Waste management is no longer a “like to do” but rather a necessity, both in terms of a legal requirement, an environmental responsibility and a tool to control costs and improve efficiencies throughout the business. In foundries a reduction in waste sand is particularly rewarding minimising landfill costs.
While numerous attention is paid to reclaiming a high percentage of sand, with much being documented about the methods and benefits of mechanical and thermal sand reclamation, a digitalised method of monitoring and controlling production is now being hailed as one solution to a very real problem faced by foundries on a daily basis.
As foundries become increasingly automated the way in which data is gathered and used to improve systems should be prioritised said Chris Wilding of Omega Foundry Machinery Ltd. He said using a system that monitors and controls all operations in the foundry, including the sand plant, is an ideal way of helping to manage waste and ensure disposal costs are kept to a minimum.
Omega developed IRIS (intelligent radio identification system) to answer the need for a monitoring system that was both reliable and long lasting. The system uses passive tags to hold data, which is recovered when the tag is activated by energy from the reader/antenna. This is considered more robust than a barcode system as the tags are encased in strong, durable plastic and can be easily fitted to patterns, coreboxes and other equipment. The tags require no maintenance and the data is held for long periods enabling the production process for particular parts to be identical every time the part goes into production, regardless of the time gap.
The tags also identify the sand choice, e.g. silica or chromite, and specify the volume of sand required to help minimise waste.
With the most automated facilities, IRIS is designed to integrate all processes involved in production. It will monitor and control the moulding operation, mould marshalling on the pouring lines, and even cooling times. Tagging items of plant helps the engineering team with planned maintenance, as the feedback to the server will trigger reports and alarms. In controlling sand feed, sand additions and mould numbers, material usage is monitored and stock control aided. This information can be used to carry out cost analysis of the moulds and cores and highlight possible areas for cost savings.
A teach facility in programming the process operations enables the foundry to fine tune operations to achieve a consistency which in turn reduces the likelihood of generating scrap. Wilding told Foundry Trade Journal: “By using data to operate more efficiently waste can be reduced and profitability improved. It really is important that we understand the power of identifying possible problems and how our processes can respond to improve the overall efficiency of production. This is imperative to save costs and reduce lead times.”
Once having satisfied management that the process has been optimised then with automatic control, higher rates of output and good consistent product follow. The IRIS system can be retrofitted to plant and the in-built flexibility is such that it can be tailored to some extent to suit a foundry’s particular circumstances.
IRIS is now installed in many foundries around the world and Omega has taken the next step by launching Omega Connect, which gives remote access to the system using WiFi via smart phone, tablet or PC from anywhere in the world.
By having remote access to machine settings it is possible to act on information immediately to tweak settings thus addressing problems quickly before they can have a severe impact. It gives all the benefits of the IRIS system with the added advantage of access to real time information from anywhere.
“Everyone understands the importance of collecting and analysing data these days,” Wilding said. “For our customers it is much more about ensuring that the system operates smoothly and with a consistency that enables production processes to be optimised. Waste management is an important aspect of this. If we can keep the costs of this down and use material more wisely it is a win/win for the foundry, their customers and the environment.”