Opportunities for Digitalization How to Optimize the Monitoring, Control and Management of the Die Casting Process?
The Bühler Group is working on bringing together all the individual die casting components under one intelligent digital brain. With the so-called Digital Cell, first steps towards a vision of 0% scrap, 40% less cycle time, and 24/7 operating time are made possible.
Up until now, digital technology has been used to improve processes within the machine and to collect and analyze data. Several companies have even integrated some proprietary peripherals such as sprayers, ladlers and robot arms. Bühler reaches for the stars and wants to bring decisive advantages to foundries all over the world with its vision of the Digital Cell and thus fundamentally transform die casting. But how can this be achieved? To facilitate the path to vision, Bühler combines its three specially developed break-through technologies SmartCMS, Digital Services and Thermal Management Enhancements to combine all individual die casting components under one intelligent brain.
What are the Benefits of the Digital Cell for Foundries?
In Bühler's vision, the entire cell is to be monitored, controlled and managed. This approach could change die casting and bring significant benefits to foundries:
By analyzing data points of all key processes in real-time, the Digital Cell will ultimately recognize quality issues and immediately optimize itself to correct the problem. Zero scrap would be a game-changer for the profitability and sustainability of our industry.
40% Reduction in Cycle Time
At the moment, about a third of the average cycle time may be taken up with well structured thermal management processes. Harmonizing micro-spraying, conformal cooling and infrared cameras within the Digital Cell will significantly reduce cycle time – potentially by as much as 40%.
Today, when there is a problem in a process, the cell may detect it, but it cannot proactively do much more than halt the process until it is fixed. The plan for the Digital Cell is for it to use machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and other technologies to make smart decisions, without the need for intervention. Imagine the cost and productivity advantages for 24/7 uninterrupted production.
The Brain "SmartCMS" Controls the Digital Cell
If we imagine the die casting cell would be a human body with many different tasks carried out by different parts, then a brain is needed to control it. In this case, the SmartCMS developed by Bühler is the brain of the die casting cell. Initially available at the cell level, SmartCMS delivers improvements through equipment connectivity, cell automation and operation, centralized alarms, data collection, flexible part flow and recipe management. This saves time and improves uptime in many ways:
- Centralized user interface puts the operator in total control: A single screen to view all cell components shows real-time alarms and diagnostics, so problems are detected instantly and time is saved on diagnosis.
- Recipe management speeds up set-up and production changes: This is done by setting all components via the SmartCMS user interface. It also eliminates misalignment of equipment with incorrect placement.
- Home button transforms restarts: The restart is converted so that all components are reset to their original position after being switched off by the "Home button".
- Flexible part flow eases production bottlenecks: With SmartCMS, users can program and switch between different processes, saving time and simplifying production planning.
- Automated part rejection simplifies scrap management: If the system detects that a part has not been produced within the set parameters, it can be automatically removed from the process, saving energy and simplifying scrap management.
Bühler's special service: The SmartCMS will be tailored to each customer’s specific cell. Once the SmartCMS has been installed in the foundry, any newly developed function of the Swiss technology group can be easily connected. SmartCMS will aim to improve process performance in real-time by using machine learning and artificial intelligence. At the moment, development is particularly focused on thermal management, cooling, quenching, spraying, furnace control, robots and press trimming. In addition, its Industry 4.0 infrastructure gives foundries the opportunity to communicate with wider Smart Factory solutions that connect with other parts of the process.
Additional Digital Services
The Digital Cell, with its Industry 4.0 and IoT technologies can create opportunities for a wide range of digital services, aimed at improving die casting performance. But capturing the data is not enough. Crucially, algorithms need to be based on deep process knowledge in order to create intelligent services that can deliver real improvements. Developed on Microsoft Azure Cloud, these services provide a secure, globally available, fully supported data hub for an incredible range of services. Especially die casters can benefit most from the three new services Die Casting Dashboard, Predictive Analytics and Downtime Analysis.
The Die Casting Dashboard offers a visual platform for machine monitoring, alarms and historic performance data. Available 24/7 and anywhere, this is a first important step to giving foundry managers and owners timely information and strategic insights. From performance of individual machines during specific shifts, to comparison of scrap or overall output between cells, the Die Casting Dashboard can inform decision-making at any level.
Using machine learning from data gathered from sensors and product life cycle (PLC), Predictive Analytics calculates “engineering parameters” of key machine parts and suggests scheduled interventions to avoid expensive and time-consuming failures. It gives prognostic foresights more than conventional insights analysis, driving for operational excellence. Moreover, it also archives historical machinery conditions and facilitates auditing afterwards. At the moment, data is collected from the shot unit. This will soon be extended to include even more critical processes to cover the components typically responsible for around 80 % of unexpected downtime in the die casting machine.
Each hour of cell downtime can cost the foundry a lot. Understanding more about what is causing downtimes and applying proactive fixes can save significant sums. Downtime Analysis is a comprehensive cloud-based failure analysis tool, providing root case reporting from the die casting machine. Analysis can help to reduce downtime on a single machine. It can then inform changes on other machines within the foundry, helping to drive best practice. Whilst data is currently provided on the die casting machine parameters, an extension to cover the entire cell is planned in the near future.
Improved Efficiency with Thermal Management Optimization
Efficiency is at the heart of the Digital Cell. As part of SmartCMS, Bühler is working on the development of enhanced algorithm that use the consolidated cell data to continually optimize itself for best cell performance, whilst reducing cycle times. Bühler focuses on optimisation potentials, especially in die tempering and cooling, infrared monitoring and micro-spraying.
Today die tempering and water cooling are often standalone functions. New Bühler machines with SmartCMS provide the opportunity to include die tempering into a control loop at a much higher level than today and supplier independent. This can help to drive improved efficiency, ensure repeatable quality, avoid unscheduled downtime and preserve the life of the die. In addition, Bühler enables real-time temperature data across the die by using an infrared camera mounted on the machine and connected to the SmartCMS.
Even though the industry already sees that micro-spraying can shorten cycle times, improve sustainability and reduce costs, the process is not yet fully mature. With the vision of the Digital Cell, Bühler wants to connect micro-spraying with SmartCMS and thus create better visibility and control for producers.
* This advertorial is sponsored by Bühler Group.