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Mold maintenance and foundry: how to improve the production process

by Caterina Tosca October 13, 2017

In this post we are going to describe in detail the relation between mold maintenance department and foundry: how the inclusion of maintenance department and tooling department in the production area can bring an actual economic advantages and time saving.

As a premise to go deeply the subject of mold maintenance it is important to underline that at the end of the die casting process the molds that were used in the production phase are in need of customized treatment to preserve their functionality and to increase their lifetime. These routine operations allow the maintenance department to keep productive standards consistent through time. For this reason every foundry is backed by a small maintenance department, which is dedicated to dies upkeep: the operations herein run are of the utmost importance for the quality of the final result. These operations include mold cleaning, extractors greasing, check/correction of cooling system and more.

Mold maintenance

 

As stated above, all foundries can count on a die maintenance department, ranging from small and simple ones to more complex ones, but not all these departments include a tooling department.

The presence of a tooling department becomes a distinctive factor and a competitive advantage for a foundry.

The tooling department, in addition to repairing mild damages, is fundamental to deeply analyze issues related to slowdowns or stops in the production process and, moreover, to develop and carry out activities in order to fix defects. These solutions are possible thanks to stored machines and appliances for a punctual analysis of defects, that help the operator to preserve the production standard and to notice particular reiterate problems. This allows to continuously improve processes and tools that, thanks to these activities, are constantly analyzed and updated for better performances.

Foundries that can count on an integrated tooling department can definitely improve their production process and their mold maintenance workflow, due to lower production costs in the long run and to a minimization of both risks and related time losses. On the other hand, foundries devoid of a tooling department need to rely on external mold makers for reparations, which are often located far from the production area.

 

Disadvantages of third-part mold repair

There are many downsides related to this procedure: sending a mold to an external mold maker naturally requires a larger amount of time, since delivery time adds to fixing time. Moreover, often third-parts workers do not have the same know-how of productive processes and error recurrences, as workers of the original production plant have. In worst-case scenarios roughly executed local repairs due to inadequate tools can negatively affect the whole production.

The need to send molds in for repair implies a slowdown even for those companies in which dies are self-produced, despite the mold-making plant being close to the foundry: since the reparations are usually pressing, they interfere with the planned workflow of the mold production department, leading to delays in fixed dies delivery. Moreover, unit saturation could cause the lack of an adequate break cause analysis, therefore leading to an error’s repetition that may have a severe impact on the production cycle.

Consequently, the lack of data prevents the identification of repeated problems, that will be treated as unique, thus requiring extended resolution time. It is not uncommon that a radical intervention is needed, involving the mold design, in order to permanently solve the issue.

 

Benefits of a tooling and maintenance department integrated in the foundry

Choosing to include a tooling department in the maintenance service, preferring a direct contact with the foundry and the Engineering department, offers a number of advantages, such as:

  • Identification of the root cause;
  • An accurate analysis of the breaking cause;
  • A chance to perform more precise and quicker modifications;
  • A more frequent mold maintenance;

Thanks to an adequate equipment and experience is possible to deeply study all defects and issues, performing all analysis and tests needed to identify the causes, allowing anomalies’ resolving. Furthermore, repairs can be achieved more complex and complete than the ones usually obtainable in a small maintenance department.

For example, when dealing with multi-cavity molds, if the tooling department is not adequate, it is a common practice to solve damages effecting just one single cavity by sealing it. This technique may appear practical, since it allows for a quick return of the die in the productive cycle, but it actually has a negative impact on the whole production: a unusable cavity implies one less product for every productive cycle, thus offsetting time tables and number of expected pieces, and increasing energy costs while obtaining the same produced quantity.

On the contrary, it is possible to avoid this kind of situation through the use of dedicated equipment and thanks to an experienced staff capable of executing complex processing, thus averting the need for extra-cycle activities.

It seems now evident how this is not just abstract theory, but the improvements can be measured through real factors and their effect on the productive capacity.

To sum up, the inclusion of the maintenance and the tooling departments in the productive plant brings direct advantages, such as the correction of criticalities and defects typical of the die casted production, improved schedules and a reduction of the extra-cycle activities.

 

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