What are the main differences between a Mini-System 3000 and a full System 3000? As I understand it, customers start with a Mini-System 3000 and then upgrade to a full System 3000 for series production?  How large does the production need to be before the foundry needs to change the system?

It may be easier to start with the similarities between the two systems.  Both systems use the same software and the same Sampling technology.  Therefore, the metallurgical capability and accuracy is the same.  This metallurgical commonality also allows customers to seamlessly upgrade from the Mini-System 3000 to the full System 3000.

The Mini-System 3000 was developed to provide a low entry barrier for new foundries to adopt the SinterCast technology.  It is based on a simplified hardware platform and was intended for product development and niche volume production.  The Mini-System 3000 does not have an automatic wirefeeder.  Therefore, the foundry needs to note the corrective additions of magnesium and inoculant wire from the operator display screen and manually enter the additions into a separate manual wirefeeder.  This manual step is inconvenient and not practical for high throughput applications.  The manual wirefeeding also means that there is no automatic data log of the actual wire additions for quality traceability.  Finally, the Mini-System 3000 is built on wheels so it can easily be moved in and out of the hostile foundry environment when it is not needed.  The full System 3000 provides more robust hardware, automatic wirefeeding and full traceability for each ladle.  The full System 3000 is also expandable to incorporate multiple sampling and correction stations, and also to include an additional wirefeeder for automatic base treatment.  This is the basis of the System 3000 Plus.

There is not set rule as to when a foundry would need to upgrade to a full System 3000.  It depends more on the ladle throughput than on the number of Engine Equivalents.  For example, if a foundry processes one 10-tonne ladle per hour to make large industrial power castings, many Engine Equivalents could be produced per year even though the demand on the SinterCast system is low.  In general, if the throughput exceeds a few ladles per hour, or if the end-customer demands automatic traceability, the foundry should opt for a full System 3000.