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ANALYSIS & TESTING March/April 2020—Vol.33 No.2


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Volume 33 No. 2 – March/April 2020


Editorial Editor: Nadine Bloxsome Tel: +44 (0) 1737 855115








Production Editor: Annie Baker

NEWS March/April 2020—Vol.33 No.2



Sales Director: Ken Clark Tel: +44 (0)1737 855117

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Managing Director: Tony Crinion CEO: Steve Diprose

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Supporters of Aluminium International Today


Rethinking aluminium cell liners

supply chain


Russia to conduct large-scale

modernisation of domestic furnaces


Digitalisation in industrial furnace



Modernised recycling of alu chips


Take the leap: Avoid the heat




Essential temperature measurement in

aluminium extrusion

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INDUSTRY 4.0 11 The future of manufacturing 17 The benefit of digitising the aluminium

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March/April 2020

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GFG Alliance unveils ALVANCE

Going viral The term ‘viral’ has taken a very different turn over the last couple of months and according to reports, the Coronavirus outbreak could not have come at a worse time for the aluminium market. Reuters recently reported that global demand fell last year for the first time since the global financial crisis and quarantine measures in place for workers in China have resulted in a shortterm ‘demand shock’ across the world market. While some might welcome a drop in products from China, with the region accounting for 56% of global output last year, the potential for disruption is unfolding. Changing the subject, but sticking with disruptions, the first Cyber Security in Aluminium Workshop was held in February in Coventry, UK. The idea was to gather manufacturers and processors from across the supply chain to assess the risk and look at what measures should be in place to protect operations, people and plants in the event of a data breach. Cyber security was discussed from business, legal and academic perspectives, to give participants an overview of all threats and opportunities for improvement. There was also an interactive crisis simulation, which saw participants work in teams to respond to an escalating cyber security crisis. The main takeaway was that we need to change the way we manage risk...which seems fitting to end on this month!

Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of GFG Alliance, has announced the creation of a new global low carbon aluminium champion. The new aluminium group, to be known as ALVANCE Aluminium Group (ALVANCE), will be headquartered in Paris and will bring together all of GFG Alliance’s assets across the aluminium supply chain – from raw materials through to finished components – to drive synergies that will help the business meet ever increasing market challenges and take full advantage of opportunities to expand. ALVANCE will be the first GFG Alliance global vertical to be headquartered outside of its international headquarters in London and will initially group together the GFG Alliance’s existing high-value upstream aluminium production

activities in the UK and France together with its French engineering businesses. ALVANCE has an experienced multinational management team and is in the process of appointing a Board of Directors to oversee the highest standards of corporate governance. ALVANCE’s portfolio includes Europe’s largest aluminium smelter ALVANCE Aluminium Dunkerque, the UK’s only remaining aluminium smelter at Fort William, Scotland, ALVANCE Wheels (Chateauroux), France’s only manufacturer of aluminium wheels in Chateauroux and engine cast part producers ALVANCE Aluminium Technologies Poitou and ALVANCE Cast Products Poitou. ALVANCE has also conditionally agreed to acquire Belgium’s Duffel aluminium rolling facilities and is participating in an approval process with

the European Commission’s competition team. Arnaud de Weert, ALVANCE Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted to be taking this new ALVANCE business forward for GFG Alliance. ALVANCE sits at a pivotal moment in its international development and with a rich history in aluminium, I can think of no better place than France to base this new enterprise. GFG Alliance aims to be at the vanguard of sustainable production of materials that will help the automotive and other sectors deliver lighter, greener, more efficient products – ALVANCE will champion this programme with GREENALUMINIUM. To do this ALVANCE will drive synergies, capitalise fully on our existing skills and build new expertise in order to serve the different parts and evolving needs of these markets.”

Century Aluminum launches low carbon products Century Aluminum Company has announced the launch of its Natur-Al™ low-carbon aluminium products. Natur-Al™ aluminium products are produced at the ASI-certified Norðurál Grundartangi aluminium plant in Iceland, with energy from 100 percent renewable sources, allowing the company to achieve CO2 levels below one-fourth of the industry average, or four tonnes CO2 per tonne of aluminium, one of the lowest CO2 footprints in the world.

