Foundry sector

Switzerland: Foundries produce for the future

| Author / Editor: Susanne Reinshagen / Theresa Knell

Aluwag AG showed what market potential e-mobility offers the foundry sector. The company casts stratobearings for the Mercedes EQC and Porsche Panamera Hybrid.
Aluwag AG showed what market potential e-mobility offers the foundry sector. The company casts stratobearings for the Mercedes EQC and Porsche Panamera Hybrid. (Source: Susanne Reinshagen, SMM)

At a press event, the Bühler Group demonstrated that with innovative products and processes, Swiss foundries are boosting their competitiveness and making an important contribution to sustainability.

In 2018, the 457 foundries belonging to the Association of Swiss Foundries announced good news. Danilo Fiato, president of the Association and CEO of the vonRoll Casting Group, said that revenues had risen slightly from CHF 595 mln. to CHF 600 mln. and that the processed tonnages had risen year-on-year by 1.1 percent, to reach 53,690 tons. The highest growth was attributable to the transport sector, mainly the private automobile industry, followed by the rail and used vehicle market and the aircraft industry.

Foundries are general entrepreneurs

Important factors for the success of foundries on the global market are their innovative strength and their offer of comprehensive solutions, with an enhanced value added. Today, they offer installable components and entire construction elements from a single source. These are developed in close collaboration with customers and partners such as the Bühler Group, and manufactured with the use of smart technology. All this makes Swiss foundries attractive add reliable partners for domestic and foreign customers. As an example of such developed and manufactured products, DGS Druckguss Systeme AG from St. Gallen showed a structural cast component for the Audi A8. With new forms and alloys, it was possible to reduce the thickness of the component from 3.5 mm to 1.5- 2 mm and thus save weight.

A thin-walled structural cast component that is fitted to the Audi A8.
A thin-walled structural cast component that is fitted to the Audi A8. (Source: Susanne Reinshagen, SMM)

Aluweg AG demonstrated examples of the market potential offered by the foundry sector to e-mobility. Aluweg casts the stratobearings for the Mercedes EQC and the Porsche Panamera Hybrid.

Further cast components for the automobile industry were presented by Wagner AG. Its hybrid components are to be found in car fenders as transmitters and receivers. Wolfensberger AG also displayed ready cast iron parts for the automobile industry.

All these examples show that foundries are approaching the borders of what is technically possible and know how to shift these borders in order to work, together with their customers, on the challenges of the future such as environmentally-friendly mobility and sustainable ways of living.

CUBIC Innovation Campus tackling global challenges

The Bühler Group, too, has set itself the goal of tackling the global challenges of nutrition and mobility. For how are 10 billion people to be sustainably fed and their mobility ensured in the year 2050? Because the company leads the way in technologies for pressure casting, wet milling and surface coating and in the processing of agricultural produce and manufacture of pasta and chocolate, billions of people come into contact with Bühler technologies every day in order to satisfy their basic mobility and food requirements.

The Bühler Group’s CUBIC innovation campus was deliberately not designed as a new building, but as a bridge linking all corporate segments.
The Bühler Group’s CUBIC innovation campus was deliberately not designed as a new building, but as a bridge linking all corporate segments. (Source: Bühler Group)

With the CUBIC Innovation Campus, Bühler has now created a platform with which to deal with such subjects as safeguarding world food and sustainable mobility. Solutions to these urgent global challenges are to be produced jointly with customers, partners, educational establishments and start-ups, naturally with the aim of developing attractive business models.

The three-storey glass building can accommodate 300 people and is meant to physically link the development, engineering and construction teams, the modern application centers and production. It is intended to boost innovation, creativity and inspiration and encourage new methods of learning, training and further training. In addition, the campus reaps the benefits of the dual educational system by having trainees, researchers and young and experienced employees work together in project teams from all corporate segments.

The building itself is an example of sustainability and innovation. It uses 15 % less energy than a comparable building, and the smart glass facade cuts heating and air conditioning costs by 50 %.

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Application centres speed up the time to market

An important part of CUBIC are eight modernized application centers where ideas from customers and prototypes are tested and made ready for the market. For example, the battery laboratory researches a new mix process for electrode pastes for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries. The pressure casting application centre there are five pressure cast cells for customer experiments. These trials flow into modern applications for electromobility.

In the application centre for pasta, work on new types of high-protein noodles is under way. When one realizes that about 65 % of agricultural output goes on animal feed, it quickly becomes obvious that Bühler is also working on alternative sources of protein for animal feed. For this purpose, in 2017 the company established a joint venture with the Dutch insect processing firm Protix.

"CUBIC embodies our spirit of innovation and a culture in which we discuss, inspire, challenge and learn to understand each other. In this way we develop solutions for sustainable value added chains and thus contribute to the solution of the ecological and social challenges of our times," is how CTO Ian Roberts summarizes the function of CUBIC.

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