FRECH, 70 Years of Technology and Innovation

The German manufacturer of die casting machines celebrates its 70th anniversary. A leader in the hot chamber machine segment, Frech announced important forthcoming news for cold chamber machines. Fabio Sabia, manager of Frech Italia, provided details

by Mario Conserva

The Frech Group, a great name on the international market of die casting machines, celebrates its seventieth anniversary. The company was founded in 1949 by the toolmaker Oskar Frech in Schorndorf near Stuttgart, for the manufacture of die casting and plastic injection tools. In 1965 the founder’s son, Wolfgang Frech, a graduate mechanical engineer, overtook responsibility for the company; he was the driving force for the expansion of the product range to include hot and cold chamber die casting machines, as well as for the international orientation of the company, and remains the figurehead of the company. Today the company Oskar Frech GmbH + Co. KG, with Dr. Ing. Ioannis Ioannidis CEO, is renowned for the manufacture of the highest quality die casting machines and tooling available on the market. Quality is their claim and their promise. The group’s range of expertise includes a large portfolio of innovative die casting machines, highly modern furnace and dosing systems as well as thermoregulating units and die cleaning devices , automation and vacuum technology, a global service network and the world-renowned Frech knowledge transfer. The Frech group has its headquarter in Schorndorf near Stuttgart, Southern Germany, additionally a Sales and Service Center in the North of Germany in Velbert, 20 other international subsidiaries and sales offices and 10 international agencies. With overall revenues of about 100 million euro, the Group employs in all more than 800 employees, with many field service engineers devoted to take care of the customers.
In order to understand better Frech’s characteristics and global outlook, with a focus on the European and Italian markets, we met Fabio Sabia, the manager of Frech Italia, in the offices of the branch in Caronno Pertusella, near Varese. “Our Group celebrates its 70th anniversary and this is a great milestone in an industry as dynamic as die casting, especially in the past few years. But even the Italian branch, Frech Italia Srl, has something to celebrate, since this year marks our first thirty years of activity. Frech has been deeply rooted in Italy for a long time with an all-round presence for the sale and installation of new machines, maintenance service, assistance and spare parts, with an annual turnover of about 3 million euro”.

How can we define in brief your position in the market of machines and systems for die casting?
“I think our position of historical leadership in the range of hot chamber machines for Zamak alloys and magnesium is universally acknowledged. In this segment the Frech brand means being leading edge in technology, efficiency and ecology, our machines are the best way for pressure die casters to face global competition and accept the challenges of the future. The main characteristics of the machines, with locking forces between 240 kN and 5,800 kN, are to optimise the process, to improve the quality and to reduce the production costs. An energy-efficient drive concept ensures a reliable and long term operation of the machines in the tough foundry environment. Highest safety standards together with ample space for every automation concept are the foundation of the design. Top-of-the-range technology results from a unique symbiosis of expert technical knowledge and perfection in its implementation, a constant exchange of experience and close co-operation with the customer brings the desired results to secure its quality by gearing its products to everyday industrial requirements and by permanent improvement. Groundbreaking innovations like the world’s first ever magnesium hot chamber die casting machine in 1966 and the world’s first, and still only, all-electric die casting machine in 1999, clearly show Frech’s commitment in looking ahead to make our machines increasingly efficient and competitive”.

May we mention some significant examples of recent innovation regarding your hot chamber machines and production technologies?
“As one of the most important results in the global Innovative Die Technology I would like to mention Frech’s patented FGS (Frech Gating System) that can considerably reduce energy costs for the remelting of returns. The FGS is essentially a temperature-controlled melt distribution system which has been built into the casting die. In addition, it is linked to intelligent production process and sequence controls in the die casting machine. With the FGS you simultaneously benefit from several advantages: it improves the economy of the operations and also quality, by reducing air inclusions and ensuring precisely controlled melt distribution. Thanks to the FGS, the molten metal does not experience any significant cooling or turbulence on its passage into the die cavity. The potential savings offered by the FGS, that can be used on standard Frech machine models of the F-series, are really impressive: reduction of foundry returns by at least 40%, reduction of energy costs due to remelting, reduction of cycle time, reduction of process-related costs, improved quality”.

