Supply bottlenecks for critical semi-finished products, starting materials, and raw materials are causing concern among manufacturers across a wide range of industries in Germany right now

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Supply bottlenecks for critical semi-finished products, starting materials, and raw materials are causing concern among manufacturers across a wide range of industries in Germany right now.

Massive blow molds, deep-drawing molds, and foaming molds made of aluminium tube with dimensions up to 2,000 x 3,000 meters and unit weights up to 2.5 tons can be produced in a matter of weeks by the Blöcher Foundry in a few short weeks.

However, solid aluminum ingot material for the machining production of large blow molds, deep drawing dies, or foaming tools can only be obtained at a high cost and with lengthy delivery times at the present time. The Blöcher foundry has stepped in to fill the void and is now supplying high-precision, tempered molds made of cast aluminium coil to a large number of tool manufacturers. Even geometrically complex tools can be produced in record time thanks to the use of innovative additive manufacturing systems and large-scale milling technology.

The Blöcher foundry's core competencies include a CNC Styropor large-scale milling machine, a robot-assisted 3D sand printer, and extensive knowledge in the fields of stainless steel tube processing and aluminum casting, all of which are in high demand among toolmakers today.

Why? Because toolmakers, particularly those employing machining technology for the production of large blow molds or foaming tools, are lacking in the availability of aluminum ingot material that is appropriately dimensioned for their needs. Because of the high cost and difficulty in obtaining it right now. The reasons for this range from US sanctions to disruptions in the transportation and supply chain caused by the pandemic itself. When looking for solutions to the supply shortage, mold makers are increasingly turning to aluminum casting as a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative to metal casting.

“We received the first concrete request for assistance of this nature from other European countries a few weeks ago. The fact that we can provide even complex cavities with complex, near-contour tempering for casting large blow-molded or foamed components in as little as a few weeks must have spread by this point, as word has spread. Demand for our services is increasing significantly at the moment, according to company president Jürgen Blöcher.

Technologies that set the pace
By making numerous investments, the Blöcher foundry has established itself as one of the most modern aluminium tube foundries in Germany and has recently established itself as a fast on-demand supplier. Although a new hall and a large five-axis milling machine for the CNC production of large models (8,000 x 4,000 x 2,000 mm) made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) were installed at the start of 2018/19, the company has received approval for the installation of a fully automated 3D sand printer for the additive production of large casting molds made of modified quartz sand in the year 2020. A 3D CAD design and a 3D scanner are also available at the Blöcher foundry, which allows for the geometric quality assurance of EPS models to be ensured. According to Jürgen Blöcher, "the intelligent interaction of these technologies alone allows us to implement a high degree of process efficiency even in the preliminary foundry stages and to significantly reduce the time required."

Three weeks after receiving the 3D CAD data from the customer, the Blöcher foundry completed and delivered the first of these critically important aluminum casting tools to the customer. This included large cavities with complex geometry and close-contour cast-in tempering, which were used to fabricate complete truck interior linings from pressed-molded components. The customer, a medium-sized company in Eastern Europe, used to exclusively machine these molds for their products. A shift in perspective was necessitated by the current emergency situation as well as the short delivery time for extruded aluminium pipe casting tools.

A learning effect for many toolmakers occurs as a result of the transition to aluminum casting, as we see it in Biedenkopf's practice. Additionally, they are aware of how quickly a casting tool can be made available today, as well as how cost-effective it can be in certain circumstances. Jurgen Blöcher is a German writer and journalist.

The following, according to Jürgen Blöcher, is quite symptomatic for large sections of the industry: In addition, according to Jürgen Blöcher, "the technical advantages provided in practice by stainless steel tempering cast into the cavities are becoming increasingly important again."This is a reference to an issue with machined molds that are often only discovered after they have been in use for a long period of time: the tempering channels, which are machined directly into solid block material using deep-hole drilling, frequently have acute-angled bends and dead spots in which sludge pockets can form, which, in combination with harmful hotspots, make controlled cooling of the mold difficult or impossible. In addition, many cooling water additives attack the aluminum surfaces of the temperature control channels over time, resulting in process-related problems as a result. This is not the case with the stainless steel tube tempering of the aluminum casting molds, which is expertly and harmoniously inserted into the cavities of the aluminum casting molds.