The role of casting in the products of the future

At times things got lively during the well-attended event organized by Sirris and Agoria on 30 March. Representatives of foundries and their customers presented their views of today and tomorrow and provided each other with feedback and tips. Foundries have a future in Belgium, provided that the necessary effort is made...

The event ‘Casting provides the route to tomorrow’s products' was entirely devoted to the future of casting in our country and to opportunities for both founders and customers. The attendance was high - 115 attendees, who appeared to be a good mix of founders and customers from both sides of the language border. The attendees’ response to the speakers was lively, and throughout the event as well as afterwards, intensive networking went on. 

Innovation and collaboration

Herman Derache, Managing Director of Sirris, in his introduction highlighted casting as a technology with a future, thanks to the growing demand for castings in various sectors, among other things. To guarantee a future for foundries in Belgium and elsewhere, efforts must be applied to technological innovation in processes and products, tapping into new markets and business development. After additional information was provided about the initiatives and services of Sirris and Agoria, two talks took place.

The message given by Pierre-Marie Cabanne, Manager of Sorelmetal Technical Service, in his presentation ‘Les nouvelles fontes GS et l’énergie éolienne', was that the wind industry remains an important growth market for nodular cast iron, mainly in China and India. New nodular cast iron types have potential, but are usable only in specific cases. Ongoing commitment to material innovation is necessary for further optimization of the products of the future.

As a buyer of castings, Tim Berckmoes from Anglo Belgian Corporation in his lecture 'The next generation of diesel engines, a job for local innovators' pointed out the importance of co-engineering, co-design and investing in innovation. Collaboration with local partners, including suppliers as well as research centres, such as Sirris and our universities, was discussed as a way of making it possible to bring complex, very high-quality castings into reality. ABC can boast its own experience in this regard: thanks to a great deal of effort, innovation and collaboration, the company managed to make the local production of diesel engines a success story. 

After the lectures, all followed by discussion sessions, came the panel discussion with founders and customers, moderated by Marc Lambotte, CEO of Agoria. The panel consisted of Frank Seutens (Heraeus Electro-Nite), Klaas Jan de Vries (Hüttenes Albertus), Herman Van Loon (Dovre), Virginie Nys (ADB Airfield Solutions), Francis Pinckaers (Ensival-Moret Belgium) and Emmanuel Delloye (Fonderies et Méchanique de la Sambre). Available topics were trends and developments in casting, alloys and manufacturing technology, the future of the foundry, the importance of collaboration and the problems and challenges with which foundries in Belgium today are confronted. 

Foundry of the future, product of the future

Several points came to the forefront in the lectures and in the panel discussion:

Belgian foundries should continue to be important in the future, but effort will be required for this to happen: for example, new markets must be opened up and investments made in innovation and in people.

Collaborations and partners are important in R&D as well as over the entire supply chain. Quality, flexibility, tight delivery times and good service are points one can use to distinguish oneself.

The tendency toward decreasing foundry knowledge and waning popularity of the sector must be reversed and efforts made toward developing the products of the future. Foundries must market themselves, their activities and products better and make them more attractive and 'sexy.'

One must strive to be and remain world players, not losing sight of growth countries such as China and India.

Finally the inauguration of the new pilot foundry and a tour followed. The installation of the new furnaces, which came about thanks to smooth cooperation between Sirris and partners, could count on the approval of the attendees.