A final comment on the market of hot chamber machines?
“First of all I would like to underline that this is a very important segment, although it is less well-known than the cold chamber sector, which has been in the limelight during the past few years, especially because of the extraordinary developments of aluminium alloy die castings for structural uses in the automotive industry. Hot chamber machines are typically less powerful than cold chambers, Italy is one of the leading countries in this type of production, our group is present as an undisputed leader with over 200 installed machines, I think it would be difficult for a foundry which began with our machines to abandon the Frech way. From an end user standpoint, Zamak alloy die castings have rather diversified uses, one third go to the automotive industry, roughly less than 30% end up in building applications, the rest goes to furnishings, the electronics and electrotechnical segments and various other uses in mechanics and consumer goods. The European market went rather well during the past two years, we still see an excellent outlook in this segment especially on the more evolved markets, such as the Italian and US markets it is clear that where there is a demand for quality, there is room for Frech.
I would like to add one last comment on the Chinese market, after years of rapid development in China’s foundry and die-casting industry, companies are accelerating their transformation and upgrading. The industry is transforming its development model from extensive to intensive quality, and this for us here at Frech is an important attention signal”.

What shall we say about cold chamber machines?
“Frech provides cold-chamber die casting machines with locking forces from 3,800 kN to 46,000 kN for the production of a wide range of castings, from small OEM parts to engine blocks or gearbox housings, as well as chassis and body structural components made basically of aluminium alloys. Our cold-chamber die casting technology has been pointing the way in pressure-tight and low porosity castings production. We have worked together closely with our customers to tailor the modular K-series to the increasing requirements of the markets; available with locking forces from 3,800 kN to 19,000 kN, the K machines have the following main characteristics: higher productivity thanks to shorter cycle times; optimised quality of castings at maximum shot speeds; high degree of retrofitting flexibility thanks to modular design; differently sized shot ends and closing units can be combined to meet specific process requirements; possibility of using larger dies thanks to larger clamping plate sizes, available as an option; service-friendly thanks to good accessibility and remote capabilities; long service life due to rugged machine design. With the GDK-Series (2,200 to 4,600 tons of locking force) we have set the standard for leading-edge technology and gone out of our way to meet our customers’ requirements. Our strength in this segment does not only consist in the construction of machines for upper bracket die casting, in the creation of solutions tailored to clients’ requests applied to single machines or to the completely automated production island which with the turnkey formula may even include the manufacture of the dies.
As we see it, building high-pressure die casting machines is not our only competence. We also excel at planning specific application solutions, which can range from individual die casting machines to complete die casting cells to turnkey equipment for entire foundries including dies. Thanks to numerous projects during the past decades we have gained a high level of expertise which makes us the partner of choice when it comes to the engineering of sophisticated production solutions or for application-specific advice on how to optimise your die casting processes. I would finally like to mention that the patented Vacural process has placed Frech at the top of the world of light-weight processing engineering”.

What about your presence on the market of cold chamber machines for aluminium alloy die casting?
“In this segment our presence is not as dominant as in the hot chamber machine market. Globally I would say that out of every ten Frech machines installed, 60% are hot chamber machines. In Italy, a market characterized by a strong and fierce competition for aluminium die casting machines, we currently have a limited presence as regards cold chambers but we are outlining a new commercial penetration strategy, which looks at the average-sized, high performance and high production technology content machine bracket, particularly suitable for the new alloys and for the production of die castings with thin and weldable walls. We trust that the market will appreciate our proposals. We may conclude that, thanks to the numerous projects realized in 70 years of activity in many countries and in many market conditions, Frech developed a solid and significant know-how in the all-round die casting sector which is unique in the world; by means of this experience we can offer certainty, quality and reliability on the complete range of products and services, starting from design right up to the creation of complex plants and solutions, optimizing the entire production process”.