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Casting Technology in Engine Construction VDI Symposium 2019: Investments, E-Mobility and Globalization

Author Isabell Glöditzsch

The panel discussion at the 10th VDI Symposium "Casting Technology in Engine Construction" took place according to the theme "Strategic Challenges of the Foundry Industry through Shifts in Value Chains in the Mobility Sector".

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Will electric vehicles soon replace all combustion engines?
Will electric vehicles soon replace all combustion engines?
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

Change, driven primarily by the automotive industry, is not stopping at the foundry sector either. Constantly new requirements, such as the emergence of alternative drives, are forcing the industry to innovate or, as Manfred Pister said, "Innovations are driven by changing requirements".

Dr. Götz Hartmann, authorized representative of MAGMA Gießereitechnologie, moderated between the heterogeneous participants of the panel, including Dr. Klaus Lellig, Nemak's BU Director Europe. Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Büchner, Managing Director Industrials at IKB, was able to support the change in the industry with facts and figures as a counterbalance to the technical experts. With an outlook, Büchner was able to point out the opportunities and risks of the foundry industry and close the symposium. Manfred Pister of Liebherr Machines Bulle completed the group. In the Swiss competence centre for engines and hydraulic components, Pister acts as the main department manager for diesel engine development. The automotive industry was also represented by BMW AG with Jean-Marc Ségaud, who completed the panel as Head of Technology Development and Control.

Büchner's statement "The number of suppliers will decrease, but the requirements will continue to increase" raised initial questions right from the start. How can increasing requirements be successfully mastered by fewer suppliers? The key word is: Investment. The expert therefore advises mergers among foundries. Cooperations along the value chain can minimize the risk involved and share the costs incurred. New investments are therefore essential for the survival of the foundry industry.

A Multitude of Alternative Engines

The current discussion and lack of clarity about alternative drives also play a major role. In order to be able to serve all types of drives, investments are also necessary here. In order to be able to serve all types of drives, investments are needed here as well, even though a major trend towards electromobility is currently emerging, Pister sees no nationwide electric drives for the time being, but rather the diversity of engines as a challenge. According to Lellig, companies that want to reinvent themselves even profit from the change. Diversification as a business model extension also offers advantages for foundries. Another way of meeting new requirements while remaining competitive is to put a clear focus. Possible capacity problems can be avoided by the meaningful use of existing resources. According to Ségaud, the secret of success lies in concentrating on a certain product, which should be complemented in combination with flexibility.

Another challenge for die casters is globalization. With regard to engine technologies, however, this plays only a subordinate role, since many countries have different visions of the futures engine, says Lellig. In the USA, for example, new registrations of electric vehicles are only 1.2 % of total registrations. Germany is only slightly above the United States with 1.6 %. In addition to Norway and Sweden, China is considered one of the pioneers with 2.2 % of new registrations.1 According to this, globalization in the sense of engine technologies is currently developing from a global to a more regional issue. For OEMs in particular, these different market developments pose new hurdles.

An initial disagreement among the experts emerged in the final question of which technologies will continue to be important in the future. Only Ségaud from the Landshut light metal foundry clearly preferred of the combination of sand casting with additively manufactured cores. Lellig and Büchner did not commit themselves to any technology, but rather advocated for flexibility in order to successfully master a multitude of technologies.


1) IEA, 2018, Share of electric vehicles in total new registrations in selected countries in 2017, in statista.de, available at https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/243987/umfrage/anteil-der-neuzulassungen-von-elektrofahrzeugen-nach-laendern/

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