Breaking the mould with robotic sand milling to generate patternless castings

Omega Sinto robotic milling cell creates waves at GIFA 2019. Mould making lead times drastically reduced by combining a robot with a sand milling solution.

The technology used in modern parts manufacturing has come a long way during the past few decades. The introduction of computer numeric control (CNC) has delivered considerable improvements in machining precision, along with the advent of 3D drawings.

More recent innovations such as additive manufacturing and hybrid manufacturing have led to huge time-savings when creating foundry moulds as well as the components themselves. Maintenance engineers who are looking for new components suddenly have a glut of solutions that can deliver parts in record time.

Robotic solutions in all forms of life are no longer a fascination but a reality. Robots already play a big role in many manufacturing processes and soon enough, robots will use artificial intelligence (AI) to catapult industrial production into spheres that were previously unimaginable to us. The potential of an intelligent and “sensitive” robot is immeasurable.

Patternless castings
Tinker Omega Sinto, an Omega Group Company, is taking advantage of the robotic and the new industrial revolution era that we are experiencing. The US company, in conjunction with the University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) Metal Casting Center, have developed a robotic milling cell that is set to revolutionise the metal casting industry’s approach towards the traditional manufacturing of patterns and ultimately the castings that they produce.

The Omega Group have developed a robotic milling cell that is set to revolutionise the metal casting industry’s approach towards the traditional manufacturing of patterns and ultimately the castings that they produce

“Jerry Thiel, the director of UNI’s Metal Casting Center is very involved in additive manufacturing for the metal casting industry. They have an S-Max printer and offer printing services to foundries. Two years ago he approached us with a need he saw for producing larger, patternless castings,” explained Wil Tinker, President of Tinker Omega Sinto.

“Larger components are often created by pouring molten metal into a sand mould, which would traditionally have been made using a wooden template. Today, the 3D computer aided design (CAD) can be used with a 3D sand printer to rapidly build a mould that incorporates vents that are positioned to optimise the escape of gases from the mould, ensuring optimum quality of the base material,” continued Tinker.

“An alternative mould making process is to use a multi-axis CNC robot milling tool to create a precision mould from a solid block of sand. This process takes just a few hours, as opposed to the few weeks that would be required to create a traditional wooden pattern. Using the latest technology, lead times can be drastically reduced, especially when the various aspects of the process are well connected, or better, all on the same site.”

“The path generation/file preparation is via an off-the-shelf, third party company Robotmaster. Robotmaster develop CAD/CAM solutions for robots that seamlessly integrate off-line programming, simulation and code generation, delivering quick, error-free robot programmes.”

“In this instance they have developed customised software to suit the patternless manufacturing of castings that we wanted to achieve.”

“The Machine Operating Software that then allows the user to synchronise the tool paths and programme in auto tool changing, auto tool inspection and other functions has been developed by Tinker Omega Sinto. This synchronisation of these two programmes – Robotmaster and our Machine Operating Software – allows the robot to run lights out, overnight completing the mould(s) automatically,” Tinker described.

The RSM is the start of technology for the future of the ‘patternless’ foundry, says the Omega Group, especially for foundries that have patterns made and don’t use these patterns regularly

“The Robot Sand Milling (RSM) platform comes standard with a Mastercam machining/milling software package, a company that Robotmaster has been working with for a number of years and their software is embedded in Mastercam.”

“We have developed the RSM platform with Kuka Robotics but based on the results of the GIFA 2019 exhibition we are now in discussions with other robot manufacturers. Very soon the customer will be able to select his preference of three brands.”

RSM – 25 to 50% of the cost of a printed mould
“The RSM is the start of technology for the future of the ‘patternless’ foundry especially for foundries that have patterns made and don’t use these patterns regularly. The biggest benefit of the RSM is that it provides the foundry with a cost-effective method of patternless casting. Automated robot milling systems can have flexible tooling designed to cater to specific material removal. Any object of any size or shape can be milled by simply adjusting the robot programming and end-of-arm-tooling.”

“Yes, the programming of the robots is very similar to the CNC programming of any other machining operation, but will depends on degree of freedom (or how many axes the robot-arm has) and also on the degree of complexity of the shape of the sand moulds.”

“Additive manufacturing and 3D printing took the foundry industry to another level bringing in big cost and time savings when developing a new product. The 3D printer enables us to create one-off prototypes without having to face the costs associated with traditional mould making.”

“However, during our research and development with UNI, when comparing the cost of a machined mould with a printed mould including equipment amortisation, material cost and run time, we found that the robotic milled moulds can be 25 to 50% of the cost of a printed mould.”

The RSM created plenty of interest from visitors to GIFA 2019

“This represents a huge saving for foundries and their clients. The potential going forward is exciting. We have a steel foundry customer where 80% of his large castings are cast from one-time polystyrene patterns. Our RSM platform will be very beneficial to his production processes as it will also be for art foundry customers who generally make nothing but one-off custom patterns.”

“The first RSM was commissioned at UNI 18 months ago and they then proceeded to fault it, crash it, push it and point out any process issues. We have just provided them with a third revision of the machine operating software.”

“Our goal is to provide a complete, user-friendly package that includes everything the customer needs to make patternless moulds. It is the future,” concluded Tinker.

About Omega Sinto
Tinker Omega Sinto is an Omega Group company, which in turn is part of the Sinto Group. The RSM system will be available locally through Endeco Omego Sinto.

For further information contact Roy Dias of Endeco Omega Sinto on TEL: 011 907 1785 or email or visit