In a one on one conversation with the Managing Director of Magna Electro Castings Ltd and Magna Digitech, Mr. K. Samaraj, and Project Engineer, Mr. Ajeya Narayanaswamy and General Manager – Design – Mr. Neville Gnanaraj from their core team, AM Chronicle gets to the core of how Magna Digitech is aiming to modernise the entire Indian Foundry & Casting Industry.
Aditya Chandavarkar: Before we dive into the specifics, we would be keen to know how the journey has been at Magna Digitech for you and what have been the primary drivers for venturing into engineering design services, utilising Sand Binder Jetting for creating molds and cores, Prototype Casting and now investing in Material Extrusion Metal 3D Printing with Desktop Metal?
K. Samaraj: Magna Electro Castings Ltd founded in 1995 was a pioneer in the use of CAD/CAM and casting solidification simulation. Over the last 25 years we have built a solid background and experience in utilising CAD/CAM systems and simulation programs for the manufacture of castings.
In the year 2005 Magna Digitech stepped into providing Engineering, Design Services and Troubleshooting in the Casting Domain for other foundries as well. To date we have more than 100 foundries globally, using our engineering services. We have the experience in developing and simulating over 4500 different castings for the application in various industries. We were already providing virtual products and solutions to our foundry customers for over 15 years.
The next logical step was to provide physical products to the same customers. Sand Binder Jetting Technology was the natural extension for us to provide physical products to our customers, be it Sand Molds, Cores or Prototype castings. We were able to leverage our Market presence, Experience and Design Expertise to provide prototype casting services. This prototyping service started in the year 2018 and in the matter of 2 years we have developed more than 200 prototypes for over 50 customers in India and across the Globe.
Having established ourselves in the prototyping casting business and in order to meet our customer requirements / expectations, we entered into the Material Extrusion 3D printing process with the Desktop Metal Studio+ System in the year 2020. The Desktop Metal Studio+ system gives us the capacity to deliver smaller metal prototypes with a wider material base like Stainless steel, Tool steel and Copper.
Over the last 25 years we have built a solid background and experience in utilising CAD/CAM systems and simulation programs for the manufacture of castings – K.Samaraj, MD, Magna Digitech and Magna Electro Castings Ltd
Aditya Chandavarkar: Additive Manufacturing has brought down the development time considerably along with providing a lot of design flexibility in many manufacturing areas. Your company works with a wide range of end use industries and has been an early adopter of Additive Manufacturing. According to you how big a role does Additive Manufacturing play in the case of companies like yours servicing the foundry industry and what are the challenges in implementation.
K. Samaraj: Magna Digitech has established itself as the ‘Go To Company’ in the casting technology space due to its reputation for quality and commitment backed by its highly knowledgeable and extensive workforce, proven business processes and cutting edge technology. This has enabled us to provide both OEMs and the Foundry Industry, robust and innovative design solutions, rapid casting development, concurrent design validation, shrink time to market and reduced costs.
A good example of leveraging our capabilities would be in the recent conversion to the BS-VI standards. The leading automotive manufacturers used our rapid prototyping capabilities to develop and validate products like cylinder heads, exhaust gas recirculation pipes and turbochargers to meet the BS-VI norms.
For the industry we provide the following capability:
- Prototype Express (Fast Prototyping)
- Peak Performance (Concurrent Engineering)
- Complexity Simplified (Highly Complex Castings)
- Savings Integrated (Integrated Castings)
- Single Piece (MRO Products)
The challenges we are facing in implementation can be classified according to two customer categories:
- Knowledgeable/Experienced Customers
- Fresh Customers
The challenges faced are different. In the Knowledgeable Customer segment the challenges are pricing, time frames and design finalization. The challenges in the Fresh customers are in the understanding of the technology, leveraging the benefits, pricing and validation.
Aditya Chandavarkar: Can you share few examples of components or moulds designed using Additive Manufacturing at Magna Digitech and how they have been better over using Conventional manufacturing? What are the materials you can work with and what value added services do you provide?
Neville.: We have worked with components as small as 1Kg to larger components around 260 Kg and Additive Manufacturing with Sand has been a boon when it comes to Delivery Time and Design Constraints.
Like stated earlier by our Managing Director, Additive Manufacturing has been a Prototype Express delivering Prototype parts within a span of days. This rapid prototyping technology allows our customers to use these products for Alpha & Beta Testing during the initial runs of development phase prior to the development of tooling.
Below are some of the key areas where we have extensively used AM for prototype development.
For Automobile Industries, during BS4 to BS6 transition phase, we undertook various Cylinder Head Projects.
Conventionally, Cylinder heads include manufacturing of various cores with the following constraints
- Long Lead Times
- Multiple Cores to be manufactured which involves core box costs
- Design of high complexity which requires high level of expertise
- Assembly of Mold and cores, pouring are another area where difficulties are faced.
