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Towards the castings of the future

With its new pilot foundry in Zwijnaarde, Sirris helps Belgian foundries make the transformation to ‘foundries of the future’, capable of offering their customers innovative casting processes.

With some 150,000 tonnes of castings produced each year, foundry products remain critical to a whole range of finished goods in Belgium. Which is why it makes sense for the foundry sector to get involved in innovation and transformation along with the rest of the manufacturing industry. Sirris’s Foundry of the Future research project examined how foundries and their customers can incorporate new technologies throughout their operations. The new pilot foundry in Zwijnaarde offers extensive support with this.

“Metal casting is a technology with a future, but technological innovation in process and product is vital.”

Projects in 2015

  • Pilot foundry : Late March saw the inauguration of two brand-new induction furnaces at Sirris’s Zwijnaarde site. The €350,000 facility enables foundries and their customers to design first-time-right cast products, produce and test new casting alloys and learn innovative process control techniques. Metallographic, chemical and mechanical characterisation can also be undertaken at the laboratory.
     
  • 3D sand printing : The Foundry of the Future research project kicked off in 2012 under the banner ‘Towards a competitive foundry industry for the next generation of cast products’. In this project we investigated the economic value of 3D sand printing and examined its technical implications according to the dimensions, complexity and production run of the castings. We concluded that sand printing, in which sand moulds are digitally designed and then 3D-printed, is a valuable technology to be considered for small runs. Costs and lead times are considerably reduced.
     
  • Company visits : We travelled with representatives of Belgian foundries and their customers to visit foreign companies that offer 3D sand printing. This has already resulted in some fruitful collaborations, e.g. with Atlas Copco.
     

Which projects are we working on now?

  • Analysis tool : Companies that need to produce a small run of a complex metal part – as spare parts, for example – face high costs. Sirris recently developed a tool for foundries and their customers which calculates the approximate cost of a 3D-sand-printed alternative. This tool is being rolled out in 2016 to as large a target group as possible.
     

Moments of inspiration

  • Casting provides the route to tomorrow’s products: an event for the Belgian foundry sector and its customers.
     
  • European Cast Iron Meeting: Sirris hosted the annual European event for cast iron experts.
     

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