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Rapid prototyping with the KUKA RMC90 Robot

The Lawton Standard Co. continues efforts to expand capacity and capability within the domestic foundry industry. We better serve our customers using robot technology for quick, economical, and accurate molds. We’re excited to tell you about the KUKA RMC90 robot!

About the robot

The Robot Pattern Mill (RPM) and the associated equipment will support pattern and mold-making activities. The RPM cell is optimized for polystyrene pattern milling and directly milling cavities in sand mold blanks. The RPM is located at QESC, LLC foundry in Houston, Texas, where steel, stainless steel, and gray iron castings are available. 

Safe, economical, and environmentally friendly

The KUKA RMC90 milling cell includes mold handling and dust collection systems. This allows for the safe and environmentally friendly processing of large polystyrene blocks for one-time use patterns. In addition, the polystyrene patterns allow for an economical option when a few parts of each item are required. As an alternative to permanent wood patterns, large polystyrene foam blocks are routed out to create the pattern, and cores are used to form the sand cavities into which metal is poured. The polystyrene tooling is usually destroyed in the molding process, but under certain conditions, a polystyrene pattern could be used several times before reaching the end of its life expectancy.    

Fast, accurate, and precise

Another use of the KUKA robot will be to directly mill cavities in preformed sand blanks up to 6’ x 6’ x 3’. This process allows direct preparation of the molds for the casting process. The 6-axis robot and associated tooling can create mold geometry that would otherwise have to be made by cores or loose pieces. The result is a more dimensionally accurate casting with fewer parting lines and no associated tooling cost.

While milled sand molds are single-use, the concept allows for rapid and precise molds to be made. As a result, milled sand blocks are well suited for emergency replacement and prototype applications. The workflow for milled sand casting closely follows traditional pattern design and casting engineering processes. The result is a virtual pattern that can be used on demand for subsequently milled sand molds or to build standard tooling upon approval of prototype designs.

When to use polystyrene patterns

When should a casting buyer choose a polystyrene pattern or milled sand instead of traditional permanent tooling? There are optimal conditions for each pattern type. The following are some general guidelines:

Pattern TechnologyOptimal Conditions
Traditional Wood ToolingHigh-volume or long-running jobs. Depending on part size, MOQs of 3-10 castings at a time, cyclic work/seasonal replacement parts, and programmatic jobs. Highly accurate. Most extended lead time for pattern build, the high end of the cost spectrum.
Polystyrene ToolingLow volume jobs, order quantities of 1-5pcs, long-running jobs with 1-2 parts per year where pattern storage isn’t optimal, proof of concept, or prototype castings. Short to medium lead time for pattern build, lower cost relative to wood tooling. Compressible can lead to dimensional issues with vigorous sand ramming. Labor intensive to prep and mold. 
Milled Sand MoldsEmergency replacements, short lead time jobs, low-volume runs, prototyping, and design iterations. No associated pattern cost graduated casting pricing based on lead time requirements.  

The decision to place the KUKA robot at the QESC, LLC facility was based on its capability to pour steel and iron materials. Besides adding versatility to QESC, this allows for further refinement and assessment of the technology for use at other sites.

Are you wondering if KUKA RMC90 Robot can help build you a better casting? Contact our sales team today!

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