Lost-foam casting enables more efficient production of complex copper components.
How can complex-shaped copper components be manufactured economically and energy-efficiently? And how can energy be saved along the entire process chain and particularly during casting? These questions are addressed by Wieland with the EnerGuss project. Based on lost-foam casting, Wieland, as a manufacturer of copper semi-finished products located at Vöhringen/Bavaria, has commissioned a new research facility in order to produce test components and small-series quantities. A total of 2.5 million euros are invested in the three-year project, with approx. one million euros being funds from the Free State of Bavaria. The facility is not only intended for energetic research. It is also available to Wieland customers and other interested partners from the industry for the manufacture of prototypes and small series quantities. “With the experimental plant, we want to develop recipes and processes in order to manufacture complex-shaped components fast, cost-efficiently and resource-efficiently”, says Dr.-Ing. Uwe Hofmann, head of New Product Lines at Wieland. The goal of the research project is to reduce energy consumption during casting by 20 % with the newly developed, resource-conserving production concept. After successful completion of this pilot plant phase, expansion of production is conceivable if the corresponding demand warrants it. Wieland is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of copper and copper-alloy semi-finished products with a history of almost 200 years and expertise in metal processing.
With lost-foam casting, it is possible to manufacture components with complex geometries much more efficiently than using conventional methods. Wieland is currently one of the few industrial processing companies offering lost-foam casting, the so-called “casting with lost-foam patterns” in connection with copper alloys. It is a casting method with polystyrene patterns embedded in moulding sand that is free of binding agents. The pattern decomposes through the addition of liquid metal. The molten metal fills the resulting cavity for an accurate reproduction of the pattern geometry. With lost-foam casting, Wieland enables the manufacture of sophisticated copper components without costly secondary processing operations. A large number of applications are possible – from electrical engineering products of a few 100 grams through to machine components weighing several kilograms. The company mainly addresses developers and product designers.
The new casting line, including upstream workstations, has been commissioned at Wieland’s main production location in Vöhringen, Bavaria. On approx. 900 square metres, test components are currently being manufactured in order to optimise the process itself as well as the material flow and the energy consumption of the individual operations. The aim is to manufacture near-net-shape components in order to reduce as much as possible the amount of material required. Here, the technological advantage of lost-foam casting plays a decisive role, since, unlike conventional methods, the near-net-shape component is proverbially made “in one casting” in the lost-foam casting process – without operations like forming or mating.
Lost-foam casting comprises of twelve operations: 1. Pre-expansion, 2. Foam pattern moulding, 3. Gluing, 4. Cluster assembly, 5. Coating, 6. Drying, 7. Moulding, 8. Pouring, 9. Cooling, 10. Demoulding, 11. Cleaning, 12. Separating and finishing. In the context of development partnerships, Wieland supports its customers in the design and realisation of complex-shaped components, as can be produced with lost-foam casting. Examples are guide bushings for special-purpose machines or outlet fittings for the sanitary industry.