An article written by Frank Coenen, published on Made-In-Europe.com
The multi-billion euro maintenance market in the Netherlands presents an opportunity for foundries. By linking casting to digital solutions and 3D printing, the foundries can achieve major cost savings for their customers. "We want to become the Spotify of the metal sector with Castlab," says Koen Melis.
Koen Melis started from a traditional foundry and started a new company working on Spare-Parts as a Service.
Koen Melis joined the family business, which dates back to 1954, two years ago with the intention of taking over from his father, co-founder of Melis Gieterijen. The Tilburg foundry does a lot of casting in bronze and aluminum and collaborates with other other foundries when it comes to high-pressure casting, for example. Castlab is the new addition to the family, which is deliberately kept separate from the foundry but is closely linked to it. "The market wants a digital supply chain, digital warehousing and sustainable production. On demand production. At Castlab, we deliver products in accordance with product specifications within ten working days," says Koen Melis.
To make the above happen, he pairs the conventional technology of the casting industry with what is already technically possible in terms of digitization. He compares the foundries with the traditional turntable. Koen Melis: "A foundry easily has tens of thousands of models stored, which need to be maintained. We see ourselves, as CastLab, as the Spotify of the metal industry." CastLab offers a secure internet platform. The digitized drawings, coupled with the knowledge of the manufacturing process, form the playlist. Customers choose the product they need, order and ten working days later it's ready." CastLab offers first-time-right casting thanks to digital technology.
"With Castlab we want to offer Spare-Parts-as-a-Service. Producing local for local, in The Netherlands, and not have parts on a ship for three months with ditto emissions."
Castlab's customers are mainly maintenance departments of companies with expensive investment assets, such as Dutch Railways. Self-developed algorithms assess whether a product must be cast, 3D printed or machined. In some situations, a combination is possible, such as 3D printing the sand mold and then casting the product. "It doesn't always have to be casting, other techniques are also possible," Melis mentioned at RapidPro. By sharing knowledge with customers, he wants to keep refining the algorithms. The goal he is working on with Castlab is to digitize the production of replacement parts for investment goods, which often have a lifespan of decades. This eliminates the need to store expensive moulds, significantly reduces delivery times and makes production more sustainable, because only those parts that are actually needed are produced.
Castlab has already produced replacement parts in this way for the Dutch Railways, among others, even for parts for which there were no CAD models available. The TCO was reduced by thousands of euros. Together with the Dutch Railways, Strukton and a number of other parties, Castlab recently started an innovation ecosystem. This includes the development of plastic for rapid 3D printing of molds. "With Castlab we want to start offering Spareparts as a Service. We want to become the Spotify of metal, produce local for local in Holland and not leave parts on the boat for three months with ditto emissions." After all, sustainability is definitely becoming a theme in the industry.