R&D activity is a fundamental element for any company that is aiming towards the future and is eager to guarantee high quality standards. The expression itself says it all: research and development. A study of new solutions on one hand, and development of innovative ideas to make them concrete, sustainable and truly effective on the other. Our R&D area operates in this spirit, prompting the company to plan various activities, all of which are characterised by the will to start from the component application in order to obtain the best process and material for the required application.

Synergy with the Universities

In collaboration with Professor Giovanni Meneghetti, professor of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua, we have started static and fatigue characterization of lamellar and ductile cast iron, used to make hydraulic components. Hydraulics is the core business of Fondmatic, which not only brings strong know-how  to this sector,  but also continual focus on technological innovation and a will to continue to tackle new challenges and raise quality levels.

The project takes place in two stages. The first part is static characterization, including microstructural analysis and tensile strength testing, which will be followed by a second part consisting of dynamic testing of the two material types with fatigue testing. The results of the cast iron test will be correlated with the results of FEM analysis carried out on a casting already in production at Fonderie di Montorso. To further validate the data collected, one of our major partners will test the performance of the casting concerned with hydraulic testing. This activity will provide data that is useful for us and our customers to ensure that the component design and material choice processes are solid and reliable.

We are also initiating another interesting university collaboration. The aim is to technologically characterise the materials used for sealing rings made by Fonderia Scaranello. The tribological behaviour of the various alloys will be assessed with varying chemical compositions and heat treatments through pin-on-disc wear testing. The University’s technical specialisation means it can model the solidification process thermodynamically and make cast iron with a customised chemical composition. This can provide a new response to customer demand for lower raw material use and maximised wear resistance.

From training to prototyping

In parallel with research involving universities, we are developing a training course for our resources and customers in order to create solid corporate know-how, strategically train personnel, and provide an additional service to our partners. Specifically, the topics covered range from basic metallurgy to foundry practice and hydraulics.

Other R&D activities are related to developing prototypes and characterising all of the cast irons manufactured in Fondmatic and FDM. The first goal is to minimise the time needed for sampling in order to ensure a lean service for the first implementation of innovative components. The second point is to increase our process standardisation and improve the mechanical properties of our castings so that customers can choose the material from actual data.

It is a known fact: the competitive advantage of companies is based on prerequisites such as technological innovation and digitalisation. However, on reflection, there is an even more fundamental principle that can guide a company to excellence: orientation towards continuous improvement.

The Japanese define this search for perfection composed of concrete, progressive actions with the term “Kaizen”, a combination of kai (change) and zen (better). This very word leads to the core of lean thinking, a management philosophy born in the Japanese automotive sector in the 50’s. It was then exported to the rest of the world and progressively refined as the industry transformed.

C2MAC group has also chosen to embrace this path of self-development for an increasingly effective market presence.

Lean and foundry: what potential does this combination offer?

“Lean means simplifying processes, reducing waste and optimising steps, all essential elements in any kind of company”, explains the human resources director Davide Magnani. “And looking at the specific context of the foundry, the lean approach offers considerable added value. Today’s challenges in terms of both quality and sustainability require continuous development of technical, strategic and organisational skills, which means foundries must abandon the traditional model in which companies are simply anchored to their experience and know-how. This makes Kaizen an essential tool”.

What does this search for continuous improvement mean in the field?

Of course, mapping, analysis and improvement proposals primarily involve the company’s fundamental process: the one that starts from a customer request and ends with customer satisfaction. In short, the flow of steps from order to dispatch, not forgetting research and development, design and industrialisation of new products.

Could you define “lean thinking” as added value in response to customer needs?

Of course, especially when aiming for a full service. In addition to castings, Fonderie di Montorso also supports its customers in optimising products and processes, and provides them with finished castings, including mechanical machining. We call this “full value chain”.

Lean and Industry 4.0: is there a connection?

