Blue skies thinking for an Industry 4.0 approach to expanding production rate at Weir’s small to medium sized plants.
Starting in 2018, Weir undertook the project of expanding the production rate for their small to medium size plants. The smaller plant (LMM) has moulds up to 1.3m x 1.3m x 0.9m and the medium sized plant (shuttle) up to 2.2m x 2.2mm x 1.8m, space was at a premium and the biggest bottleneck was floor space for casting the moulds.
The focus was to increase this floor space to allow increased casting capacity for the medium sized moulds. To achieve this, the complete operation within the casting area had to be rethought and Weir decided to bring Omega Sinto in to find a solution. With the complexity and innovative required solution, the project title was ‘Blue Sky’.
Due to Weir’s location in Todmorden, the space around the plant is very limited resulting in a continuing need to find innovative ways of utilising space for future expansion. The decision was thus taken to look at a vertical storage solution and a plan was created to hold over 60 moulds in an area of the foundry that currently housed old plant. This would in turn create a large open floor space for increased production of the medium sized moulds.
Omega Sinto proposed a bespoke system that would fit into a very tight space of the foundry with space for 62 cast and uncast moulds. The first difficulty was to relocate the old plant that was in between the LMM and casting area. Omega Sinto installed a new, much more compact, cooling plant for the Replicast plant, this created enough space to fit the new vertical storage facility.
Integration with the existing LMM plant was also important to allow easy handling and core/closing of moulds, so the closing line was installed in parallel to the LMM. This allowed easy transfer of moulds directly from the LMM moulding line straight onto the new closing line.
The existing casting line location was utilised and a new line with up to ten moulds was proposed. For the storage of cast and uncast moulds a three-tier system was chosen and the whole plant incorporated a push/pull process to keep all electrics/pneumatics/hydraulics away from areas where hot sand or molten metal could cause issues.
As the plant meant that many moulds could be stored, it was also important to make sure there was some form of tractability. Omega Sinto has years of experience using RFID technology and this was considered an option to assist with this problem. Weir uses a Barcode scanning system to track product around the foundry and using Omega’s RFID system, they were able to tie the two together giving an easy transfer of mould/casting information between Weir’s in-house system and Omega Sinto’s new stacking plant. This allows easy traceability of all moulds within the storage facility and gives relevant cooling times etc., so moulds only get knocked out after relevant time.
At the heart of the system are the two push/pull transfer cars that hydraulically push the moulds the length of the track on wheeled casting pallets. The transfer cars also raise and lower over the three tiers giving total flexibility.
The final part of the project was a completely new reclamation plant that would allow automatic removal and wipe off from the storage. This was integrated into Weir’s existing plant to give dual redundancy and increased capacity.
Speaking about the eleven-year relationship between Weir UK and Omega Sinto, Lee Jenkins IEng FICME, director of operations at Weir, said: “Weir UK is the largest foundry in the global Weir Group, we have chosen Omega Sinto because of their innovation and customer support. We have worked through many projects together and have delivered on time and to budget and have covered our cap ex costs. So, Omega Sinto is critical to the European business for Weir and is our chosen partner for capital foundry equipment.”
Omega Sinto Foundry Machinery Ltd has been the chosen partner at the Weir UK site for many years and has delivered several innovative solutions, including the installation of the fast loop shuttle moulding system. Weir UK is on the journey to Industry 4.0 and the Omega support element has allowed realisation of technologically complicated divisional innovation projects.
This article first appeared in the June/July 2023 issue of Foundry Trade Journal