150 years Handtmann - Ecological Sustainability from one Mould
150 years Handtmann - Ecological Sustainability from one Mould
Handtmann offers its customers a significant value even in an early phase of conceptual design and development of components and systems. These include in-house design engineers who realise the maximum potential for optimising components right from the start. In this interview, Dipl. -Ing. Dr. Katharina Faerber, Innovation Manager, and Dipl. -Ing. Denis Hopp, Head of Department for Materials Technology, talk about successful achievements in the past as well as the challenges that await the company in the future.
Foundry-Planet: The sustainability concept of Handtmann is very impressive. How much primary aluminium does Handtmann actually process?
Katharina Faerber: Secondary alloys are currently the majority, but the use of primary aluminium is continuously increasing! The production of many components that are built into internal combustion engines is dropping. The requirements for the components have also changed, and we can no longer meet these standards with classic secondary alloys. So the demand for primary alloys is increasing, but due to their CO₂ footprint and their weight, which is around 6.8 kgCO2/kgAl on average in the EU, they do not have a very good reputation. Therefore, our target is to balance the disadvantages of primary alloys with the advantages of secondary alloys.
Foundry-Planet: Your collaboration with customers already starts with the design of the alloy to influence the CO₂ footprint. Even foundries with many years of experience don't dare to change their design. How do you handle this? How must one imagine this?
"We can develop the casting simulation and the design at the same time."
Katharina Faerber: At this point Handtmann is very proactive because we can optimise the design of technical components. However, we are still at a very early stage of this. One of the big challenges is the tight timeline of development. In terms of lightweight construction, optimal industrialisation, and material selection, we choose an approach for our customers that we can optimise quickly and run in parallel.
This is because speed is very important to us. Therefore, our goal is to submit customers an offer within a few weeks. In the last customer order, we were able to save between 25 and 30 percent of the weight of a component. Of course, our customer can also optimise the topology by himself, but it has to be castable too! And this is exactly what we do. Because we can develop the casting process, including the simulation, in parallel with the component design.
Foundry-Planet: What makes you different from other foundries?
Katharina Faerber: Casting is our core business. Continuous development and customer support are also among our priorities. Thereby, we entirely rely on the know-how of our employees, who find sustainable solutions even for complex challenges due to their profound technical knowledge and experience.
"Casting is our core business, but continuous development and customer support are also among our priorities."
Foundry-Planet: How is Handtmann handling the new challenges in the industry?
Katharina Faerber: With the Business Development department and its integrated functions of innovation, product and technology management, we look very closely into what will be necessary in the future and derive the measures to meet these challenges.
Denis Hopp: The entire industry is changing. MEGA or GIGA casting are the topics that are being well discussed at the moment. BMW has developed so-called "injector casting" for e-mobility. There are also improved filling processes. Now, we can see that there is a lot of external input flowing into the foundries, not all of it promising or targeted. We have to keep deciding which technologies are interesting for us and in which direction we want to develop. Until recently, we still had the Lost Foam process. Sometimes you have to abandon old technologies. Recently, I had the opportunity to see the production of the 5th generation of BMW electric motor housings. It is very impressive that the "entire process" at BMW - from the production of the cores to the testing of the castings - is interlinked.
Foundry-Planet: It is exciting to see the variety of ongoing processes. We are in a time of transformation. How do you manage this as a company when the number of castings for ICEs is declining? Are there other technologies that could be an alternative?
Denis Hopp: Melt conditioning is one such possible alternative. We are currently evaluating the different technologies for melt pre-treatment very intensively.
"Even if we "only" stay in our core business, we are looking at a promising future, especially because there are good substitutes in the aluminium sector."
Foundry-Planet: Recently we had an interesting conversation about casting washbasins. Do you think it will go in that direction in the future?
Katharina Faerber: The proportion of aluminium in vehicles will increase. Of course, we look in all product groups of the vehicle, even those that were not accessible to us until now. Because entry barriers can be overcome by developing processes.
Denis Hopp: Basically, other markets can also be interesting for us. One example is the field of communication with the housings for 5G technology. Lightweight construction plays an important role for us not only in automotive construction. After all, there are interesting housings to cast for electromobility in the truck sector as well.
Of course, customers who buy a large number of units are the most interesting for us. But even if we "only" stay in our core business, we are looking at a promising future, especially because there are good substitutes for e-mobility in the aluminium sector, compared to iron casting.
Foundry-Planet: This shows that your company is on the right way by entering as Tier ONE in MEGA casting. With the new plant, the first step has already been taken. Does that mean that many more steps will follow?
Katharina Faerber: Handtmann will continuously invest in the further development of megacasting as well as the processes that go beyond it. The mega-casting plant will be set up in Biberach at the beginning of 2024. We welcome you to visit the plant!
Foundry-Planet: Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure for us to come! Last question: The competition between die casting and gravity die casting: How do you deal with that?
Denis Hopp: We handle it calmly because we serve different product groups. In my opinion, there is no internal competition. When necessary, we choose the method that is better for us.
Katharina Faerber: Gravity die casting can be an alternative, but we are primarily die casters.
Foundry-Planet: Thank you for the interview!
The interview was conducted by Thomas Fritsch, CEO, Foundry-Planet and Diana Engelmann, International Editor, also Foundry-Planet.
Information about Handtmann Metallgusswerk GmbH & Co. KG
Headquarter: Biberach an der Riß
4,300 employees worldwide (stand 2022)
1.1 billion euros turnover (stand 2022), 597 million euros in light metal casting
6 business divisions (light metal casting, filling and portioning systems, plant technology, plastics technology, systems technology, e-solutions)