Equipment Highlight: FANUC Robots

Benefits of using Robots

At Chicago White Metal Casting, we strive to have the most advanced technologies available to assist with die casting, CNC machining, and other operations. For example, CWM has two FANUC robots in our CNC department – the M10iA and the M-20iB. The M-10/20 series robots offer increased load capacity and extended reach. These robots are small, but they are the perfect automation solution for many applications, especially when it comes to handling, assembly, material removal, and machine tending.

In addition to its increased load capacity and reach, the M-10/20 series robots use considerably less energy than older models; they also boast a cost-efficient modular design. Furthermore, the M-10/20 series robots offer integrated cable routing, making them considerably easier to maintain – ultimately saving time and money.

Robot Use at CWM

At CWM, we use the FANUC M-10/20 series robots to load/unload the CNC machining center for some of CWM’s higher volume parts. The robots that CWM employs can work with several different part numbers and utilizes camera-based vision systems to accomplish the following:

  • Verify the presence and location of holes
  • Determine the orientation of the part
  • Load and unload parts onto a CNC fixture
  • Install special clamping inserts
  • Confirm the clamping is correct
  • Sequence part unloading/loading from conveyor

One of the most significant advantages of utilizing these robots is that several hours’ worth of material can be loaded/unloaded into side-by-side input/output conveyors integrated into the cell and tied into the robot’s logic. This system allows the robot/CNC cell to work continuously, resulting in a steady flow of parts. In addition, the robot incorporates several camera-based inspection steps using a 2D vision verification system that stimulates the eyes, further assuring that parts will meet CWM’s and the customer’s quality standards.

FANUC M-10iA Robot.

Camera to confirm part integrity.

Loading conveyer.

Unloading conveyer.

CNC machine where the part is loaded.

Why Did CWM Choose FANUC?

The FANUC M-10/20 robots are designed for various light material handling applications. They are considered high-speed robots and can be used in many scenarios, including assembly, CNC machine tending, and even in the die casting process. In addition, this robot simplifies applications and floor plans because it is more compact than other robots while maintaining the highest axis speeds and best repeatability. 

Another benefit of using these robots is they can be mounted at any angle on the floor, wall, or ceiling. They are also very small, which means they can fit into tight workspaces. At Chicago White Metal, we currently have six active robots in our CNC department – four universal co-bots and two FANUC Robot Cells. Co-bots, or collaborative robots, are different from robots because they can work with humans to accomplish tasks while robots work independently and run with no human intervention.

To learn more about the equipment that we have here at CWM, visit this page. If you would like to contact our team here at CWM, call (630) 595-4424, or you can request a quote here.

Equipment Highlight: Investment in Energy-Efficient Furnace Pays Off

energySMART Aluminum Furnace

Chicago White Metal is always looking for ways to improve the die casting process while decreasing energy usage. Back in 2014, CWM determined that one of the best ways to accomplish both of those goals was to replace our old reverberatory furnace from the 1970s with a modern central stackmelter aluminum furnace.

CWM worked with energySMART, a Nicor Gas program, to replace our underperforming furnace with a high-efficiency one. After much deliberation, CWM chose the StrikoMelter furnace from StrikoWestofen America because it offered the lowest energy consumption of any furnace in its class.

Energy Efficiency & Improved Performance

When CWM chose the StrikoWestofen energy-efficient aluminum melting furnace, we immediately received energySMART incentives in return for reducing our carbon footprint. With the new furnace, CWM cut the amount of natural gas we used in the melting process substantially. And even though the StikoMelter came with a smaller holding capacity, the melting capacity significantly increased to 4,400 lbs. per hour instead of 1,400 lbs. per hour with the old furnace.

By acquiring the modern furnace, CWM qualified for the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, an energy-purchase rebate program funded by Nicor Gas Company. The incentives from this program enabled CWM to make the investment, which saw immediate returns.

How it works:

The new furnace came with Striko’s patented ETAmax® system, which combines preheating, heating, and melting phases efficiently in a single melting shaft. While return material and ingots are melted quickly in the lower section, the material preheats in the shaft area above it.

