The archaic world of machining iron castings

How Fill is pulling the iron casting world from the industrial stone age into the modern era

The GRIND PERFORMER F automates the “thankless grind” of iron foundries in machining castings with a batch size of 1 through to series production.

Processing castings – regardless of size and type – is back-breaking work that demands everything physically from iron foundry workers. This work environment is characterized by extreme heat, noise, dust, heavy protective clothing and air full of unhealthy gases. In these conditions, the workers have to manually deburr, drift, separate, grind, beat, and mill the castings.

“For iron foundries, it is very difficult to find staff for these physically draining activities, even though above-average wages are paid.”
//Manfred Siebinger, Project Manager at the Casting Technology Competence Center

And this work can often be very laborious. A renowned manufacturer of large engines might, for example, cast and machine five giant ship’s engines weighing up to 100 tons per week. Deburring one of these engines requires seven people working in three shifts over seven days. That's 147 man-days. During the course of this, the casting is processed using impact drills, hammers, angle grinders and various other hand tools. And everything in difficult conditions.

This enormous amount of manpower and the heavy strain on workers makes it more and more difficult for iron foundries to find sufficient employees who are willing to perform the work. Especially in iron foundries in Europe, fettling is turning more and more into a bottleneck.

It was clearly time to focus on solving this problem.

Consequently, we at Fill developed a revolutionary solution, the GRIND PERFORMER F, consisting of a Comau robot with Sinumerik controller, which uses a fully automated tool replacement system to automatically perform the various deburring operations for smaller through to giant iron castings. In addition to the time saved, the flexibility, quality, and reproducibility of machining, it is above all the improvement in working conditions achieved by using the GRIND PERFORMER F that makes it the ideal solution.

Another quantum leap in automation of the iron foundry world can be achieved by combining the GRIND PERFORMER F with FILL STUDIO. This program developed in-house at Fill enables very simple programming. The employee on the system needs no specific prior knowledge to be able to use it within a very short time. The tool is selected on the user interface, then the operations are determined based on a 3D model. This is very easy to do and works using visual settings.

FILL STUDIO with camera system

The next development step in the processing of iron castings involves integrating a camera system with FILL STUDIO. Here, the camera and a special software package are used to automatically generate a 3D model of a casting. FILL STUDIO then automatically identifies the machining operations required and passes the work order to the GRIND PERFORMER F which then performs the operations fully automatically.

“When developing FILL STUDIO, we paid particular attention to making the software easy to use, which is why the entire trajectory generation is programmed visually. The operator does not need to be an expert in robots or simulation, just a technician in the field of machining iron castings.

//Tobias Wageneder, Software Technology -–Simulation and Virtual Commissioning

To experience how technical solutions can still make drastic improvements in human working conditions in the 21st century is the best endorsement of a development project. Look for quality and you will also find humanity.

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