High Duty Castings celebrates its 30th anniversary with investment in key technologies

Begins process towards becoming a ‘Smart’ foundry.

Privately owned family run business and foundry, which comprises High Duty Castings and High Duty Automotive, has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The company has also embarked on a journey with a plan to turn the company’s facility that will tap into the ‘Smart Foundry’ concept and therefore make it a productive and quality focused foundry, by investing in its key technologies.

Through various negotiations the late Fred Venter and partner Ronnie Pienaar got the opportunity in 1991 to take ownership of a well-established foundry in the Boksburg East, Gauteng area. Greenhorn Foundry had been in business since 1961 manufacturing smaller size castings. Venter and Pienaar changed the name of the company to High Duty Castings and also focused on expanding the business to include larger size castings for the pumps and valves industry, gearbox manufacturers, the compressor and hydraulics industries, as well as the agricultural, bearing and railway industries.

Interestingly High Duty Castings still operates from the facility that the original foundry that the partners acquired had been set up on. Subsequently many alterations and additions took place to increase the size of the foundry as the company grew. This trend in the foundry continued with an additional 300m² added to the floor moulding area, as recently as 2018.

High Duty Castings have recently installed a complete Lauds L6 reclamation plant that allows for the introduction of hot sand and castings and the plant delivers 6-ton per hour of cooled sand

Sadly, Fred Venter passed away just under a year ago and Venter’s son Bradley, who joined the company in 2003, took over the running of the company. The Venter family are majority shareholders of the company as original partner Ronnie Pienaar passed away in 2016 and his son Rudi sold his shares to the Venters when he emigrated to Canada in 2018.

“We have mostly been a bit shy when it comes to publicity but if we can at least help our foundry industry to begin thinking about the future and start investing in the key technologies in their manufacturing processes, then we know we are contributing.”

“We certainly are realistic that we are not in a position to change our foundry into a high-tech facility overnight but with all the talk about Industry 4.0 and ‘Smart’ manufacturing facilities it is inevitable that if you don’t invest in these new technologies the world is going to pass you by and it will be too late to catch up later. They even talk about Foundry 4.0 which encompasses integration, communication and usage of data. ‘Integration’ means that everything in a production cell communicates with one location for data storage. ‘Communication’ means linking process equipment with a computer, to learn when something is about to happen or, establishing an open channel with a supplier, to ‘talk’ to the equipment, and send daily or weekly reports on what is happening or, ‘gathering’ data in such a manner to make sure you can use the data. ‘Utilisation’ means applying data to improve a process and monitor its success and failures,” explained Bradley Venter, now MD of the company.

“All this takes integrators to install systems to gather all the data that you can later interpret, disseminate and make qualified decisions. In other words, you have the information and data at your finger-tips and it is not just wishful thinking in your head.”

High Duty Castings reclaim 100% of their sand on the automotive plant side and with the new equipment they are now able to reclaim quicker and shorten the overall process

“A ‘Smart’ factory concept is not a discrete technology, but a combination of advanced technologies that aim to establish smarter, more efficient manufacturing by implementing various technologies that communicate in a way that allows the plant and its constituent processes to run autonomously. This allows you to speed up product development, enhance quality and consistency, and more importantly save on costs and prevent any disastrous shutdowns or stoppages.”

“The basic building blocks for such a concept are robotics, process instrumentation, and the tracking of components using RFID and other software applications. With all the data available and it being traceable to individual castings, the door will be opened to enable the use of Artificial Intelligence for process control and the inspection of components.”

“The supervisory, control, data and acquisition (SCADA) software that we are installing will give us the ability to prove the quality of our castings and head-off issues before they become problems. But you need more than that. We want to lower actual downtime, reduce scrap castings and fewer customer rejects, proof of the cost of quality and pinpointing unseen process bottlenecks.”

“Managers and myself want to monitor production 24/7 to further improve our quality and cost position.”

“But before any of this can happen in real time you have to modernise and digitalise your equipment, processes and systems. And this is what we have begun to do.”

“We are looking to upgrade our foundry and to really come into the 21st century with newer, automated technology, systems and equipment and to really transform our factory to the factory of the future.”

“We have already started to implement this strategy and have invested in both equipment and systems.”

New Lauds reclamation plant
“One of the challenges for us has been in the sand reclamation department. We now have six rotary and two jobbing core blowers producing many cores for this department and our existing system could not handle the volumes. As buyers demand ever-higher levels of product complexity and quality, coremaking can significantly affect foundry competitiveness, as can sand reclamation.”

The equipment has been manufactured in Europe and imported. Another big consideration for the company when they decided to invest in this equipment was energy efficiency and being Industry 4.0 ready. The plant has been installed with low-energy motors that are VSD (variable speed drive) controlled by state-of-the-art Siemens controls

“To compound matters we have seen growth and additional volumes in our automotive side, but it also has a lot to do with us diversifying into other market segments and producing non-automotive castings, using our same processes and technologies. New markets have been rail, mining strata support and more complex pumps.”

“Reclamation and reuse of foundry sands has always made economic and environmental sense. However, the recent demands placed on used foundry sand has made sand reclamation a process that no foundry can afford to overlook.”

