Casting technology roadmap: digital, network and intelligent casting

China has been the world’s largest casting production for 16 consecutive years. In 2015, the total output of all kinds of castings reached 45.6 million tons. Although China’s foundry industry has made great progress in recent years, it is large but not strong, which has seriously affected the improvement of independent innovation ability. In some fields, casting quality has become the bottleneck of the whole equipment manufacturing. At present, China is facing the historical task of moving forward from a big foundry country to a powerful foundry country.

The outline of national medium and long term science and technology development plan (2006-2020) points out that manufacturing industry is the main pillar of national economy. China is a big manufacturing country in the world, but it is not a strong manufacturing country; the manufacturing technology foundation is weak, and the innovation ability is not strong; the products are mainly low-end; the resources and energy consumption in the manufacturing process are large, and the pollution is serious. It is suggested that the integration technology of digital design and manufacturing should be focused on, and the product digital and intelligent design and manufacturing platform of several industries should be established. Develop digital and intelligent innovative design methods and technologies, computer-aided engineering analysis and process design technologies, and integration technologies of design, manufacturing and management for the whole product life cycle and under the network environment.

It can be seen that digitalization, networking and intellectualization play an important role in the field of advanced manufacturing technology, and they are also the development frontier of foundry discipline, meeting the major national strategic needs of “made in China 2025” [3]. The main line of “made in China 2025” is the integration of industrialization and informatization, with intelligent manufacturing as the main direction to promote the digitalization, networking and intellectualization of manufacturing industry. Accelerate the deep integration of new generation information technology and manufacturing technology, focus on the development of intelligent products and intelligent equipment, cultivate new production methods and industrial models, and comprehensively improve the level of intelligent products, production and services of enterprises. “Digitalization, networking and intellectualization” can fundamentally improve the product function and performance, so as to improve the market competitiveness of the product; comprehensively improve the design, manufacturing and management level of the enterprise, greatly improve the manufacturing efficiency, reduce the product cost and resource consumption, and at the same time, calmly face the rapidly changing market, quickly respond to the changes of the market.

Digitalization, networking and intelligence are also important means to improve the level of casting forming technology, which can realize the process optimization of casting forming and manufacturing process, predict the casting structure, performance and service life, ensure the quality of parts, significantly shorten the product development cycle, reduce production costs, and save a lot of resources and energy. Numerical simulation, Internet plus, AI, intelligent equipment, digital factory, Internet of things and online detection are the core technologies of casting forming informatization. Therefore, the foundry industry has an urgent need for digital, networked and intelligent technology. The digital, networked and intelligent casting process is an important guarantee for the further development of China’s foundry industry and the world’s foundry power.

The developed countries in Europe and America all give priority to the digitalization, networking and intellectualization of the casting process. The relevant research is comprehensive and in-depth, the technology development environment is good, the capital investment is large, and the software market share is high. Closely following the steps of the world, China has also carried out a lot of work in the digitization, networking and intelligence of the casting process. Under the joint action of the government’s strengthening guidance, increasing financial support and the active participation of enterprises, the level of casting forming technology has been greatly improved. But generally speaking, there is still a big gap with the international level.

Although digitalization, networking and intelligence have been applied in the foundry industry in China, there is still a big gap compared with foreign countries. There are few funds, technologies and personnel for independent research and development of software in China. The ability of independent research and development of commercial casting simulation software is still weak, the market share of software is not high, and the world influence is even less. The application of casting process numerical simulation software and rapid casting technology in domestic foundry enterprises is not popular enough, the application level is relatively low, the application of robot is very few, the application of Internet of things + technology is just beginning, and there is a big gap with foreign advanced foundry enterprises. In the large-scale foundry enterprises, the numerical simulation software of casting process is generally purchased, and the simulation technology is used in the development of new products to a certain extent. The simulation results play a certain role in the formulation and optimization of new product development process. However, the understanding of simulation is still relatively shallow, the level of simulation application personnel is still relatively low, the performance parameter database of simulation matching is still very lacking, and the situation of the self-contained database of software is not completely consistent with that of the enterprise. Therefore, there are many misunderstandings about simulation. For example, some people think that the simulation results are quite different from the actual results, and they deny the simulation completely without asking for any questions. Some people blindly believe in the simulation results, and directly adopt the guidance of production without in-depth analysis and judgment. All of these affect the popularity and depth of simulation technology in the foundry industry.

Intelligent manufacturing generally refers to intelligent manufacturing technology and intelligent manufacturing system, which is the product of the combination of artificial intelligence technology and manufacturing technology. In China’s 12th Five Year Plan for the development of Intelligent Manufacturing Science and technology, intelligent manufacturing is defined as “information manufacturing facing the whole life cycle of products and realizing ubiquitous perception. It is based on advanced technologies such as modern sensing technology, network technology, automation technology and anthropomorphic intelligent technology, and through intelligent perception, human-computer interaction, decision-making and execution technology, Realize the intelligent design process, manufacturing process and manufacturing equipment. Finally, the intelligent manufacturing system should change from the human-machine harmonious system which is the core of human-machine decision-making to the autonomous operation which is the main body of machine. Of course, intelligent manufacturing has other different definitions. However, no matter from which aspect, there is still a big gap between China’s foundry industry and intellectualization. With the development of technology, many enterprises have used robots or manipulators. The equipment of molding, core making, sand dropping and other processes in foundry enterprises has realized semi-automatic and automatic production. But so far, there are still many casting enterprises with backward equipment, following the traditional manual production mode, and there is a considerable gap compared with the goal of building an intelligent casting factory. One of the preconditions for building a digital foundry is that the equipment equipped by the enterprise must have the characteristics of automation and intelligence.

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