All CO2 emissions are verified by independent third parties, facilitating life-cycle assessments for customers. Natur-Al™ ZERO is a fully offset, pure, carbon-neutral aluminium product line. The company says it encourages and assists its customers to go all the way to carbon-neutrality through contributions to reforestation and wetland-reclamation projects. Ágúst Hafberg, Century Aluminum´s Chief Commercial Officer said: “We are very proud to in-

troduce the Natur-Al™ line of low carbon aluminium. Century Aluminum is committed to work with its customers towards more sustainable and lower carbon products and respond to increased customer demand for responsible aluminium production. Natur-Al™ enables customers to significantly reduce or fully offset the carbon footprint of their products.”

Vedanta digital twin technology GE and Vedanta Limited have signed an agreement to implement GE’s Digital Smelter solutions at its largest smelter at Jharsuguda in Odisha, to significantly increase its operational efficiency and productivity. This will be the first such deployment of digital twin technology at any aluminium smelter in India and is part of Vedanta’s long-term digital transformation initiatives. The digital twin technology and

advanced data analytics being deployed are expected to substantially reduce specific power consumption at the smelter. Typically, a one-percent reduction in specific power consumption based on digital smelter solutions can save about USD 4-5 million annually

in the smelter potlines alone, for every 1 million ton per annum (MTPA) of aluminium production. In addition, this digital solution is expected to improve raw material utilisation, increase smelter pot life, operational efficiency, safety and reduce wastage. Photo: L to R - Mahesh Palashikar President, CEO, GE South Asia and Ajay Kapur CEO, Aluminium Power business Vedanta during announcement of partnership for Digital Smelter

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Hydro to sell Kurri Kurri site Hydro has agreed to sell the site of its Kurri Kurri smelter in Australia to a joint venture of local property and residential land developers Stevens Group and McCloy Group. Hydro decided to permanently close Kurri Kurri in 2014 and has since been working in consultation with the local community and other stakeholders to find redevelopment options for the site. Since 2014, Hydro has been working on demolition and re-

mediation of Kurri Kurri in accordance with environmental and biodiversity requirements, which will enable rezoning and allow for new development with socioeconomic benefits for the local community. Hydro decided to idle production at Kurri Kurri in 2012 due to the continued weak macroeconomic environment, low metal prices, uncertain market outlook and a strong Australian dollar rel-

ative to the U.S. dollar, followed by the 2014 decision to permanently close the smelter. Hydro and the Australian company Flow Systems Pty. Ltd. reached an agreement on a sale of the Kurri Kurri primary production site in July 2018. However, the agreement was terminated as the Flow Systems group of companies were unexpectedly put under voluntary administration towards the end of 2018.

RUSAL: Modernisation investment According to reports, RUSAL is to invest RUB 5.2 bn in modernising Sayanogorsk and Khakas Smelters in 2020. In the casthouse of Khakas Aluminium Smelter, a new system of cleaning the crude aluminium in 10 tonne ladles will be installed.

Its application will increase the purity of the metal and ensure the growth of its potential for product sales. To intensify the reliability of the power supply at the reduction plant, two transformers will be replaced at one of the silicon rectifier substations.

As part of the modernisation of Sayanogorsk Smelter, RUSAL will be carrying out a large-scale modernisation of anode baking furnaces at the electrode production of the smelter, which will cost a total of RUB 12 bn, with RUB 3.6 bn being spent this year.

STAS to commercialise Rio Tinto aluminium filtration technology STAS and Rio Tinto have announced an agreement to commercialise an advanced compact filtration technology (ACF) for aluminium cast houses. The ACF technology developed by Rio Tinto will now be manufactured and sold under license by equipment manufacturer STAS worldwide.

This innovative filtration technology was developed in the early 2000s at Rio Tinto’s Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC). The ACF technology is an optimal filtration solution that can eliminate more than 90% of inclusions in liquid aluminium. It is used to manufacture products intended for critical applications,

such as high value added aluminium sheets and plates used to produce cans. Rio Tinto partnered with STAS to design and manufacture the first prototypes of the ACF technology for its Grande-Baie and Laterrière smelters, where it has been used successfully for more than a decade.

