European foundries need to become more competitive. More than 80 % of European Foundries are SMEs. The number of foundries in Europe has been reducing since the seventies. It is feared that more and more foundries will migrate to other parts of the world. For some years the decline in the number of foundries has been slowing down. This trend is the result of support by national governments and the EU, largely because the five biggest foundry producers (Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain) had more than 130 000 employees in 1996. Furthermore, several hundred thousand other jobs - in the subcontracting and metal-processing industries - are dependent on the foundry industry. The current problems of European foundries can be summarised as follows : - Vast quantities of moulding waste - High cost of moulding sand - Problems of environmental pollution - High cost of manufacturing patterns and tools - Long production times The new type of mould developed in the EC "Remicast" project, was achieved by combining two foundry processes : mould forming and pattern making. In this patternless casting process, ships' propellers were cast in ground graphite moulds. The results were very successful and it was therefore decided that this idea should be extended to the die casting process. The main idea is to replace metal dies with combined graphite/ceramic dies in both die casting and low-pressure die casting processes. The following advantages can be achieved by adopting this approach : - The manufacturing time for graphite/ceramic die is considerably (4-8 times) shorter than for a similar metal (steel or copper alloy) die. - The new die material imparts excellent surface quality to the component, so that further machining or grinding is not normally necessary. - The new dies are easy to mend : metal dies are difficult to repair. - The new die material is very easy to machine. For example, it can be machined by using robot grinding together with three-dimensional solid modelling.
The aim of this project is to equip and modernise die casting companies by the use of advanced tooling and manufacturing methods. The new technology product will be modified and standardised for die casting foundries and this product will be introduced to the foundries and their customers.