Robotic ladling applications are improving manufacturers’ efficiency in the casting market. With the inherent flexibility of robots, casting manufacturers can improve part integrity, safety, quality, and throughput, while reducing material and labor costs.
Ladling robots can increase efficiency in casting operations (left). They can also improve part integrity, safety, quality, and throughput (right).
Robotic ladling allows greater part integrity. By controlling the speed and volume of shot (metal being pored into a casting) being pored into the sprue (the opening in a casting where the molten shot enters the casting) robots gives the manufacturers the control to reduce the amount of gases such as oxygen that are introduced into the part. For example, when casting aluminum, a sloppy pour that doesn’t fill the sprue will draw oxygen and hydrogen into the metal that will create aluminum oxide bubbles making the metal part more pores reducing the integrity of the part being created. In an automotive part such as a break caliper the aluminum oxide pores would create spaces within the part where oil can seep through reducing the effectiveness of the part.Also, worker safety is increased. It is no secret that working with molten metal is hot and difficult. The very nature of the job leads to back and burn injuries that can impact a manufacturer’s bottom line. By introducing robotics into the ladling process, experienced skilled workers are freed to perform safer and more mentally challenging operations within the organization. A robot will also reduce a manufacturer’s material costs — in two ways. First, by creating products with greater metal integrity less metal will be needed to be re-worked, reducing wasted throughput time. Also, robotics minimizes the amount of metal spillage. Robots are able to pour more consistent and accurately than individuals who may tire out as a grueling day wears on.As an example, if a manufacturer pours 100 lbs of metal an hour and spills 10 percent over the course of an eight-hour shift and operations runs 24 hours a day for 365 days a year, a manufacturer can lose more than 40 tons of metal a year. Those losses translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted metal. Robotic ladling also contributes labor cost savings. Aside from the ergonomic and safety issues of working in a foundry, robots are able to work 24/7 and maintain a consistently high level of quality than manual pouring. As mentioned earlier, consistent pouring reduces waste and increases part integrity. However, by allowing a greater variety in the angles of attack for pouring and dipping, robots also allow manufacturers to dip lower into the furnace before the furnace needs to be refilled, reducing cell downtime. Additionally, by combining the six-axis of an articulated robot with the seven-axis motion of a robotic ladle, users are able to create more intelligent paths through a work cell by using more sedate motions to and from the furnace. This in turn increases throughput while reducing waste from spilling. Robotic ladling also offers increased part throughput. Robots are inherently flexible and can rotate between multiple furnaces and work cells to handle multiple work stations. Not only can robots handle multiple tasks more consistently over a longer period of time than manual labor, but also robots have the advantage of increasing the pouring ranges from grams to more than 50 kg shots as well as being able to handle secondary process from dipping to gripping of parts. Manufacturers needing to increase efficiency in casting applications should consider the flexibility of robotic ladling. Using a six-axis robot with a seven-axis robot allows robotic ladle manufactures to improve part integrity, safety, quality, and throughput while reducing material and labor costs.