Investment Casting ASRS Mold Trees Buffer Storage System Eliminates Labor & Saves Floor Space
Barron Industries supplies investment castings to the automotive and other markets. In 2008, they were running out of room and needed to expand their production facilities. Integrated Systems Design developed and installed a system that enabled them to achieve their expanded production capabilities in a smaller footprint while increasing production flexibility and reducing labor costs. See how our innovative solutions helped improve their bottom line potential.
A World-Class Supplier...
Headquartered in Oxford, MI, Barron Industries (www.barron-industries.com) has been making castings since 1923. Their mission is to provide their customers with world-class metal products and exceptional service, thus making Barron Industries their supplier of choice.
Barron Industries employs approximately 100 people in the United States and has a strategic alliance with an additional 1,000 people overseas. Each department in the company is headed by a Barron family member, which helps ensure that the company’s success is at the forefront of everyday activities. Barron’s dedication to service and quality has helped grow the company into a world-class metal products provider competitively positioned in the major world markets to deliver high quality products, services and complete assemblies to the aerospace, defense, automotive, environmental and heavy truck segments.
...with a Success Problem!
Through the years, Barron had taken steps to automate their processes but their success was beginning to present its own problems. Their production capacity was limited by the size and the design of their mold-creation equipment and their building was limiting the possibility of expanding the system. In addition, the system’s design was also limiting their ability to produce molds with different “recipes” at the same time. Barron was ready to make some changes but their choices were limited and expensive due to their space restrictions.
As chance would have it, Integrated Systems Design knocked on Barron’s door and began talking with them about the new technology we were currently installing at other investment casting companies. Barron’s interest was peaked so the principles of both companies met and discussed what Integrated Systems Design could do to help solve Barron’s problems. Once Barron was assured Integrated Systems Design understood their problems and had a great solution, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
The Heart of the Process:
Creating an investment casting mold first requires making wax shapes that resemble the finished product. These shapes are then assembled onto a “tree” so that multiple molds can be created simultaneously. The trees are then dipped into a Plaster-of-Paris-like slurry. The slurry-coated trees are evenly covered with sand before they’re allowed to slowly dry in a high humidity environment. This dip-sand-dry process is repeated several times until the mold thickness is adequate. Different molds often require different drying times, different slurry recipes, different types of sand and a different number of dip-sand-dry cycles.
After the molds have been created, they’re heated to firm up the ceramic-like shells and to melt and remove the wax. Then they’re fired in a kiln to harden and pre-heat the molds. Molten casting metal is poured into the hot molds which are then allowed to cool. Finally, the molds are chipped away to reveal the cast parts. These castings may be further machined for accuracy or used as-is depending on the type of part being made.
Barron was facing a number of issues with their existing mold creation process:
- The overhead chain conveyor that held their mold trees during the slurry drying process was limiting the size of the mold batch that could be created at any given time due to its fixed length.
- Because this conveyor moved at a constant pace, all the molds on the conveyor needed to have the same drying time recipe.
- The dip tanks for their slurry had older-style rotating drums that would generate a hardened slurry build-up around their top flange. This required periodic shutdown and maintenance time to remove the build-up. The rotating tanks also presented some safety hazards to personnel.
- Their single, vertical-style rainfall sander only allowed for one type of sand to be used at a time. This limited the product batch mix and required set-up time to change the sand for different mold recipes.
- The supplier of their existing mold creation system was slow to respond to any inquiries or system modifications.
A New Approach to the Process!
What Integrated Systems Design proposed and provided to Barron Industries opened up a multitude of new possibilities for them:
- In lieu of a (conveyor system) to store the mold trees during the drying phase, we proposed and provided an Automatic Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS) with static storage racks for Barron’s molds. This allows every mold in the drying area to be directly accessed according to its pre-determined recipe. Molds with different drying times and slurry/sand layers can now all be processed at the same time. The ASRS software keeps track of each and every mold that’s in the system and automatically stores and retrieves the molds according to their individual recipes.
- The ASRS system can store more molds in a given square footage of floor space because of its efficient use of Barron’s building height. This greatly reduced the need for Barron to modify their building in order to expand their in-process mold storage capacity.
- Because the molds are now stored on a static rack during the drying process, the risk of cracking or other damage to the molds caused by constant movement on a conveyor is virtually eliminated. Since the cost of some investment casting mold trees can exceed $40,000 each for large precision parts, this feature alone can return a significant savings!
- The new, non-rotating slurry tanks we provided to Barron, eliminated slurry build-up at their rims and the resulting maintenance necessary to remove the build-up. The personnel hazards were also eliminated.
- The new horizontal rainfall sanders we provided could be stacked on top of each other. This allowed us to provide four sanders in the same area where only two vertical sanders could be located. This feature also helped enable a greater mix of in-process product variation at any given time.
- The new robot we provided is able to seamlessly interface with the stacked sanders, slurry tanks and the new ASRS storage/drying system.
With the new found flexibility and efficiency this state-of-the art investment casting mold creation system provides for Barron Industries, their future is looking brighter than ever! The new system will enable them to continue to be competitive in the world-wide market for investment castings even though they face more and more low-cost foreign competition every day.