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Because investment casting is inherently a slower, low volume casting method, many might think that automation would be difficult or impossible to justify. Actually, the investment casting process has several functional areas that lend themselves well to automated material handling and production systems. The key is to implement automation that's flexible enough to handle the variety of product that can be created and to apply it selectively to the processes that are the best candidates for automation. Some of those areas are:
- Storage and retrieval of wax molds prior to dipping - Organized storage enables a manufacturer to create molds in advance of production requirements and then quickly retrieve and group molds for dipping and sanding
- Dipping and sanding of wax molds - Next to a quality wax mold, ensuring that the dipping and sanding process is consistent is one of the most important steps for producing quality molds. Proper, gentle handling is another. Quality molds reduce scrap and increase bottom line profits
- Storage and drying of molds between each dipping and sanding cycle - Proper drying, including accurate humidity control in the drying area, is another critical step needed to ensure quality molds are consistently produced
- Transportation of molds between processes - Controlled, automatic movement between each process helps prevent damage to the molds and eliminate non-value added manpower
Integrated Systems Design has the equipment and knowledge to automate all of these process steps and more!
Automatic Storage & Retrieval Systems
Our Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) is ideal for storing completed wax molds, partially completed ceramic molds between dipping cycles and completed ceramic molds. The controlled smooth motion of the AS/RS unit gently moves each mold to and from its storage location. With some molds exceeding tens of thousands of dollars in value, this can be an extremely important factor. Our AS/RS also provides direct access to every mold within the storage system. These features help ensure mold quality and allow scheduling of similar (or dissimilar) molds for follow on processes. The AS/RS can also communicate and mechanically interface with other automation such as robots and Automatic Guided Vehicle (AGV) systems.
Robotic Dipping & Sanding
Robots are an excellent application for the dipping and sanding process. They handle the molds in a consistent, gentle manner, always process the molds exactly according to their individual recipe and are able to take advantage of more of the vertical space in the mold room area. Integrated Systems Design can provide not only the robots for this application, but we can also furnish the slurry tanks and drum sanders and integrate them all into a highly productive molding process. As previously noted, the robots can interface with the AS/RS units to store and retrieve molds for each dipping cycle. They can also interface with AGV units to move completed molds to other processes.
Automatic Guided Vehicles
Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are ideal for moving products between the molding, firing, pouring, cooling and de-mold processes. They gently pick-up and drop off the molds at their assigned locations and eliminate manual handling and the associated potential damage to the molds and finished product. Controls within the system automatically call for and direct the AGVs without human intervention.
Integrated Systems Design can also provide other devices and process improvements such as:
Mold scheduling & system monitoring software
Controlled humidity drying chambers
Related hardware & software
With successful, productive installations in some well known investment casting facilities, Integrated Systems Design has the experience and know-how to analyze your current system and recommend the most effective automation to improve your process and your bottom line. Give us a call for a no-obligation survey and estimate for your facility.