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Innovation, a European View at CastExpo

Rich Jefferson

Ribbon cutting for CastExpo is 8:50 a.m. April 27 at the Georgia World Congress Center, but you can start getting your education money’s worth at 8 a.m. with Dr. Carsten Kuhlgatz.

Kuhlgatz will speak in room A411, at 8 a.m. He is a well-known European metalcasting expert, the CEO and General Manager of Hüttenes-Albertus Chemische Werke GmbH, which is a privately-owned foundry based in Hanover, Germany.  His talk is “How Suppliers and Foundries Can Advance Technology Together.”

How will new technologies affect your businesses in coming years? What are the best ways to find the right partners? Kuhlgatz will have some answers.

Kuhlgatz knows the high value of CastExpo. He said trade shows are the gathering place and the staging ground for doing business in the industry, domestically and internationally.

A show like CastExpo gives “a great overview of the state of the art, as suppliers want to show their customers the latest developments. Those customers (metalcasters) want to discover more about innovations and draw comparisons … and offer a great networking.”

Innovation is pivotal for Kuhlgatz.

“Innovation is the only way companies can secure their long-term competitiveness to survive and thrive in the global market,” Kuhlgatz says. Other research tells us innovation is also a drive of job creation.

Kuhlgatz will highlight case studies of collaborative advancements—a large automotive foundry that completely converted its core production from organic to inorganic in just one year and an example of collaboration between a supplier and a foundry to provide core and component design and prototype production of new castings.

The promised observations on innovation ought to be enough to get anyone out of bed early on a Saturday morning. Here’s why.

I believe there are inescapable trends in metalcasting and all manufacturing.

  1. People: A critical section of the workforce is aging, and its retirement could create real problems
  2. Regulations: The march of the regulator state is inexorable, and it will become obvious when President Trump leaves office
  3. Innovation: The exponential growth and application of new technologies will continue relentlessly into the foreseeable future.

Regarding number one above, demographics are what they are, and we must deal with reality. For number two, regulatory development is taking a holiday for the moment with the current administration in Washington, but the holiday will end when this president’s term does (at least I would bet on it).

However, for number three, innovation and technology are on the march. Short of world-wide, civilization-ending catastrophe, exponential innovation a hard trend that will only increase, and it can and should be embraced and exploited. (For more on hard trends, see “Anticipatory Organizations Know the Future, And So Can You,” in the December 2017 edition of Modern Casting.)

What drives innovation for foundries? The requirements of casting designers and buyers, and in the U.S., I would say the opportunities to persuade customers they should be reshoring their foundry work or pursue parts made through methods other than metalcasting.

Stricter regulations can also drive innovation, according to Kuhlgatz. See number 2 above.

Another driver of innovation is time to market: “a major competitive factor in the foundry industry,” Kuhlgatz said. “I will be talking about the approach that companies in the foundry market will be able to achieve technological advancements easier and faster by cooperating with competent partners. Given the complexity of foundry processes, today it is hardly doable for a single “player” to make decisive innovative advances.”

In other words, Kuhlgatz says, foundries with partners will innovate more effectively than those without partners.

“It is almost impossible for individual companies to drive technological progress on their own—there are simply too many interrelated factors and parameters.

Decisive innovative successes are best achieved through cooperation between partners and combining the contributions of different stakeholders,” Kuhlgatz says.

What are the critical differences and similarities between European and North American metalcasting? Is the difference mostly regulatory?

“Let’s first have a look at the regulatory differences: It can be said that stricter environmental regulation in the EU leads to a faster and more consistent implementation of products and processes that help to reduce emissions. This is shown for instance in the introduction of environmentally friendly binder systems such as inorganic binders,” Kuhlgatz says.

“High energy costs in the EU are another important driver for the implementation of technologies that help conserve resources and increase efficiency. This is one of the reasons why, for example, the shell molding process in Europe has been replaced by cold-box technology more quickly than in the US,” Kuhlgatz says.

What a great way to kick off CastExpo. We look forward to hearing from Kuhlgatz on April 27 at CastExpo. See you at 8 a.m. sharp in room A411 at the Georgia World Congress Center.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the April 2019 issue of Modern Casting