Kurtz Ersa Magazine


Integrating customers into production

The SMART FOUNDRY is the first Industrie 4.0 foundry in the world. Since its official opening in March 2015, it has been operated as an automated hand-operated punch casting machine. Automation on the one hand, manual shaping and casting on the other hand – how do you get a "beat" into the production sequence with a maximum piece weight of eight tons? And what is the customer's benefit? Answers with the example …

Automatic transport logistics with unmanned floor conveyors at Kurtz Ersa
Automatic transport logistics with unmanned floor conveyors at Kurtz Ersa

A customer orders a cast part from the SMART FOUNDRY, material EN-GJS-400-15, cast iron with spheroidal graphite. The order is forwarded directly to production control, who plan the process with SAP and input it into the CRM system. The following "stations" have to be taken into account: model building, core making, shaping, finishing shop, melting operations, cooling hall, unpacking hall, cleaning room/paint shop, quality assurance and dispatch. The stations are connected via SAP and via a specific logistics system – the heart of the Industrie 4.0 foundry.


All the processes are centrally monitored at the control station
All the processes are centrally monitored at the control station

SAP system provides the beat

Production control starts planning the production sequence: with the material and cast piece weight to be produced. It known which moulding boxes can be planned and how much moulding sand is needed. When all the data are in the system, it forwards the "beat" to the stations in production and to the logistics system. In this way each station knows what has to be done when. For example, at the set time, the moulding shop starts producing the mould for the later cast part. There, the model and the moulding boxes are already available – as is the information about the amount of moulding sand needed for production. This is where the logistics system, four unmanned industrial trucks 3 x 6 m in size with a useful load of 80 t, appears for the first time. The vehicles are steered by a system combination of SAP and a further software, which coordinate the production sequence. Unmanned means: no remote control by human hands, no manual intervention. Navigation is done via magnets in the floor of the hall, the propulsion of the vehicles is purely electric.


Automated logistics process: Industry 4.0 live at the SMART FOUNDRY
Automated logistics process: Industry 4.0 live at the SMART FOUNDRY
Unmanned transport system at work transporting the moulds to the next process step
Unmanned transport system at work transporting the moulds to the next step

After the production of the mould has been acknowledged, one of the vehicles moves to the pre-defined collection point, where the finished form has been provided on a mould frame. The frame and the mould are lifted by the vehicle and taken to the finishing shop – which has already been informed that there will be a "delivery". Information about the casting technique to be used is also already available to the station.


Core of the Industrie 4.0 foundry

SMART FOUNDRY: The 4.0 Industry Foundry
SMART FOUNDRY: The 4.0 Industry Foundry

SAP now knows that the mould is being finished in the finishing shop, informs melting operation about the fact that it will be taken to the foundry by a vehicle at time X and states the alloy which is needed. In the example, melting operation starts the production of an EN-GJS-400-15 and provides a sufficient quantity of cast. when the finished mould reaches the foundry, the cast is ready and waiting, the founding can start.


After this has also been acknowledged, the system knows that the mould with the metal, which is still fusible, in the interior has to remain in this position for a certain time before it can be collected again. When the time comes, the mould frame and the mould are taken to the cooling hall – in principle, a large car park with chaotic storage. The transport vehicle puts the mould frame onto a free "parking space", next task. The system knows that the cast part needs a certain time to cool off and to harden. When this has been done, the system again sends a vehicle in order to take the cast part to the unpacking hall. With the help of cranes and a large "vibratory plate", it is released from its mould. Now it has to be freed from the superfluous casting, examined and surface treated, before it is sent to dispatch and finally to the customer.


In these last sequences in the SMART FOUNDRY as well, the system always exactly knows where the part is. Coordination of the individual production steps with the help of the system, feedback to the system and the practical control of the sequences via an unmanned transport system form the core in the manufacture of cast parts. Customers have been completely integrated into the process and can receive information about the status of production of their components at any time.


  • Max. part dimensions:
    3,000 x 5,000 mm
  • Part weights:

150 kg bis 8,000 kg

  • Materials:
    EN-GJL-150 to -300
      EN-GJS-400 to -800
      Solid solution strengthened GJS (high Si alloy)
      DIN EN 1564 compliant ADI material
  • Capacity:
    20,000 tonnes per year


SMART FOUNDRY: The 4.0 Industry Foundry (PDF)


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