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Spokane Industries, a family-owned company established in 1952, is a steel foundry, metal products and precision castings facility of more than 240,000 square feet in Spokane, Washington. Spokane Industries serves customers in many industries from aerospace, construction and agriculture, to transportation, aggregate processing and general manufacturing. Proud to be a family-owned company, many employees here are second and third generation who are personally and professionally committed to their customers. Customers are not just coming to Spokane to buy castings, but they are coming to solve problems. With that in mind, experience, expertise, effort and the latest technology, including MAGMASOFT® process optimization software, are used to differentiate Spokane Industries in the marketplace. Spokane strives to create quality products delivered on time and as a result, their customers’ businesses are more successful and profitable.
The Spokane Steel Foundry Division is the foundation of Spokane Industries and is committed to staying on the cutting edge of technology, upgrading its facility to optimize production and enhancing quality control procedures. Spokane Steel Foundry has been serving commercial and industrial customers around the world for more than 50 years, still maintaining some of their original customers; some are still ordering castings from their original patterns.
Experiencing decades of steady growth, Spokane Industries operates an environmentally clean, well-managed and technologically advanced organization dedicated to meeting the needs of its customers. Today, the foundry’s output includes durable wear parts for impact crushers as well as a wide variety of high specification quality castings for the construction, mining, manufacturing, transportation, aluminum and defense industries, striving to meet the demand with each project.
By introducing MAGMASOFT® at the company, Spokane quickly saw how this software’s capabilities of simulating the entire casting process start to finish, was not only an invaluable engineering tool, but also a tool that impacted the entire business. CFO Ken Vorhees reported, “Having MAGMASOFT® has improved our ability to reduce the number of samples and bring quality products to market faster through meeting specifications, tolerance and metallurgy, most often on the first run.” Foundry Division President, Tyrus Tenold, adds, “This is a very powerful tool, giving us the ability to virtually see the entire casting process before we have invested significant time and materials. We now catch problems before they become problems. By the time we are ready to run the part, we have confidence we will have a quality part on the first run, in most cases.” Using the software to run detailed process optimization for the entire casting process enabled Spokane to catch process issues anywhere in the casting process before the first actual run. The software enables the engineers here to catch potential problems with a casting before the part even hits the foundry floor and resolve them faster than any competitor not using this technology.
Having now utilized its MAGMASOFT® license for 2 years, Spokane has seen a significant change in their entire casting process. Rod Grozdanich, Technical Director, states, “We use the software to help customers refine their designs as well as convert many of their weldments into castings. Being able to simulate the entire process helps a lot, in that regard.” The software being one of the foundry’s business tools has helped them support their selling point that they are more cutting edge and in a leading group of local vendors with the latest technology and equipment.
Antonio Melendez, Design Engineer, points out, “By having MAGMASOFT®, we find that our customers expect more of us. We are confident that we can deliver and have always lived up to and exceeded the challenges our customers have given us.” He adds, “It has become common that when we go back to a customer with a design change that effects them, costs them more money, like adding a riser, they want to know why. MAGMASOFT® gives us that credibility and additional technical support for our case.”
David Jolin, Quality Assurance Manager, says, “We do see both current customers and potential customers requiring that we run the casting through a solidification program. There have been times where we have been directly told that in order to be awarded a particular job, we need to show them simulation capability. We are seeing this as a requirement, more often nowadays.”
A big part of justifying the cost of the software was being able to go back and simulate past projects to make designs changes and improve the quality of the castings for future runs. Grozdanich says, “We found many jobs that we set up with our previous simulation software where we really couldn’t see the shrink, and now with MAGMASOFT®, we can see what’s happening and we can fix it. We had chronic instances with issues on jobs in the past that we just could not solve and with MAGMASOFT® we have been able to go in and fix them all.”
Simulating the entire process from design to finished part helps save time and money by creating all the changes and making all the mistakes virtually rather than during actual production. Melendez states, “We are trying to minimize the number of samples before releasing a casting for production. The idea is to do all the tweaking on the computer without spending money to pour multiple samples. This year, we have significantly reduced the number of samples and are more likely to produce a quality part on the first run.”
In addition to the ability to simulate the entire casting process, Spokane has found a solid partner in MAGMASOFT® by taking advantage of the resources extended to them as a user. “The user group meeting every year is a very good tool to keep us informed of new developments and get everyone up to speed on anything we feel we would like to improve upon. Peer-to-peer discussions on how we each utilize the software are invaluable,” Melendez says.
Of the four capabilities that make up Spokane’s license with MAGMASOFT®, namely filling simulation, solidification simulation, heat treatment and stress analysis, Spokane utilizes all these processes to the fullest extent, including macro segregation simulation. Grozdanich points out, “In the last 10 months, on the dozen or so new projects we have put out, all but one or two were quality parts on the first run. Our time to first quality part has therefore been greatly reduced.” Jolin adds, “Being able to simulate the entire casting process has significantly fixed our shrink issue, which was quite a struggle from my end before MAGMASOFT®.” Melendez offers, “One of the main advantages of the software is one can see roadblocks before they actually happen and can compensate for them, specifically with predicting the distortion of the casting and other issues that might arise before we actually build it.”
In addition, the software helps gain understanding and provides clues to what can be happening when issues arise that initially don’t make sense. It’s proving to be a reliable troubleshooting tool by helping to gain clarity where there are issues that arise that are initially not understood. MAGMASOFT® is the missing link that helps lead to that solution, according to Spokane engineers. Antonio Melendez observes, “The software verifies what is going on, gives clarity and enables us to pass on not only an opinion, but provides credibility to support our opinion to our customer. The software is able to set particular processing parameters. For example, when pouring through a sleeve with a filter, there were scrap issues with the filters breaking. After doing some simulations and flows through that method, we could see that, for one ladle, we needed to use an inch and a half diameter nozzle, that way the flow is just right for this particular set up.”
Melendez adds, “Each casting is different, the number of iterations are different. It is more a question of how tough is the part. For example, if you have a part with isolated hot spots and you don’t have clear filling patterns, you are going to struggle. The advantage with MAGMASOFT® is you can see those trouble spots and focus on resolving the issues before creating the first sample. Even if you need to do 200 iterations in the right direction, that’s okay, because we are no longer shooting in the dark.”
At this foundry, it’s clear that their use of process optimization software is yielding benefits across the entire business environment, from design through material use, production through part validation and in differentiating Spokane Industries from its competition in the marketplace. The result is more work being processed more efficiently, with the plant’s capacity utilization being much higher and more profitable, according to Spokane personnel.
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