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Foundry Improves Core Operations
Excal is using RFID to automate the way it manufactures brass and bronze products, thus helping it to improve their consistency and quality.
To initiate the tag read, a worker places a tagged core box on the core maker and presses a button on the machine. The RFID interrogator built into the machine's workbench reads the box's tag ID number, and transmits that information to the PLC, which links the number with settings related to producing that specific core. The employee then presses another button to begin the core-making process, and the box is moved into the core blower on a conveyor. The PLC instructs the blower as to the required settings, and begins the process of injecting first sand, and then chemicals, before purging the box (by blowing out residual gas and sand)—all at settings preset for that specific item.
By using the RFID function, Baures says, productivity is increased, by minimizing the time required for human intervention.
The cost of the RFID-enabled CoreMaker is approximately $20,000 more than for standard CoreMaker machines, says Palmer, whose company has been marketing the system commercially since 2009. He says he foresees the system being marketable to any foundry that manufactures a variety of metal products.
Since Excal has begun using the system, Baures says he has not yet measured the reduction in labor for core-blower operators, but his greatest interest is in making higher-quality cores, thereby leading to a higher-quality product. When workers manually experiment with recipes, he explains, the core's condition is variable. For example, a core could contain excessive amine catalyst material, which could be weakened by the heat of the molten metal and cause the core to break up. The core could also cause veining of the metal into the core if it fractures and molten metal seeps into the cracks. With the RFID-enabled CoreMaker, he indicates, the core is guaranteed to be manufactured with the proper settings, and the quality of the metal product molded around it can then be guaranteed as well. If something goes wrong, he notes—such as a core fracturing—the foundry has a record of which settings were used to produce that core, and can then make appropriate adjustments.
"It's a neat tool," Baures states. "Hypothetically, RFID could be used for any job process we have."
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