TMS awards Fives for anode tracking The TMS Light Metal expert community recognised the value of the Fives’ Anode Tracking solution by awarding it the Prize for best publication. Presented at the TMS 2019 conference, this publication was rewarded in the Electrode Technology category and the award was presented to the Technical Director of Fives Solios at the 2020 edition Aluminium International Today

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in San Diego on 24 February. The paper, entitled “Carbon Block Tracking Package Based on Vision Technology” presented an innovative Anode Tracking System based on Vision that uses the digital signature of the anode (as a fingerprint), which has been successfully proof-of-concept validated at Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque smelter in France. The solution

is integrated into Amelios Suite, the comprehensive anode production optimisation system based on the intensive aggregation and exploitation of digital data. This award underlines Fives’ commitment to integrating industrial 4.0 technologies into the heart of its solutions, in order to offer ever more value to its customers.

APPOINTMENTS Aluminum Association The Aluminum Association has announced that Tom Dobbins will join as the group’s new president & CEO, effective March 16. Tom Dobbins “I’m thrilled to be taking on this new role during an incredibly important time for the U.S. aluminium industry,” said Dobbins. “The Aluminum Association has a proud legacy as one of the leading voices for the materials manufacturing sector in Washington and beyond. I look forward to taking on a leadership role as the team continues to execute on the recently developed Aluminum Agenda – from policy advocacy to supporting market growth to industry-leading research and data on sustainability and other issues.” Aludium: New CEO Aludium has announced that Lionel Chapis has been named the company’s new Chief Executive Officer effective March 1, 2020. Chapis, who most recently served as Managing Director, Automotive Solutions, at Constellium, brings over two decades of experience in the aluminium industry to this new role. AMETEK LAND and AMETEK SURFACE VISION: New Global Industry Manager, Metals Peter Unwin has been appointed to the joint role of Global Industry Manager – Metals for both businesses, with responsibility for developing their presence and performance in global metals manufacturing markets. Peter’s extensive metals industry knowledge will be critical in driving change for all customer-facing processes and functions, while improving customer support around the world.

Peter Unwin

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HAI-Group take over of Romanian extrusion plant After the signing in September, the acquisition by Hammerer Aluminium Industries of the Hydro extrusion plant in Romania becomes effective as of February, 2020. With this step HAI is systematically expanding its capacity and taking another step forward in the strategic development of all three company divisions: Construction,

industry and transport. The new HAI site in Chisineu-Cris delivers with two extrusion presses on 140,000m² footage and 10,000m² building a production capacity of 22,000 tons p.a. HAI including the new site will employ approx. 1400 employees in its three business divisions casting, extrusion and processing

at its headquarters in Ranshofen/ Austria, in Santana/Romania, and at four production sites in Germany. HAI extrusion has now 10 extrusion presses with an annual capacity of 100,000 tons per year. Together with an annual casting capacity of 200,000 tons, HAI is one of the leading companies in the European aluminium industry.

Crown Holdings: New can plant Crown Holdings, Inc. will build a new beverage can manufacturing facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The state-of-the-art plant will supply beverage cans to the Company’s customers serving a variety of categories including sparkling water, energy drinks, carbonated soft drinks, teas, nutritional beverages, hard seltzers, craft beers and cocktails. “Beverage can growth in North America is being driven by the growing proportion of new products being introduced in cans ver-

sus other packaging, as both customers and consumers recognise the inherent portability, durability

and sustainability of the beverage can,” said Timothy J. Donahue, President and Chief Executive Officer. “This new facility demonstrates Crown’s commitment to support its customers in meeting this growing demand. On behalf of Crown, I would like to thank our many partners for their enthusiasm and responsiveness in this initiative.” Located in the Kentucky Transpark, the 327,000 square foot facility is expected to begin operations in the second quarter of 2021 and create 126 new jobs.

Anti-dumping investigation The European Commission has announced the opening of an anti-dumping investigation into aluminium extrusions originating from China. The investigation follows a complaint by European Aluminium whose member companies are negatively impacted by the dumping of Chinese exports of aluminium extrusions. European Aluminium supports the Commission’s

action and urges the swift adoption of appropriate anti-dumping measures. “Increasing amounts of under-priced Chinese exports are dumped on the EU market, with harmful consequences for European aluminium producers. In the past year, production lines and entire plants closed, with significant job losses as a result. We ask the EU to be proactive rather than wait

until it is too late – we need anti-dumping duties to be introduced urgently,” says Gerd Götz, Director General of European Aluminium. The EU remains one of the last major markets that is unprotected against dumped Chinese exports of aluminium extrusions. Aluminium extrusions from China are currently subject to anti-dumping duties in the US, Canada, Australia and Vietnam.

