The introduction of the first HMP-10 in 1964 may have done more to shape the American foundry industry than any other single event. Hunter molding machines were just what the industry needed, at precisely the right time. Certainly, there have been more dramatic innovations, but in retrospect they probably had less impact. Here are a few of the reasons why:
The Old Way
The need that William Allan “Al” Hunter saw, 50 years ago, and the reasons he invented the HMP-10, are best explained by considering the manual processes it replaced and the advantages it provided. At that time, foundry working conditions and environments were poor. Hand molding was dirty, dangerous, backbreaking work. And skilled molders were difficult to find and harder to keep.
Moreover, new U.S. government safety and labor regulations made it clear that foundries would be obligated to modify their operations. So, during the “new industrial revolution” that began in American foundries during the 1960s, many foundries extracted profits without reinvesting, for many years. Foundries were suddenly competing with cleaner industries, so more efficient production methods were needed, in order to meet with this increased competition.
Also, customer demand for high-quality, low-priced, quick-turnaround products was increasing. Frequent orders for small quantities demanded both speed and flexibility on the part of foundries. All the while, labor costs were increasing.
The Hunter Way
Al Hunter realized that the ideal molding machine should address these problems (most of which still exist today, particularly in developing nations around the world) by satisfying these crucial design criteria: He felt that the machine should….
- Include a simple, easy-to-understand gravity-fill process, such as a squeezer.
- Produce high-quality molds, consistently, without requiring skilled laborers.
- Be inexpensive to produce, install, operate, and maintain.
- “Forgive” the use of sand having less-than-ideal properties.
- Use adapted squeezer patterns or low-costs matchplates.
- Produce a complete mold on a bottom board, ready to pour.
- Have the capability to use existing mold handling if necessary.
- Have inherent flexibility and good access for setting cores.
- Permit use of facing sand, chills, chaplets, open risers and ram-ups.
The wide acceptance and global success of Hunter is characterized in part by the sequence of events described our “Firsts And Onlys” section. Suffice to say that worldwide installation of more than 1,600 Hunter products, including automatic molding machines and coresetters, both single-level and multi-level turntable mold handling systems and linear mold handling systems, represent a record unmatched by any other manufacturers….and that Hunter is by far the most popular, widely accepted brand in the foundry industry.
Its milestones were achieved by actively pursuing a policy of making continuous improvements to existing products while expanding its product line through the introduction of both new and complementary machines on a consistent basis. Moreover, the addition of both manufacturing and sales-and-service offices in key regions around the world have kept Hunter at the forefront of both emerging and increasing market needs.
Enter Computer Controls
One of the key factors to Hunter’s industry impact is the company’s continuous development of next-generation computer controls and other new technologies to foundry processes, by 1) refining and improving existing processes through practical application of new technologies, 2) developing proprietary new processes and technologies, and/or 3) both.
Hunter’s N.C. and C.N.C. machining centers exemplify the type of innovation that can be achieved by refining and existing process. Computer control of milling machines result in operating speed, accuracy, and overall performance improvements. These machines have fundamentally been reborn, thanks to computer-driven enhancements that extend beyond their original capabilities.
Similarly, Hunter developed next-generation machinery to enhance proven, reliable molding processes by placing crucial functions under computer control. Using touch-screen entry for specific jobs and each machine’s on-board capabilities, these controls produce faster and more reliable functions:
- Special pre-fill programs riddle sand on the pattern and into pockets.
- Vibration of the pattern during the fill, squeeze, and draw sequence
- Automatic parting spray application to cope-and-drag side of pattern
- Drag flash heaters and infrared pattern temperature sensor
- Separate draw speeds control acceleration for cope and drag
- Proportional valves control motion and hydraulic cylinder ramp speeds
- Variable, programmed hydraulic pressure throughout the machine cycle
- Hydraulic oil temperature preheating and oil cooling
- Diagnostics with comprehensive graphic displays
- Preventive maintenance procedures and checklists
- Detailed parts lists and adjustment procedures
- Production and downtime monitoring
- Telephone modem for remote monitoring or phone assistance
- Local network capability
This high-tech marriage has increased Hunter machinery quality and production rates up to 50% since their inception. So much so that, today, more foundries use Hunter than any other matchplate molding and mold handling machinery in the world.