Precision parts are what CIREX is all about. The company's cast iron foundry makes the actual castings. The 14-step process starts with injection moulding, which creates a wax model of the product and an extension that allows them to be placed on a tree.
An IRB 2400 robot removes the moulds and creates the tree, each of which can carry up to about 80 moulds. These trees allow other robots to transport the moulds to the various parts of the manufacturing process, the first of which is to clean the wax patterns. Finished trees are dipped into a bath of molten ceramic, they are rotated in order to allow the excess liquid to fall back into the bath, and then the same robot takes them to a rainfall sander.
Robots handle parts in critical process
The trees are then left to dry, which takes around two hours. An ABB IRB 60 robot, in operation for over 100,000 hours, handles the moulds as this is a critical part of the process that requires strict quality control. Heating cannot be used to accelerate drying at this stage as the ceramic shell is very thin and could crack.
Dipping and sanding is repeated seven more times and heating is employed for this part of the process as it is less critical. The final result is a thick, protective covering that can withstand the 1000o C temperature of the furnace. However, before casting the wax has to be removed: this is done using high-pressure steam.
After casting there are various machining operations. The first involves degating - removing the part that attached the coated moulds to the tree and this is followed by a vibration process that removes the coating.
Thousands of castings a week
The final metallic castings are sand blasted, machined, visually inspected, ground, heat-treated and then they receive a final inspection. The whole process, from wax mould through to finished products takes around two weeks and involves seven robots. Throughput is one thousand castings a week.
New production line to increase capacity
The furnace and other parts of the plant are around 20 years old. Instead of being replaced, the company will implement a new production line in a brand-new building that is being built alongside the current plant. The new line is to increase capacity by 50%.
Two new heavy duty robots (IRB 7600) will be shortly be employed, one for picking and placing and the other for pouring the molten material. The robots have a lifting capacity of 500 kgs.
Director of CIREX, Jeroen Spoelder, says "The new production line will be state-of-the art, with the casting part being the only replacement. Right now it is the production bottleneck. The new 750 kW furnace will increase capacity by 50 percent and at the same time the use of heat exchangers means that it is environmentally friendly."
CIREX is one of the world's largest investment casting foundries. CIREX produces high-grade components which are used worldwide by leading Original Equipment Manufacturers of automotive, process and machine construction industries.
ABB (www.abb.com) is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 175,000 people.
About ABB Robotics
ABB Robotics (www.abb.com/robotics) is a leading supplier of industrial robots - also providing robot software, peripheral equipment, modular manufacturing cells and service for tasks such as welding, handling, assembly, painting and finishing, picking, packing, palletizing and machine tending. Key markets include automotive, plastics, metal fabrication, foundry, electronics, pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. A strong customer focus helps manufacturers improve productivity, product quality and worker safety. ABB has installed more than 175,000 robots worldwide.