Bühler: Innovations for a Better World

Next generation die casting solutions aimed at delivering 0% scrap, 40% less cycle time and 24/7 uptime to create a better, more efficient and profitable future for the die-casting industry. Marcello Fabbroni, Product Management and Marketing Global Director, explains how Bühler Die Casting is creating the HPDC digital cell of the future

di Alberto Pomari

During the last Gifa Fair we have had the opportunity to talk to Marcello Fabbroni, Product Management and Marketing Global Director for Bühler Die Casting. Today we are in his office in Uzwil, Switzerland, asking news and a description of the activities of the Group, a very famous company operating worldwide, specialized in machinery for food and mobility industry but in particular talking today about their die casting machinery activities. Bühler is very active in Italy which is one of the best markets in Europe for die casting equipment.

Could you give us an introduction to Bühler? What are you doing in the area of die casting?
As a Swiss family-owned company, Bühler is active in 140 countries and operates a global network of 30 production sites. Billions of people come into contact with Bühler technologies every day. Two billion people each day enjoy foods produced on Bühler equipment; and one billion people travel in vehicles manufactured with parts produced with our machinery. The Bühler group annually invests up to 5% of its turnover into research and development, with a clear focus on sustainable development in order to take responsibility for generations to come.
Bühler Die Casting is a Business Area within the Bühler group, focused on providing efficient solutions for aluminium and magnesium die casting. We work globally, with competence centres in China, Europe and the US. We support our customers through all phases of their investment – from plant layout, the provision of die-casting technologies, digital services and equipment to process know-how and global assistance throughout the lifecycle of the die-casting solution.

How do you see the future, especially concerning the die-casting market?
One of the topics we see as essential for the future of the die-casting industry is lightweight construction. This is particularly important in the hybridization of the drive train or for new parts for the electric motor and chassis. How can die casting become attractive in these fields and come out on top when competing with other processes and materials such as plastic, steel sheet or 3D printing? One answer, which is key for us, is cost-effective and ultra-efficient manufacturing. Also with regards to today’s world, where technologies evolve with astounding speed, the only companies to survive are companies which anticipate potential developments, accept change, and recognize and grasp the accompanying opportunities. Who knows today what further opportunities will present themselves – we are just at the beginning of this exciting journey. Perhaps drones or e-jets will need die cast parts.
In order for the die-casting industry to increase its competitiveness, we are working towards our vision of 0% scrap, 40% less cycle time and 24/7 uptime. This has the power to create a step-change in die casting. But to achieve this, it is not enough to focus on single components, we have to tackle the system as a whole. The first step is to bring all of the individual die-casting devices together under one smart digital brain that allows us to monitor, control and manage complete die-casting cells. The Bühler Smart Cell Management System (SmartCMS) will be the first milestone.

Where do you see the die-casting market going in terms of equipment?
Following our vision of 0% scrap, 40% less cycle time and 24/7 uptime has led us to develop a new die-casting system with higher performance. At Bühler, we offer die-casting machines in the range from 350 to 5,600 tons locking force.
For lightweight construction in the automotive market, structural parts are gaining importance – and they need larger machines. Our Carat series, with its two-platen technology, is especially suitable for the production of large and complex parts. Worldwide, approximately 50 percent of all structural components for the automotive industry are produced on Carat systems.

Which other fields of development will be important over the next years? What are the opportunities, what are the threats?
We see that the die casting process is in constant competition with other processes and materials. Therefore innovations are essential for our competitiveness. As clearly stated in our vision, we think the whole industry needs to work on reducing scrap, decreasing cycle times and improving uptime – and this is only possible if we attach greater importance to collaboration. Partnerships, the exchange of ideas, and involvement of customers and suppliers in our innovations are key for us. Any new solution is never the product of a single person; it’s a result of teamwork. For example, our Fusion die casting system, launched this year, is a development made by a global network of Bühler employees, customers, suppliers and academic partners. Only together are we able to bring die-casting technology to the next level.
Another example is our investment in the Cubic innovation campus, an exciting new space for cooperation between customers, partners, science, academia and start-ups. Situated in our headquarters in Uzwil, Switzerland, it’s a place where we can all work together on the most important global challenges – like how can we sustainably feed and provide mobility for a population of nearly 10 billion in 2050?
One key factor for further development is industry 4.0 – a topic that is widely discussed and being developed in the foundry industry. And here too, collaboration is key. Traditionally controlling the die-casting process relies on operator skills. Our aim is to make the die-casting process as a whole more transparent. Therefore we are working on a cell management system (SmartCMS), which works as the brain of the entire cell. The first step here is to connect components and peripherals in one digital system. This creates a centralized interface for the operator, efficient recipe management, a home button to facilitate restarts, flexible part flow management and better scrap management. Cell management is the first step which will enable digital solutions and further digital services, which have the potential to transform die casting and make our industry more competitive for the future.