ASI certifies Hydro extrusions With 15 more production sites having achieved certification, Hydro is nearing the goal of having all its aluminium extrusion operations in Europe certified to the ASI Performance Standard. “Many people have put a lot of work into this. I am very pleased. But we need to keep moving March/April 2020

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forward with ASI certification because we are seeing requirements that we didn’t see before,” says executive vice president Egil Hogna, who leads Hydro’s Extruded Solutions business area. “More customers want sustainable materials from certified suppliers.”

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May 13 - 14 8th International Conference on Electrodes and Support Services for Primary Aluminium Smelters* The International Conference, ICESS, focuses on Electrodes and support services for primary aluminium smelters. Emphasis will be placed on automation, environmental issues, increasing productivity and prospects in the aluminium industry. Held in Egilsstaðir, Iceland

19 - 21 ET’ 20* The ET Seminar is global in scope and appeal, attracting up to 1,500 industry professionals from more than 50 countries. Held in Florida, USA 25 - 27

Future Aluminium Forum* If you want to know exactly what’s happening in the world of digitalisation then look no further than the Future Aluminium Forum. The third edition will take place in the hub of innovation Québec City, Canada

June 2-4 Harbor’s Aluminum Outlook* Harbor is the world’s largest and most strategic aluminum gathering. Held in Chicago

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Rethinking aluminium cell liners with RefraSeal™ An industry first from CIR Technologies is disrupting and greening the aluminium smelting process by improving the integrity of conventional electrolysis cell liners with the addition of an impervious new refractory sealant called RefraSeal. Ghislain Gonthier* explains

The burden of brick liners The consequences from the degradation of refractory liners as well as the integrity and durability of insulation in aluminium smelter cells, are well known. Brick liners present an ongoing concern about costs and environmental mitigation and impact. The chemicals such as fluoride and cyanide, the high pH alkali environment and metals that readily react with water, all require careful waste management. Furthermore, interactions between these substances can produce poisonous and even explosive gasses. Transportation, storage and disposal of this toxic waste is therefore not only extremely dangerous but also time and cost intensive. In addition, operation of cells in challenging and fluctuating temperature conditions can have a negative effect on thermal stability. These demanding conditions can reduce the cell lifecycle and increase the potlining change frequencies. Combined, the safety and financial burdens of second cut spent potlining (2nd cut SPL) are significant. For example, it is estimated that liner upkeep costs from handling and disposing of this 2nd cut SPL waste can reach $25 USD or more per tonne of aluminium. All these challenges remain a significant and an ongoing concern faced by aluminium smelters – globally as well as locally – for company investors, local citizens, special interest groups and other community stakeholders who all expect safety and heightened environmental stewardship at the forefront of current and future operations.

* Ghislain Gonthier, P.Eng., PMP, General Manager, CIR Technologies. Aluminium International Today

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The sealant solution: RefraSeal What if the possibility to meet and exceed these expectations already existed? What if a new technology could create a barrier that prevented the possibility of the vapour

and liquid cryolitic bath penetrating beyond the cathode? With such a solution, the possibility would also exist to eliminate the refractory liner in electrolysis cells, thereby increasing the lifespan of

RefraSeal is installed in mere hours, by laying down with a trowel, one layer of sealant at four to six millimetres (4 to 6mm) in thickness.

