General Kinematics, Crystal Lake, Ill., U.S., provides vibratory equipment, rotary equipment and process systems to manufacturing and material processing organizations throughout the world. Its primary markets are metalcasting, mining and recycling. Depending on the year, typically 45-50% of its business is in the metalcasting industry. The primary countries it markets to are in North America, Asia, Europe and South America. Global Casting Magazine spoke with Claude Hutchens, director of the foundry market, to discuss global trends he sees in the metalcasting industry.
GCM: What are the demands of your customers depending on where they are?
Hutchens: The demands from customers in the U.S. and Europe are pretty similar. They are concerned about noise restrictions, silica levels, how the material is handled and reducing the operators’ exposure to dust, noise and heat. In Asia and South America, those factors are starting to come into effect, but it is still not as restrictive as North America and Europe. The customers General Kinematics usually works with are progressive. They are the ones looking at how to develop foundry and shakeout systems that are top notch. Our key customers in South America are very interested in the top quality equipment and ventilation systems.
GCM: What kind of equipment does the foundry of the future need to be the best?
Hutchens: The best foundries operate so that shakeout, casting cooling, sand separation and even casting cleaning are all done prior to the operator being exposed to the cast part. That is very difficult to do. You definitely want to have the sand separated and the heat of the casting reduced before an operator is exposed to it. Actually putting it through the shot blasting operation prior to seeing an operator is difficult, because usually castings must be desprued before they are placed in shot blast equipment.
We have developed a couple of unique units, one of which is the Vibra Drum, which has been around for years but a lot of foundries are starting to see the need for it now. With it, you cool the castings and use that heat to condition the sand at the same time. So, as the casting is discharged from the drum, it is already cooled. Other key units are flat stroke conveyors. When the operator sees the casting in front of him, it’s not bouncing around or making a lot of noise. It is very smooth and reduces the noise and eye fatigue that occurs from seeing something bounce all day. Most of our customers are going in that direction.
GCM: Of your markets, which is your market leader?
Hutchens: General Kinematics always leads with its foundry industry. Every market we have developed, we have lead with the foundry industry. It is a stepping stone for us to go into other countries. Once we have a market presence in that country, we use it to lead into other markets. That was definitely the case in Asia. We stepped in with the foundry industry, but that developed into our largest business in Asia—coal handling. Asia uses a lot of coal for power consumption, and we have sold a lot of units there in the last couple of years strictly for coal.
In North America, we were strong in the foundry industry and have used that same type of technology—fingers, screens, conveyors—for the recycling industry and that is a very strong market for us now.
GCM: Do you have any observations about the trends of the metalcasting industry?
Hutchens: Crystalline silica is going to be a major factor. General Kinematics is looking at how to get most of the sand from the system prior to an operator ever becoming exposed. Energy consumption is going to be huge. Most foundries have a heat source, which is the casting itself. Taking the energy and reusing it to condition the sand and cooling the casting using evaporative cooling also is going to be a major factor in the future. Getting operators out of the hot, dirty, dusty environment is always going to be a challenge because it is a major factor in manufacturing castings. It is something we need to always be focused on, and in the next 10 years, I see that is something that will be driven more. ■