 Yes. Lean production is intended to improve processes, digitalisation makes a great deal of data and information available. The two aspects integrate and reinforce each other.

Finally, perhaps the most important question. How important are human resources in this management model?

Companies are made up of people. It is essential to involve them in spreading a company culture oriented towards continuous improvement. The primary goal is to grow the organisation by involving resources at all levels and making them aware of their responsibilities. This encourages everyone to contribute and feel appreciated, knowing that they are all experts in the activities they perform daily, that their suggestions should be listened to and that they should be given practical training to enhance their skills. In a vision such as this, people are both a mean and a purpose of change.

Cast iron: a fascinating material, ancient but still current and fundamental to modern life. Without the cast iron castings that leave foundries, many of the finished products that are part of our daily life, and which are also the result of various industrial activities, would not be made. A journey to discover this metal can therefore offer many points for reflection, no matter whether you stop and think about its properties, types and applications, or consider the new challenges that the market constantly proposes in terms of performance and sustainability.

The strong points of cast iron

Pig iron (ghisa di prima fusione in Italian) is a carbon-iron alloy that is used to make steel and is a raw material for iron foundries. Cast iron (ghisa di seconda fusione in Italian), which we produce in our foundries, is corrected with other elements and then used to make casts.

Cast iron and steel are both carbon-iron alloys; the difference, however, lies in the percentage of carbon they contain (cast iron contains more than 2% carbon, steel contains much less).

This is therefore cast iron’s first strong point. Even though they have the same mechanical characteristics, cast iron – in applications where it can be used – is about 10% lighter than steel thanks to its higher percentage of carbon. This, naturally, is a very important characteristic: just think about the relationship between material weight and energy efficiency. In the automotive sector, for example, where performance and consumption are essential characteristics, the lightness of cast iron is an unquestionable additional value.

Other strong points of cast iron are its low cost and its excellent castability. The latter derives from its chemical composition, which makes it particularly suitable for coating geometrically complex forms. The possibility that cast iron has of giving life to an infinite number of forms is enhanced at Fonderie di Montorso by the company’s ability to assemble very complex cores and offer a co-design service that follows clients through foundry process project optimisation.

Cast iron, however, is also sustainable: the melting process means that metal products at the end of their life can be used again and be returned to their initial condition. This makes it possible to insert cast iron into the recycled materials category and to consider foundries as a perfect example of circular economy.

Different types of cast iron

Cast iron can differ according to its chemical composition.

Grey cast iron is characterised by thin layers of graphite. Ductile cast iron (also called spheroidal graphite cast iron), on the other hand, takes its name from the form of the graphite, which in this case is not in thin layers but spheroidal. EN-GJS-400-18-LT spheroidal graphite cast iron is interesting because the selection of materials, the melting process and the cleanliness of the metal make it ideal for use in the automotive and hydraulics sectors.

Thanks to the recent acquisition of Fonderia Scaranello and the introduction of shell moulding, Fonderie di Montorso today also works with high alloy cast iron, Cr-Hard cast iron and compacted graphite iron, materials used to produce sealing rings for the automotive and construction sectors.

Cast iron: history and innovation

Tradition and innovation are a fundamental duo when talking about cast iron.

The first attempts to heat ferrous materials using charcoal in rudimentary forges date back to 3000 years ago, even if the development of cast iron is tied above all to the progressive refinement of man’s ability in the Middle Ages to build furnaces. To make cast iron, specific temperatures had to be reached….

In addition to the development of furnaces, the transformation in the 17th century of fossil carbon into coke, which has a higher heat capacity, was very important.

Even if cast iron is rooted in the distant past, few materials were able to develop as much over time. Constant improvements in its microstructural characteristics and production technologies ensure that it continues offering possibilities of development. Updated foundry processes and more automated melting plants that give real time data, which translate into process specifications when formalised, give products with increasingly higher operating performances.

Via Valchiampo, 62
36050 - Montorso (VI)

P.IVA 03822240960
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