Since 1964, Druckguss Westfalen has been manufacturing high-quality compo-nents for a wide variety of industries: from the automotive sector to the elec-tronics industry to the consumer sector. The specialist in aluminium die casting stands for the highest quality. The company has been relying on the automation specialist KUKA for over 30 years to keep its finger on the pulse of the times. The automation expert from Augsburg also contributes its expertise to the manufac-ture of new products in the field of electromobility. He supplies the automation for 15 die casting systems and the automation for loading and unloading for six CNC machines. "The precision of the components is crucial in e-mobility," says Rolf Cramer, Managing Director of Druckguss Westfaen. "With the automation solutions from KUKA, we can achieve the necessary efficiency and quality that are necessary for this".
Digitization, globalization, a shortage of skilled workers: these are all trends that are noticeable in industrial halls and production processes. The change is also noticeable in Geseke at the Druckguss Westfalen foundry. The main drivers for this in the company are the growth in the field of electromobility and the in-creasing demand for components with the highest precision that are required for this sector. At the same time, processes must become ever more efficient. "We looked around the market," says Cramer. "KUKA had the most convincing and competitive solution.
Robots take on arduous tasks
This solution consists of 15 die-casting cells with KUKA Automation, which com-plement KUKA's existing systems. KUKA jointed-arm robots of types KR 16 to KR 120 take over the arduous work in the demanding foundry environment, with lots of noise and dirt that previously had to be done manually. They remove the com-ponents and relieve the employees of the arduous tasks. The KUKA foundry ro-bots are painted to withstand heat, corrosion, alkaline solutions and acids. "And are therefore ideally suited to the tough environment of a foundry," says Steffen Günther, Head of Business Development CAS/Foundry at KUKA. The individual systems include one to two robots, presses, immersion cooling basins, test sta-tions and marking stations for product identification. The KUKA KR C4 and KRC ROBOTstar software packages control the robots and machines. They are char-acterized by their intuitive handling and open communication standards. In addi-tion, data can be recorded, structured and tracked with the help of the control-lers. Thanks to the high-quality casting cells with KUKA automation, the company achieves stable process quality and consistently high component precision and quality. "Accuracy is decisive for safety-relevant products such as electric cars," says Steffen Druselmann, production manager at Druckguss Westfalen. "Due to the standardisation of the cells, the error rate is significantly lower and rejects can be avoided". KUKA has planned automation for the monotonous work step of loading and unloading the CNC machines.
Data management via QR code
With the new plants and processes, Druckguss Westfalen is laying the foundation for production in the sense of Industry 4.0 and even more efficiency.
This is because those who have all data at a glance can optimise their processes, detect errors more quickly and eliminate them. Production becomes more trans-parent, thus more efficient and the company more economical. This is exactly what happens at the specialist for aluminium die casting. If the components are identified with a QR code, which is scanned in the following processes, traceabil-ity is possible. 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. "The QR code makes our components smart," says Franz Baier, also Managing Director of Druckguss Westfalen. "This brings us numerous advantages. In the future, Druckguss Westfalen will be able to reduce quality costs, better coordinate stock levels and optimise the mainte-nance of the individual system components through flawless documentation.
Partnership with a long tradition
With the current project, which will be completed in 2020, Druckguss Westfaen is continuing its long-standing cooperation with KUKA. For 30 years now, KUKA, formerly known as Reis Robotics, has been supplying the aluminum specialist with state-of-the-art systems. Various die-casting automation systems have al-ready been supplied. "We appreciate the flexibility that KUKA offers us and the broad product portfolio, which can also be used to implement individual solu-tions," says Managing Director Baier. Another advantage for the company: KUKA offers everything to do with automation from a single source - from system con-cepts to employee training and maintenance. In close cooperation and with the support of KUKA, Druckguss Westfalen has developed over the years into an in-novative supplier with forward-looking, automated production.
Through the 15 new, automated die casting cells, the automation of six CNC ma-chines including software and the coding of the components with the respective QR codes, Druckguss Westfalen is further developing its processes, making them more efficient and increasingly producing in line with the industry 4.0. Due to the traceability of the components and the automated cells, all component data can be traced by Druckguss Westfalen at any time. This makes it possible to further optimize the processes. Particularly with regard to new products for electromo-bility, the aluminium specialist benefits from the accuracy and precision of the robots. The particular challenge for KUKA was or is the standardization of the die casting cells, taking into account the various machine sizes. The systems will be delivered in three trances. The first system went into operation in January 2019. The entire process will be successively automated. Everything is to be delivered and installed by the middle of 2020. "It goes without saying that adapting our processes takes some time," says Cramer from Druckguss Westfalen. "But with KUKA at our side as a partner, we are confident that the changeover will work out.