What use is the best machine if its application is too complex and overwhelms the user? The question led Bühler engineers to completely redesign the control of die casting machines. They were able to take a quantum leap in the control of die casting cells.
Complex systems, overloaded operators
Controlling complete die casting cells requires complex and capable systems. These have to control and monitor not only the actual die casting process, but also cover the peripherals of a die casting cell: dosing, the removal robot, spraying systems, trimming press, vacuum systems, the conveyor, as well as forming and temperature control systems. Keeping the relevant process information manageable and getting to the crux of the matter is not always easy. “You make excellent systems, but users are overwhelmed with the operation,” was a common complaint.
The development team at Bühler Die Casting took this customer feedback to heart. Together with specialists in user interface design, they fundamentally redesigned the operation of die casting controls. With the innovative user interface DataView, they took a quantum leap toward intuitive machine control. “It is as if we had switched from Windows 95 to a modern operating system,” says Laszlo Jud, Head of Automation at Bühler Die Casting. The first prototype was presented at the last Foundry Trade Fair (GIFA) in Düsseldorf. Since then, the solution has been successfully put into operation for select customers to demonstrate the reliability of the system in the harsh foundry environment.
“With DataView we have developed a control system that is distinguished by convenience and intuitive operation. Similar to a smartphone,” says Mimmo Chieco, Product Manager for DataView. The die casting cell can be operated via a touch screen and minimal manual control elements. The latter is particularly important when the industry environment only permits rough handling. The time savings for operators are clear: The fast and intuitive control reduces programming time by up to 25 %. In addition, the time required for maintenance and training is significantly lower. And lastly, pilot customers appreciate being able to access data in real time via mobile devices such as tablets.
Steps towards the Internet of Things
DataView is enabling die casting to take its first steps towards the Internet of Things. “All operations and changes are captured digitally. We can reconstruct and optimize each millisecond of the die casting process,” said Jud. This has significant advantages, especially with regards to recalls in the automotive industry. Thanks to precise traceability, it is now possible to accurately isolate faulty pressure castings. “It makes a difference whether 20,000 parts have to be recalled or only 2,000,” says Chieco. The diverse diagnostic options are another advantage of the new machine control. In a simple manner, even “health checks” can be carried out in real time as well as monitoring of a machine's condition. They can be used, for example, to monitor and optimize energy consumption of the various elements of a die casting cell. And the inventors have already begun thinking about the next step. “Diagnosis is good, but prognosis is better,” says Jud. “With the data generated, we will be able to identify and prevent potential problems in advance within the next few years.” Currently, developers are working on making the clear advantages of this innovative system available for other series, such as the Evolution. The customers show their thanks with positive feedback: “The operation is simply more intuitive, which is visible immediately. All information that is relevant for operation is always available. It’s impressive,“ says Srdjan Paunovic, Head Foundry at Wagner AG in Switzerland.