The molten metal is then transferred to a holding bath, reducing waste and maintaining preset holding temperature. This simple but effective recuperative concept resulted in significant fuel consumption savings and a dramatic reduction in metal loss due to oxidation or dross. Other benefits of having a modern, energy-efficient furnace include:

  • Easy to load: The furnace’s shaft is more expansive and can easily accept returns of up to 2.5m². Extra-large charging bins also mean there’s no need to “cut to fit,” saving precious time, resources, and money.
  • Less energy wasted: Shortened metal melting, reduced natural gas consumption, and an improved material yield to increase efficiency.
  • Cleaner metal: The design of the furnace limits the amount of dross and oxide production resulting in cleaner metal and less waste.

Looking back almost seven years to the date, we can say that it was well worth the investment when it comes to energy savings and improving CWM’s overall product. When asked about the furnace, Jim Reitenbach, Production Manager at CWM, said, “This was one of the best equipment investments CWM has ever made.”

CWM Adds New Idra Die Casting Machine, Full Implementation Planned for Q4 of 2020

Chicago White Metal is extremely proactive in the research of advanced technology and innovation, and their implementation into the die casting process. These efforts are put forth by the company in order to improve and enhance quality, efficiency, measurability, and overall cost savings for existing and future projects.

CWM leadership encourages an environment of cultivating innovative ideas where process improvement is concerned, granting members of the team an opportunity to take an active role in examining and suggesting alternatives to either modify or drastically change current techniques. The team is excited to implement these innovations into the workflow in both traditional and non-traditional ways. 

New Idra Die Casting Machine (2019)

A new Idra Die Casting machine was purchased last year. Extensive planning by the Chicago White Metal team was thoughtfully executed, with full implementation planned for the beginning of Q4 in 2020. This new die casting machine has a 900-ton capacity, which gives Chicago White Metal the opportunity to accommodate substantially larger applications. Although the machine is being installed into the magnesium department, it will initially be used to cast aluminum parts. 

CWM Invests in Robotics and Automation

FANUC CNC Robot die casting
FANUC CNC Robot die casting

Chicago White Metal remains very proactive in the research and implementation of advanced technology into the die casting process, added value and finishing operations. CWM leadership encourages an environment where team members can examine and suggest alternatives to current techniques in order to improve and enhance quality, efficiency and measurability.  This ultimately leads to an overall efficiency for existing and future projects.  The team is always excited at the prospect of taking an original idea and watching it grow into a reality.

One idea that came to life in 2018 is the implementation of robotics and automation technology in the CNC department. There are currently 6 active robot implementations: 4 Universal Co-bots and 2 Fanuc Robot Cells.  These robots were commissioned quickly in the past 12 months, calling for the promotion of Daniel Lechuga to Automation Specialist in order to keep up with the equipment maintenance and wiring.

The Fanuc Robot Cells are dedicated to several tasks such as facilitating added value and finishing operation checks, leak testing several parts at a time, and tending to CNC machinery.  This allows team members to tend to other machines and focus on performing more critical tasks.  The Fanuc robots were the first to be integrated into the CNC department and can be seen on the shop floor with cages around them.  They are currently facilitating parts for an archery riser and an automotive ECU housing.

The Universal Co-bots are collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans.  The robots themselves have sensors that detect when someone is near or approaching the robot, triggering the mechanism which slows down and stops the machine.  Chicago White Metal implemented four co-bots, which are currently handling parts for two different models of portable oxygen concentrators, a crossbow riser, an electronic housing, and a medical device handle.

Hot Chamber vs. Cold Chamber Die Casting

Die Casting 101: Hot Chamber vs. Cold Chamber

High pressure die casting (HPDC) is a process where molten metal is injected under very high pressure into premium steel molds (dies) in order to manufacture high precision die cast products.  The die is designed to cast engineered shapes and complex features with great accuracy and consistent replication.

There are two types of HPDC which Chicago White Metal provides: hot chamber die casting and cold chamber die casting.  Although there are several similarities between the two types, they exist separately for different purposes.

Hot Chamber Die Casting

Hot Chamber Die Casting Process

Hot chamber die casting is a type of die casting that uses alloys with low melting temperatures (i.e. Zinc, some Magnesium alloys).  Using alloys with high melting temperatures would result in
damage to the gooseneck, nozzle, and other components.

In a hot chamber die casting machine, the fixed die half is called a cover die, which is mounted to a stationary platen (large plate to which each die half is mounted) and aligns with the nozzle of the gooseneck.  The movable die half is the ejector die and is mounted to a movable platen, which slides along tie bars.