“Additionally, reducing atmospheric dust within the work environment to create a more pleasant working environment for the team is a big driving factor for me. Furthermore, the challenges of the highly engineered casting market have created more stringent quality specifications than previously encountered and a good sand reclamation system facilitates the production of more intricate castings with a beautiful surface finish.”

“We recently installed a complete Lauds L6 reclamation plant that allows for the introduction of hot sand and castings and the plant delivers 6-ton per hour of cooled sand. We reclaim 100% of our sand on the automotive plant and with the new equipment we are now able to reclaim quicker and shorten the overall process. The equipment has been manufactured in Europe and imported.”

“Another big consideration for us when we decided to invest in this equipment was energy efficiency and being Industry 4.0 ready. The plant has been installed with low-energy motors that are VSD (variable speed drive) controlled by state-of-the-art Siemens controls.”

“We have also taken particular care in the location of the new equipment taking into account the system’s proximity to incoming moulds, and point of reuse. An additional 30-ton sand silo has also been installed.”

“Installing this equipment has ‘cleaned’ up the whole area and will allow us to add flow to our processes. We have also been able to re-deploy nine staff members into areas where their value is more productive.”

Forklift syndrome
“Besides these cost and labour savings that we have made, to me the more important aspect is that we controlled our dust flow, we have removed the three stages of the reclamation process that we previously had and converted it into one and eliminated a huge amount of our forklift dependency.”

“Any foundry owner or manager will appreciate the benefits of having less reliability on forklifts. We call it the forklift syndrome. They are always bumping into equipment, loads are falling off them, like any machinery, forklifts are also prone to mechanical failure and that seems to be regular and of course the noise pollution. To me if I can get rid of a forklift from the plant it is a bonus.”

Latest measuring and testing equipment
“Measurement, testing and data management equipment and systems forms a large part of our whole venture. Temperature measurement accuracy and speed in relaying the results in the melt department are critical in the production applications. We have installed the latest MeltControl 2020 software and DigiTemp-E wireless receivers at all of our melting furnaces and at the various cast lines.”

High Duty Castings has seen growth and additional volumes on the automotive side, but it has also diversified into other market segments and producing non-automotive castings, using the same processes and technologies. New markets have been rail, mining strata support and more complex pumps

“What this allows us to do is eliminate the need for expensive cabling between the measuring lance and the instrument in the control room, access to immediate data that originates with the molten metal sensors and viewing of real-time measurement curves. You can set instrument parameters and select data telegrams using an LCD interface inside the instrument. In the end you have a temperature measurement system using wireless transmission and this results in improved safety and measurement reliability, while reducing overall costs. This system and equipment have been supplied by Heraeus Electro-Nite.”

Demand management system to ensure maximum saving without effecting production output
“Maximum demand response is an electricity tariff or programme established to motivate changes in electricity use by end-use customers, designed to induce lower electricity use typically at times of high demand and higher cost periods or when grid reliability is jeopardised. The focus here in South Africa is inclusive of all of these but reliability and exorbitant cost escalations in recent years is more of the focus.”

“There are various intelligent demand management systems available but we have decided to invest in Watt Group’s Watt Demand System (WDS), which is designed and built in Germany. They have systems installed at five major foundries in South Africa and their system was known to me as I had previously met the developers.”

“Demand management is an important part of today’s energy management. By systematically limiting power, peak loads are avoided, and electricity costs are reduced. Through energy management, energy consumption can be reduced. This is done by mapping out energy flows and then taking energy-saving measures.”

“Our demand management system was installed in July 2022. But to maximise our efforts and savings we are also installing a solar PV system. We all know that you can’t run your furnaces or other heavy equipment on a solar system but the rest of the facility can be run on the solar power.”

“We are currently going through the roofing rehabilitation process and once that is completed the panel and inverter installation will begin and we estimate that the project will be completed by the end of November.”

Going forward
“Currently we are in an engineering study phase to possibly introduce robots and/or cobots into various areas of the foundry. With us being a high-volume automotive casting foundry technological advances in robotics and complementary technologies represent an extraordinary opportunity for us to improve our already existing high production and quality standards. Safety and efficiency are typical reasons for installing foundry robots. Now, flexibility has emerged as a performance standard in foundry operations, and the automation systems are helping address the need.”

“Today’s industrial robots, as well as the complementary technologies, offer features and capabilities that previously were unthinkable. The early development of robotics was driven primarily by the automotive industry. Their capabilities, and ease of use, were essentially limited by the state of computing and electronics. Developing alongside those dynamic technologies though, robots have enjoyed equally impressive growth in capability and cost ratio.”

“Robots have got smarter with real-time feedback, which all feeds into Industry 4.0.”

“Again, we are looking at areas where we can best re-deploy staff members into areas where their value is more productive.”

“Foundries of the future that need to be reactive to the changing market place will have a competitive edge by embracing the Foundry 4.0 concept. They will be more efficient and improve productivity, and at the same time be able to be more reactive to customers’ needs because these systems will give flexibility, allowing more affordable, short-production runs.”

For further details contact High Duty Castings on TEL: 011 914 1346 or visit www.hdcastings.co.za