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2013. Plans called for the project to be completed in two stages. The initial $15 million phase included building the facility and installing the molding, melting and pouring lines. The second phase includes an expansion of the existing warehouse and installation of a thermal sand reclamation system. (Sand reclamation currently is mechanical.) These additions, with a budget of $6 million, will be completed as the nobake line approaches full production. Blackhawk selected GEMCO,

Eindhoven, Netherlands, to handle the engineering and installation of the Luino, Italy-based IMF nobake molding line with 55 x 47-in. flasks. Gil also brought in a team of outside consultants to help employee training. “The two new technolo-

gies we are starting here [are] nobake molding and heavy section metallurgy,” Gil said. “Since we are adding these new things, we didn’t have the expertise in-house. Some of our people spent years in nobake foundries, but in general, it is a new process for us.” Considering Caterpillar’s long

history as a successful nobake metalcaster of similar components, Blackhawk brought in Jim Walkup and Bill Sullins, two retired Caterpillar engineers, to focus on mold and core production. With a combined 80 years of experience in the nobake process, the two emphasized process controls as a way to ensure the operation’s long- term success. “We wanted to make sure they

were going to go for quality,” Sul- lins said. “For process controls, we insisted they had tensile testers, sand conditioning equipment, an air flow meter and an infrared heat gun.” To further ease the transition into the nobake process, Black- hawk developed a “pilot plant” that began operation in Septem- ber 2013. Located alongside the green sand facility, the small plant featured a compaction table, mixer, bridge crane, pouring platform and mold manipulator, rollover and

Blackhawk expects the new line to reach full production of 12,500 metric tons within three years.

conveyors. With Blackhawk invest- ing four months and $400,000, this operation gave engineers and hourly employees the ability to get hands-on experience in the nobake process without involving the full production line. “Tey were able to hit the ground

running,” Walkup said. “Tey got going very quickly. It allowed them the opportunity to avoid making the same mistake twice.” The pilot plant continues to

operate, with many parts starting on a smaller scale before going into full production next door. “They have a pretty sophis-

ticated program when it comes to design, simulations and being able to bring jobs online,” Sullins said. “Working through the pilot program to production mode is not that difficult once everything is lined up to make castings. You’ve got the same type of mixture, the same chemicals, the same sand, so when you do your [part approvals], it’s very simple to run it over in the production area.” Finally, when looking to secure

coatings, resins and binders, Sul- lins and Walkup suggested a single supplier, considering the multiple variables in the nobake process.

April 2014 MODERN CASTING | 23

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