Hot Chamber Die Casting Process

The metal is contained in an open holding pot, which is placed in the furnace and melted to the needed temperature.  When the plunger is in the “up” position, the molten metal flows into the shot chamber.  As the plunger moves down, it forces the molten metal through a gooseneck and into the die at injection pressures ranging from 1,000 – 5,000 psi.

The machine pushes the moving platen towards the cover die and holds it closed with great pressure until the molten metal is injected.  The plunger remains in the “down” position to hold the pressure while the casting “cools off.”  After solidification, the plunger is retracted and the cast part is either ejected, manually removed from the machine or pushed off the cover die.  This ejection system, which includes an ejector die and ejector pins, allows the casting to be pushed out while releasing the die halves.

Watch an animation of a hot chamber die casting machine:

Cold Chamber Die Casting

Cold Chamber Die Casting Process

Cold chamber die casting is a type of die casting that is used for alloys with high melting temperatures (i.e. Aluminum and some Magnesium alloys).

As a contrast from hot chamber die casting (pumping molten metal into the machine), molten metal is ladled from the furnace into the shot chamber through a pouring hole.  While the general function of the cold chamber machine is similar to hot chamber, cold chamber works with a horizontal orientation and does not have a gooseneck.  

Cold Chamber Die Casting Process

Instead, the plunger forces metal through the shot chamber into the die at pressures ranging from 2,000 and 20,000 psi.  The plunger holds the pressure and retracts after solidification.  The clamping unit and mounting of dies is set up the same as hot chamber, however, the cover die for a cold chamber machine does not have a gooseneck or nozzle, and therefore aligns directly from the shot chamber.

Watch an animation of a cold chamber die casting machine:

If you would like to discuss how CWM can help you with your die casting project, please call 630-595-4424 or contact us at sales@cwmtl.com with your inquiries.

Striko Dynarad & Nicor Gas both feature the newest CWM Aluminum Melting Furnace

Newest CWM Aluminum Melting Furnace
Newest CWM Aluminum Melting Furnace

Striko Westofen, a global manufacturer of thermal processing technology, is known for providing energy-efficient solutions for various types of casting industries, which includes aluminum die casting.

Just recently, Striko featured Chicago White Metal in their latest website article about our latest aluminum furnace addition.  This article features the new aluminum melting furnace installation that CWM recently acquired in response to the significant growth in aluminum die castings demand, to increase our aluminum melting capacity, and to maintain our responsibility to the environment as a part of the CWM culture.

Nicor Gas energySMART program, in conjunction with Striko Westofen, has also featured Chicago White Metal in their latest publication regarding the latest installation of the Striko aluminum furnace. Nicor describes the details on its energy efficiency in day-to-day die casting operations, providing benefits to both CWM and to our environment.

CWM Launches New “Green Facilities” Program

CWM Recycles

Building on its ISO 14001 environmental certification commitments, CWM is launching an expanded program of “Green Facilities Initiatives” to further reduce its ecological footprint in its offices & production facilities.

Targeting landfill avoidance, waterways improvement and energy conservation, this program will further enhance CWM activities in recycling production scrap, plastic shrink film, pallets, batteries, packaging containers, corrugated material, office paper, and in reducing chemical & process water usage.

CNC Machining Centers Increased to 27

CNC Machine Operator at CWM

With the addition of two new Leadwell CNC machining centers to its CNC Machining Division, an MV-40 and MV-50 unit, Chicago White Metal has increased its number of centers to 27, V.P. Brian Andrews announced.

The new Leadwells, in addition to further expanding CWM’s capability for highest RPM spindle speeds and precision, enable still larger parts and more efficient multiple operations to be programmed. A wider range of prototyping, dedicated machining and post-casting machining can be performed in house.

For more on CWM’s CNC capabilities, click here.

Sheffield Pioneer 8.10.6 CMM Unit to QA Dept.

Sheffield Pioneer 8.10.6 CMM Unit

CWM’s Quality Assurance Dept. recently installed a Sheffield Pioneer 8.10.6 CMM machine, paving the way to acquiring the latest in sophisticated inspection software technology— PC-DMIS Cad++.

This advanced software integrates directly with 3D CAD modeling, allowing for inspection programming prior to the availability of the die cast product sample. Lead time is greatly reduced in providing a first article inspection report.

Complex parts can be measured very quickly with extreme accuracy and operator error is virtually eliminated.