By Victoria Thomas
My research project is part-funded by an investment casting company called Uni-Pol, a global leader in the production of nickel alloy turbocharger wheels. Uni-Pol has manufacturing plants based in China, India, Mexico and a smaller foundry in the UK, Polycast Ltd. After the first meeting with my industrial supervisor Dr. Steve Leyland, Technical Director of the company, we organised a visit for three days of training at their site in India so that I could fully understand my research problem.
The India based foundry is located in Pune, an engineering and industrial hub for automotive companies in India. Automotive OEMs including Mercedes Benz, Landrover, Jaguar, Renault, Volkswagen and Fiat setting up facilities in Pune has led to the city being coined as the “Motor City” of India.
Visiting the foundry, I was thoroughly impressed by the high standards of cleanliness, organisation, and attention given to Health and Safety on shop floors throughout the site. With a UK based management team, and leading customers Honeywell and BorgWarner in the European turbocharger market, the factory must adhere to strict VDA standards. As an exercise to familiarise myself with the investment casting process, I carried out a Control Plan audit for each stage of the manufacturing process to understand work instructions and all the variables involved.
The staff in India were friendly and accommodating, ensuring that any information or experience required to better understand my research was provided. My research will involve simulation of the induction melting and mould filling process using computational software, optimisation of mould designs, the introduction of Industry 4.0 techniques for better process control, and implementation of 7Epsilon, an extension of Six Sigma, for improved manufacturing outputs. Being given a tour of the entire facility from receiving nickel alloy billets, to the creation of wax patterns, wax assembly, shelling, drying, casting, visual inspection and NDT techniques, resulting in the finished product really helped to develop my understanding of investment casting for the specific application at Uni-Pol, in a way that papers and books could not provide.
It was an invaluable experience and I am optimistic about my next four years as a Research Engineer at Swansea University, carrying out research in partnership with my sponsor company. I am excited to embark on other travel opportunities with Uni-Pol and with my new company polo shirt, I am glad to be a part of the team.