With Sand 3D Printing, we were able to print the mold and cores within days and deliver the Prototype casting within weeks.
One another area which was focused during the BS6 transition were the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) pipes for Automotive and Truck companies which required Rapid Prototyping Solution to prove the design and certify the Engines.
When the safety standards were improved for Tractors, Anti-roll bar Axle Housings were one of the projects we closely worked on with Multiple Tractor Manufacturers. We can proudly say that Additive manufacturing has helped us serve all the upgradation in Automobile, Tractors, Commercial Vehicles, Off Highway etc.
For Unlocking the Peak Performance, we contributed to concurrent engineering projects of various Turbo Housings manufacturers globally – supporting for their R&D by providing multiple configurations for their validation in a span of 2 to 3 weeks.
In this example, design complexity and tight tolerances were achieved by integrating the mold and core as a single piece.
Similarly, we have also worked with OEMs for simplifying 2 to 3 assembly components into a single component. For instance, Turbo housing and Exhaust Manifold were integrated into a single component enabling better performance and savings through Improved Reliability and reduction in Machining, Assembly.
For Single piece and Low volume requirement this AM process is very helpful to get the product without any tooling in a shorter time with lower costs, meeting the design criteria.
With our large box size of 1500mm x 1000mm x 750mm we are capable of producing cores of multiple quantity and variety at a single stretch making it viable for production.
Materials we work with in the Casting Domain –
- In Ferrous – Iron, Ductile Iron, SiMo, GJV, Steel,
- In Non-ferrous – Aluminum
To provide our customer with Full Suite Solutions, our Machining Simulation Software, Modular Fixturing and Machining Centers including 5 Axis, Blue Ray Scanning and CMM allows us to take on many challenges successfully and complete machining in a ‘Done in One’ approach.
Our Dedicated Prototype Machining Shop has at its core, the Hartford 5 Axis with Heidenhain TNC 640 Controller and working surface 650 dia. with modular work holding fixtures.
For Larger components we have access to our Moving Column VMC – Hartford Mirage HEP-2150AG with table size 2000mm x 1400mm with 4th axis capability. Turning Requirements are met with our Vertical and Horizontal Turning Centers.
Our Dimensional Validation equipment dedicated to Prototyping include CMM and Blue Ray Scanner. CMM Explorer Performance with TESA STAR -M Probe and Table Size of 800mm x 1000mm x 600mm, Romer Absolute Arm with Laser Scanner and Measuring Range of 2000mm.
We have worked with components as small as 1Kg to larger components around 260 Kg and Additive Manufacturing with Sand has been a boon when it comes to Delivery Time and Design Constraints. – Mr Neville Gnanaraj, General Manager – Design, Magna Digitech
Aditya Chandavarkar: What was your thought process in selecting Material Extrusion Metal 3D Printing as compared to Binder Jetting or the more popular Powder Bed Fusion technologies?
Given the head start we gained due to a few years of experience in Sand 3D Printing, we decided to go with Metal Extrusion Printing so that this could serve as a bridge between Sand 3D Printing and Powder Bed Fusion. We were also looking to print smaller products (less than 1kg) to suit the needs of various customers. The availability to print pure copper using the material extrusion process also gave us an advantage to choose this process. We preferred the material extrusion process also because it was less capital intensive, a simplified process and provided cost advantage to the end users.
Metal 3D printing is a near net shape process and so we have an in house 5-axis machining centre along with modular work holding devices to hold small parts and an Isotropic Super Finishing machine to ensure that the customers get a high-quality finished product that can be used directly.
We decided to go with Metal Extrusion Printing so that this could serve as a bridge between Sand 3D Printing and Powder Bed Fusion. We were also looking to print smaller products (less than 1kg) to suit the needs of various customers – Mr. Ajeya Narayanaswamy, Project Engineer, Magna Digitech
Aditya Chandavarkar: Would you like to share any specific expectations with the Additive Manufacturing community which will make it easier for you to use the technology and implement. How does the roadmap for Magna Digitech look like from here?
Neville & Ajeya: Additive Manufacturing has established itself for Prototyping. In the near future AM will migrate to Alpha and Beta Testing volumes and accelerate the Time to Market. The main challenge faced is the understanding of AM Capabilities and the perception of the customer. This will not only help us manufacture parts quicker with ease but it will also enable customers to explore newer design limits.
As stated earlier, for new customers it is key for them to understand the 3D printing process so that they can get a better understanding in terms of designing their product. Design for Additive Manufacturing must be considered as each AM process has its own limitations. The time frame required to produce a prototype includes design finalization of the process as well as the product, and for both, fresh as well as knowledgeable customers understanding the costs involved in producing AM parts is paramount. The costs involve design, development, validation and material costs.
From here we will be expanding into adjacencies of our experience and expertise like ceramic sand 3D printing using the binder jetting technology and using the same technology for direct metal printing for pre-production/small volumes.
All Photos courtesy Magna Digitech