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Casting Module 2, Engine Plant, Suzuka Factory, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Mechanism of the Spincast method

Mechanism of the Spincast method

The developers tried all kinds of materials—wood chips, polystyrene foam, even beer—before finding the solution

 Then one of the developers had an idea: "Why not create a texture with the mold wash?"
 "A mold wash is a liquid material used to coat the inside of the mold before casting," Nishiwaki explained. "It solidifies and sticks to the casting when you pull it out. So if you create small depressions in the surface of the mold wash, the metal pours into these depressions and forms a raised texture on the outside of the cylinder sleeve."
 The development team tested various ideas for creating small depressions in the mold wash. Someone thought that maybe mixing wood chips in the mold wash would cause the wood to burn away and create spaces for the liquid metal to fill. But they soon realized this was a dangerous idea when flames started shooting out of the back of the mold. Next they tried using polystyrene foam, but that didn't work either.

 Then they tried mixing effervescent liquids in the mold wash, thinking the air bubbles would create cavities. They even tried beer. After many tests they the found that surfactants worked the best, so they went out and bought large quantities of laundry detergent, which contains surfactant, and continued testing.

 And so, by mixing a certain effervescent liquid in the mold wash, the team finally succeeded in developing a centrifugal casting method that left small bumps on the exterior surface of the cylinder. The technology they devised was centrifugal casting in principle but worked in practice only because of the many unique solutions introduced by the Honda development team. They named their new technology the Spincast method.

Hirohisa Harada, Engineer, Engine Management Department, Suzuka Factory

Hirohisa Harada, Engineer, Engine Management Department, Suzuka Factory

The Spincast method also enabled a switch from coke-powered to electric furnaces.

 As Nishiwaki expected, the Spincast method was adopted for use in the new Fit subcompact scheduled for release in 2001, with a Spincast production line installed at Suzuka Factory for that purpose.
  The Spincast method also made it possible to switch from cupola furnaces, which used coke, a major cause of poor working conditions, to electric melting furnaces.
 "In sand molding, the gates and channels that the molten metal passes through become part of the cast. So when the casting is removed, these extra parts are thrown away, becoming waste," explained Furukawa.  "However, with the Spincast method we were able to eliminate this waste, dramatically improving our material throughput from 65% to over 90%. In other words, because the amount of material we had to melt per unit of product had declined significantly, we could now do the same job with electric furnaces."
 Eliminating the use of coke and significantly increasing automation of Suzuka Factory casting operations also put an end to almost all human exposure to dust and high temperatures. And because the Spincast method didn't use sand, the long-sought goal to eliminate sand waste was reached.

Cylinder sleeve with raised bumps on its outer surface

Cylinder sleeve with raised bumps on its outer surface

Takashi Hashimoto, Engineer, Casting Module 2, Suzuka Factory

Takashi Hashimoto, Engineer, Casting Module 2, Suzuka Factory

Suzuka Factory's Spincast method is now a standard technology used by Honda worldwide.

 With the new Fit breaking sales records, in 2002 Suzuka Factory installed a second Spincast line. A group of associates from the development team also departed for the U.S., where they provided technical guidance for launching a Spincast line at a casting plant for local production.
 Spincast lines were subsequently installed at plants in Thailand in 2005 and China in 2007. Today, the Spincast method is used to manufacture all of the cylinder sleeves used in Honda automobiles sold worldwide.
 Hirohisa Harada, an engineer in the Engine Management Department who worked with Nishiwaki to transfer the technology to Honda plants around the globe, spoke about his motivations.
  "Through our own efforts and dedication to improving our work environment, we completely eliminated the need for sand and, in the process, created a pretty extraordinary technology. When we considered that spreading the technology to other Honda plants around the world would lead to a global improvement in working conditions and better conservation of the global environmental, we naturally came to the conclusion that we had to do it ourselves."
  Spincast is not something that works simply by turning on equipment. While the process is automated, its success depends on a wide range of acquired knowledge and skills, such as knowing how to control temperature, when to pull the casting from the metal mold, and what proportion of ingredients to mix in the mold wash. The technology can't be transferred to other locations without instruction from people who have the expertise. That's why production associates at Suzuka Factory had to take a leading role in spreading this technology globally.
 In closing, engineer Takashi Hashimoto, who is currently in charge of operating the Spincast production line at Suzuka Factory, expressed his ambitions for the future.
  "A technology born at Suzuka Factory is now the standard across all of Honda. That's something we younger associates, too, can be proud of. Yet if we don't improve this technology, it could become outdated and be replaced by another technology. Our job as the younger generation using the Spincast method given to us by predecessors is to continue to refine it and assist in its continued evolution."

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