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Bühler launches ‘Digital Cell’ for die-casting

Bühler has launched what it describes as a “Digital Cell” for the die-casting industry.

Die-casting is similar to injection moulding, but while die-casting uses metals, injection moulding mainly uses plastics.

Bühler says its Digital Cell aims to deliver:

  • 0 per cent scrap;
  • 40 per cent less cycle time; and
  • 24/7 uptime.

Bühler says these benefits will make the die-casting industry “more profitable and efficient”.

Three solutions form part of the future Digital Cell:

The first will be every future Bühler die-casting cell’s smart digital brain – the SmartCMS (smart cell management system). With the capability to collect and manage information from every component and peripheral, it will improve process performance and make it possible to significantly increase “overall equipment effectiveness”, or OEE.

The second is a set of digital services, among them predictive analytics, which can deliver a tenfold reduction in downtimes thanks to predictive maintenance.

The third key development is Fusion, Bühler’s next-generation, three-platen die-casting platform.

The Digital Cell has the potential to transform die casting. It is the vision to monitor, control, and manage the complete cell.

Jonathan Abbis, managing director at Bühler Die Casting, says: “To achieve a step-change in die casting, it’s not enough to focus on single components. To significantly boost productivity, we have to tackle the system as a whole.”

It will deliver key benefits for foundries around the world.

With higher productivity levels and around-the-clock uptime, the Digital Cell will enable car manufacturers and suppliers to use aluminum and magnesium parts profitably across the entire automotive range.

0 per cent scrap

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. 0% scrap would be a game-changer for the economics and sustainability of the die-casting industry.

40 per cent less cycle time

At the moment, about a third of average cycle time may be taken up with the 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 per cent.

24 / 7 uptime

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, artificial intelligence algorithms, and other technologies to make smart decisions without the need for intervention, cutting costs, and boosting productivity thanks to 24/7 uninterrupted production.

SmartCMS is the Digital Cell’s brain

The Digital Cell brings all of the individual die-casting components together under one smart digital brain called Smart CMS (Smart Cell Management System).

Abbis says: “If we think of a die-casting cell like a human body, with lots of different tasks carried out by different parts, the SmartCMS is the brain, ready to coordinate all of that activity in the most effective way.”

Itlays the foundation for the smart management of entire die-casting cells, with the capability to collect information from every component and peripheral in a single control system.

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. It will improve process performance and make it possible to significantly increase OEE.

Digital services keep downtime to a minimum

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, says Bühler.

The Die Casting Dashboard offers a visual platform for machine monitoring, alarms, remote support, and historic performance data. This is the first important step to giving foundry managers and owners timely information and strategic insights.

Predictive analytics uses machine learning from sensor data on each cell.

Instead of dealing with an unexpected breakdown that can cost a foundry around 30 hours until the system is back in operation, predictive analytics cuts those 30 hours down to 3 hours, says Bühler, because it calculates “engineering parameters” of key machine parts and suggests scheduled interventions.

It cuts expensive and time-consuming downtime by 10 times. Validated accuracy of prediction is 95 per cent.

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 downtime on a single cell can cost a customer thousands of Euros and puts pressure on delivery schedules.

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 cause 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.

While data is provided on several die-casting machine parameters, an extension to cover the entire cell is planned in the near future. All data is securely stored in the Bühler Insights IoT platform powered by Microsoft Azure.

Fusion is Bühler Die Casting’s next generation, three-platen die-casting platform, designed to deliver exceptional OEE. It can make full use of Smart CMS’ future machine-learning and artificial intelligence capabilities.

With its closed-loop control, modular energy frame, and Industry 4.0 automation capability, Fusion is a flexible solution for high-quality aluminum and magnesium die-casting parts.

Smoother servo-driven hydraulics can cut cycle time and reduce energy consumption by up to 40 per cent.

With digital technologies applied by experts who understand the processes, the time is right for die casting to fully adopt the power of digital. The vision for the Digital Cell is driving development for the future, and the first steps to this breakthrough are here now.