REFRASEAL™: HOW IT WORKS RefraSeal creates a tight seal on refractories, minimising penetration of cryolitic, vapour, or liquid from the electrolysis cell. In doing so, the deterioration of the cell is significantly reduced. It allows for a thicker cathode block, helps extend the life of the electrolysis cell and reduces the environmental impact of spent potlining. KEY BENEFITS: - Creates a barrier between refractories and cathode thereby increasing safety, durability and lifespan of cells - ‘Greens’ and improves aluminum production processes through superior environmental performance - Reduces output of toxic waste from discarded liners - Installs quickly and easily within existing plant designs and at very low cost

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the cathodes while also greening and improving aluminium production through the increased durability of cathodes and reduced output of toxic waste. RefraSeal testing at the smelter The CIR Technologies research team, lead by Claude Allaire PhD, has in fact developed a substrate with highly valuable application properties, called RefraSeal™. This sealant creates a highly durable membrane that acts as a barrier to the liquid and vapor bath, which in turn protects the insulation efficiently from gas penetration, while also mitigating its own degradation as well as that of the refractory bricks. The sealant can thicken, protect and extend the life of cell cathodes leading to reduced output of toxic waste at aluminium smelters from discarded, contaminated brick liners. With this substrate sealant, the insulation and bricks can no longer be reached by sodium or by the molten bath, which means that every material component underneath the RefraSeal layer, will be protected against all toxic compounds contained in the cell. Accordingly, the lifecycle of the pot shell can be extended significantly, further reducing the risks, time and costs associated to the 2nd cut SPL posttreatment.

Instead, the opportunity will exist to use a much thicker cathode, further extending the lifespan of the cells. This future vision is already operating successfully as part of CIR’s ongoing rigorous testing onsite and in the lab. In this case, insulation boards were installed directly underneath the cathode blocks and covered with RefraSeal. Fig 2 shows a design close to what is in operation. Several thermocouples continue to monitor the temperatures in the assembly and show normal temperature distribution. In fact, throughout the two-year test phase, this test cell’s design consistently demonstrates high stability in all aspects of its operation. Fig 3 displays the temperature readings under the insulation layers. Rapidly installed, RefraSeal sealant can be put in place in as little as two hours. The cost of this material is also significantly lower than any other material used in the construction of a cell. And low installation

The future of smelting is here After more than two years of testing to confirm its performance both in the lab Fig 1. and in smelter applications, Unprotected RefraSeal is ready for and protected market. In Fig 1, two insulation calcium silicate insulation boards boards are compared, with and without the use of Left: unprotected dipped 90 secondes. RefraSeal. The sample at Right: with Refraseal dipped 2 hours in cryolite at 1000°C left was not protected by RefraSeal. It was dipped for 90 seconds in a cryolitic bath at 1000°C. The sample on the right was completely covered by RefraSeal and dipped in the same conditions – for two hours. This test demonstrates RefraSeal’s protective capacity against harsh chemicals such as Na3AlF6 and its sodium fluoride vapours and is one of the many applications CIR discusses with clients to underscore the tremendous reliability of this technology. While numerous applications are possible, the future may be near for electrolysis cell design improvement, even Fig 2. Cell design: Gray: the insulation boards, removal of the brick liners, which would Green: Refraseal, Black: cathode block not be required when using RefraSeal.

cost is only one of the key benefits which also includes increased safety, durability, sustainability as well as time and cost savings through the extended life of the cell. Based on current data and testing CIR estimates that RefraSeal’s designed impermeability and long-lasting sealant can achieve ‘payback’ in as little as three to six months of operations. Bringing an industry disruptor to market The business objectives and success of aluminium smelter operations have long focused on such vital principles as health and safety, productivity and profitability, social responsibility and continuous improvement. Clean technologies such as RefraSeal therefore, offer a substantial breakthrough in helping to improve smelter operations and reduce the tonnes of toxic waste generated each week with older processes. Best of all, this gamechanger is cost-effective and easy to implement today. The future of a greener, cleaner aluminium industry is here and this includes the integrated potential for cost savings and greater efficiencies. Today, as all responsible industries unite to improve performance and social responsibility of operations, RefraSeal offers visionaries in the aluminium industry a safe, superior and straightforward solution to lead the way. And best of all, these early benefits of RefraSeal, may well just be the tip of the iceberg. �

Temperature under insulation boards 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 0



300 400 500 Days in operation



Fig 3. Temperature stability under insulation boards Stable readings under insulation layer with no refractory bricks or liner between cathode and insulation

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How’s your cell? How are you dealing with cell refractory degradation?

nd ° Toxic waste from 2 cut spent potlining (SPL) ° Rapid degradation of insulation ° Limited cell life duration ° Thermal instability

