to Industry 4.0. Existing systems can also be retrofitted according to the new standards and for new components.