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ASK Chemicals: Colloquium about Sustainability in the foundry supplier industry

How foundries must adapt - Customization means rethinking

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Ashland-Südchemie-Kernfest (ASK Chemicals) held a seminar on sustainability in the foundry industry, at the opening of the new Testing & Applications Center in Hilden.

ASK Chemicals opened its new Foundry Testing & Applications Center in Hilden on October 30. The current hall was at that time the new production plant. The official ceremony was followed by a seminar in Dusseldorf on “Sustainability in the industry: call to foundries and their suppliers.” Over 140 representatives from the foundry industry attended the sessions to learn more about mobility and the cutting edge of science. It was a well structured and organized event. Dr. Wernicke talked about Join Venture, which will start in the second half of 2009.

Lot of visitors at the opening

Modern-day pragmatism and deteriorating traffic conditions

The automobile industry is a key sector for customers of ASK Chemicals, who manufacture a host of parts in their foundries for this segment. In his paper entitled, “Social and technical conditions for efficient use of resources,” Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla, Head of Research at Volkswagen AG, discussed how Volkswagen AG is addressing the issue of mobility in the future.

Müller-Pietralla pointed out that the automobile industry will have to pay more attention to the growing interaction between conflicting aspects like demography, energy, economy, climate, and eco-systems. He predicts massive and accelerating shifts, ranging from the buying patterns of customers to plentiful special models. Such customization has already created a variety of submarkets and will continue to intensify, as evidenced by the fact that the nine product segments in 1985 had grown to 60 by 2007. One consequence of this development is a shorter half-life of products, and suppliers will also need to adapt accordingly.

Click here to visit picture gallery from this event

Another facet concerns buying patterns: a few years ago, a car was a status symbol in Western Europe. Now modern-day pragmatism will govern buying decisions. Hence, customers will tend to focus on important issues – by placing less value on vehicle dynamics, but more on mileage, everyday practicality, and environmental friendliness.

Global traffic conditions will deteriorate due to increasing traffic density. And the growth of megacities in newly industrialized countries – where small cars are in demand – will exacerbate the situation. Through the takeover of the filter market from Cookson will complete the range of ASK. 

The new testing plant is open!

The foundry industry will thus have to cope with the impacts of the following critical changes:

• The market will increasingly be taken over by alternative drives like hybrids with electric motors and high-compression, light combustion engines. This means downsizing the combustion engine.
• Combustion engines will still be in demand two decades from now, because batteries will remain expensive at least for the next decade.
• Multiuse motors will be replaced by highly specialized solutions.
• Demand will grow for multifunctional smart materials that are both super strong and ultra light.

Bifurcated innovation

Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer of the Gelsenkirchen University of Applied Sciences presented two fundamentally different scenarios in his paper entitled, “Trends and developments in the automobile industry.”

The Western European triad, the US, Canada, and Japan will concentrate on technical innovation. This will call for great resiliency among manufacturers and suppliers to meet customization needs of buyers that will lead to smaller production lots and special runs. Germany produces engine blocks and brake discs and exports to USA or China, so is Germany innovation leader.

In emerging markets, on the other hand, the trend is towards a $5,000 vehicle – which dictates new approaches in design and manufacturing. Dudenhöffer cautioned industrialized nations against unadapted transfer of their technologies and methodologies to these markets. In particular, he pointed out that flexibility and nimbleness is the name of the game for the foundry industry. Both manufacturers and foundries will face the big challenge of handling the anticipated multiplicity of models.  <break>

Clean production is already in the works

Dr. Emmerich Weissenbek is the Project Manager of inorganic core making at BMW’s light alloy foundry in Landshut. He talked about a successful project on sustained production: the conversion of core making from permanent mold casting to Inotec®, ASK’s inorganic bonding system.

Having manufactured 400,000 crankshaft castings so far, he is of the opinion that the inorganic system enabled BMW to drastically lower emissions, cut costs, and raise the quality of parts. To date, no problems have been encountered in the field.

Inotec® also helped cut emissions in tool suction systems by 98%. Moreover, condensate buildup dropped by 25% and BMW could lower noise emissions significantly, because the longer cycle meant less frequent blasting of permanent molds. This equates to 5% higher output and 15% longer service lives of tools.

Weissenbek sees room for further advancements aimed at lowering tool temperatures to enable faster solidification and, hence, higher strength and shorter cycle times.

Impression of the new application technology centre

Sustainable economic management of foundries

Another speaker was Prof. Dr. Peter Schumacher, Head of the Institute for Foundry Technology in Leoben and the CEO of the Austrian Foundry Institute. He discussed the technical challenges in making enduring castings, energy conservation in production and operations, and environmental friendliness.

Schumacher followed up on ideas proposed by the previous speaker and pointed out the need for materials that can withstand high loads in motors, operate at high temperatures in the power train, and possess high strength for use as structural elements.

He sees thin-wall castings continuing to gain in importance for finer structural elements, and urged the listeners to focus on this field and adopt ideas from bionics for making highly complex structural components. Similarly, simulation of core making is becoming more important, along with the need for more research. The mathematical simulation of core making has just now reached the stage that the simulation of casting had attained in the 80s.

Schumacher used pressure castings as examples to delve into the mathematical and experimental optimization of residual stresses.

Advanced methods for analysis of castings

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Hoffmann from the Department of Metalworking and Casting Technology at Munich’s TU University spoke next. His paper, “Research to shape the future,” focused on interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of research and the landscape for research in Germany.

Using the term R&D continuum, he characterized three key facets – basic research, applied research, and industrial execution – and used ongoing projects to depict the differences among them. For example, he presented new developments in nondestructive analysis of castings. His department uses applied neutron tomography to reach greater depths than is possible with x-rays. The neutrons interact well with hydrogen-rich materials and thus ease the analysis of bonded joints, for instance.

Neutron diffractometry is another technique applied at the department. This phase-selective, nondestructive process facilitates triaxial analysis of stresses, such as the computation of residual stresses in castings. Hoffmann also mentioned projects across the entire R&D continuum, including the regeneration of inorganically bound used sand.


In his closing remarks, Dr. Thomas Oehmichen, CEO of ASK Chemicals, summarized key issues.

He emphasized that the standards are already high in the foundries but with increasing advancements in the foundry production process the efforts to realize further economies of scale will more and more difficult. Besides, it will be ever more important to investigate the impact of new changes in processes along the entire value-adding chain. Of key significance is the new application technology that permits one to follow the entire casting process under field conditions.

This advanced technology could enable ASK to expedite the development of casting products and still remain adaptable and responsive.

Suppliers Catalogue: Ashland-Südchemie-Kernfest GmbH

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