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Castcon Key Takeaways and the Future of Casting in the UK

Introduction


CastCon took place on the 5th April and bought together the leading Foundries, Suppliers and Experts focused on the casting sector in the UK.


Origin Engineering were in attendance representing Altair’s Inspire Suite, which amongst other things includes Casting, Optimisation and AI. There was a range of interesting presentations looking at examples of new casting techniques, successes in adopting technology as well as some interesting debates about the challenges the casting industry faces.


Rising Energy Prices


One of the main concerns for the industry at the moment is of course the ongoing energy crisis, although compared to last year we can feel confident at least about energy supply, which was at one stage in question following the invasion of Ukraine. The casting sector is of course a big consumer of energy and therefore the colossal increases in the price of energy have hit the Foundries particularly hard.


The UK government has also been quite slow to provide meaningful support to these energy intensive sectors perhaps because it goes against their ambitions to be net zero. In contrast, organisations in countries like America are able to provide energy much cheaper so US based foundries are being shielded more by these increases in costs. The casting sector supports key industries including but not limited to Aerospace, Automotive and Manufacturing. If support is not forthcoming, we undoubtedly will and are already seeing increasing costs downstream which will likely not be good for the Economy as a whole.


The Future of the Casting Sector

The sector as a whole seems to be working hard to be as environmentally friendly as possible, one of the key points was that Foundries are often using recycled metals and have got very good at managing and re-using their own waste to further reduce their impact on the environment.


More thought is also being put into new Casting techniques, which reduces the amount of metal needing to be melted and thus moving closer to net zero casting. Organisations are also looking at method development in general to remove the amount of wastage and improve yields to reduce scrap rate and therefore the impact on the environment.


Adoption of Technology to Increase Efficiency

It is clear that the rising energy costs are putting companies under more and more pressure to push the boundaries of efficiency even more and further reduce waste. There were lots of presentations on the role of technology in helping organisations to achieve this.


Casting Simulation

To our delight, being vendors of simulation ourselves it seemed like many companies were sharing their success stories of how they have managed to use simulation to improve their method development, allowing them to get things right first time and reduce the amount of waste. In many cases they were also able to give their clients better outcomes by improving the yields they could achieve with each casting which in turn also reduced energy consumption.


In fact the large majority of organisations we spoke to were already using simulation. That being said, there were a fair number of Foundries not in attendance at the event and in our day to day conversations, we know many organisations are not using simulation at all. We believe there is also the ability to provide simulation to more members of the team to further improve method development. For example, it’s no good using simulation sparingly and only doing it at the end of the development cycle when you could have already wasted money on tooling or prototypes because the designers themselves don’t have access to the right tools that are both easy to use and affordable.


The Convergence of Technology


One of the overriding themes of the event focused on the integration of multiple technologies to deliver even more efficiency.

Simulation does a great job of validating a method to ensure a part is produced to the right quality standards and allows us to optimise the method for the greatest efficiency but there is still more we can do.


Part Optimisation allows us to also look at the part itself to make sure we are producing it with the least material possible to further reduce energy consumption and material costs whilst making sure the part is structurally sound. By combining Optimisation Routines with Simulation, we can look closer at the part we are being sent, and provide guidance on how to improve the overall part design whilst taking into account the castability of the part. A quick poll in one presentation saw only half of companies actually get involved with the initial part design which could represent an opportunity for others to differentiate their services by doing more for the client, after all part designers that have not worked in a Foundry do not always understand what can actually be manufactured efficiently when it comes to Casting!


Part Optimisation is one way coupled with Simulation, but this then presents another opportunity. We are now building up vast amounts of data and intelligence in terms of what we have done previously. The issue is that with the amount of variables in casting it can be hard for a human to digest this information in a meaningful and timely way in order to make the best decisions. This then opens the door for us to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to make sense of all of those simulations runs and data we are capturing in other data sources like excel to make our lives easier in the future. For example how can we optimise our energy usage based on the thousands of casting runs we have done before, or how can we optimise our gate design based on the jobs we have done previously?



The Altair Inspire Platform


The best thing about the Altair Inspire Platform is a compelling and simple licensing model which allows you to use other tools in the same product suite at no extra cost. For example, the Altair Inspire Platform comes with Casting Simulation, but also provides FEA, Topology Optimisation, 3D Printing Simulation and Data Analytics. This allows a company to easily integrate other technologies when they are ready as opposed to consistently buying extra add-ons or other best of breed products which prices these organisations out of being able to leverage the latest technology.


To find out more, please reach out – hello@origin-eng.co.uk where we are able to talk you through the portfolio of products and offer trials and training if necessary.


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