Did you know RefraSeal™ can solve cell challenges and more? CIR Technologies and RefraSeal can quickly and cost-effectively transform your cell’s life and profitability. Come change the world with us and learn how RefraSeal technology can benefit your business today +1.450.419.8080

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The future of manufacturing By Myra Pinkham* The aluminium industry continues to make significant strides throughout its supply chain to incorporate emerging digital technologies – including those under the Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) umbrellas – to increase its competitiveness and to improve its operational excellence. The collection, storage and utilisation of data has been key to its ability to make such inroads and to build upon them going forward. “We are in the middle of a transformation of the aluminium industry with companies increasingly interested in investing in a next generation production plant, in the factory of the future,” in an effort to bring down their costs, to increase their efficiency, improve their quality and differentiate themselves from their competition, declares Stefan Koch, SAP SE’s global lead for metals, who says that while this could include investments in hardware, “It also involves being smarter in how they operate their machinery and equipment and identifying what their production shortcoming are and what they can do prevent that from occurring.” Allison Buenemann, an analytics engineer with SEEQ Corp., says that this has become easier for companies to do. “Given the increased affordability of many different process sensors, there is now a much larger wealth of process data available to aluminium companies,” she says, noting that there are also some new

software packages that are now available at a low entry cost, that could be used to exploit that process data and to gain insights. Actually, it isn’t that there is all that much that is really new, but rather that the aluminium industry is increasingly taking advantage of the technologies that are available and using them in new ways. “The data has already been out there,” Koch points out. “It is more of an issue of bringing everything together, to slice and dice it in a way that a company can derive the solutions that they desire. But clearly IIoT, or the integration of connected devices into aluminium manufacturing throughout the aluminium value chain has been picking up and is very likely to do so going forward at an accelerated pace, Tony Barnes, senior manager at Crowe LLC, says. In fact, he noted that 28 percent of the respondents to Crowe’s latest annual Digital Transformation in the Metals Industry, which came out in November, said that while they aren’t currently using IIoT today, they are very likely to begin doing so within the next three years. “With the cost and size of connected devices going down and with Wi-Fi or cellular signals being available virtually everywhere, companies can put a sensor everywhere on everything,” Barnes says, predicting that this evolution of the use of IIoT by aluminium and other metals

companies is likely to explode in coming years, especially with the advent of 5G, which will have a dramatic impact as to where they can put devices and the real time nature of the feedback that they can get about their products and equipment. He notes that some companies are even embedding sensors into their finished products, which allows them to view real time information how their products are being used in their daily applications. “That is really a big deal,” Barnes says, as it enables them to know where demand is coming from for their products and for what end use applications. He notes that they have discovered that some OEMs who originally bought metal for a certain application found that it worked better for other uses. “That is something that aluminium suppliers weren’t aware of in the past.” That, Ryan Martin, principal analyst with ABI Research, enables what is known as smart manufacturing or advanced supply chain logistics, which, he says can help companies to better figure out how to produce products closer to the markets in which they are sold, used and consumed. The key, Koch says, is for a company to find ways to optimise their production and production processes through its use of data. He says that he doesn’t believe there is a big difference in the acceptance of this region by region or even where the company is in the supply chain. “It is more

*US Correspondent Aluminium International Today

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a question of how mature the company is in making use of data, how much data they have available and how much discipline they have in correcting what they do by using this data.” He says that while virtually everyone in the aluminium industry is doing something, the degree that they are doing so and the approach they are taking varies widely. Buenemann agrees, noting that some aluminium companies have taken a top down approach to harnessing these new technologies by creating new executive roles, such as a Chief Digital Transformation Officer, to do so. Meanwhile others are driving digital transformation from the bottom up, especially given a generational turnover in the industry. Buenemann explains that new, younger employees being recruited from universities are strong advocates for these new technology initiatives, including those related to data analytics and software packages at a time when the Cloud infrastructure has enabled large volumes of data storage. She says that these data analytics packages have empowered engineers and other workers to perform certain analyses that were previously done by highly specialised data science personnel. Brian Crandall, another SEEQ analytics engineer, points out that these packages are increasingly being used instead of the spreadsheets that had previously been the tool of choice by aluminium and other metals and mining companies in the past, which is a plus as they take less effort to achieve the desired goal of improved operational efficiencies – a goal that is very important to the aluminium industry. “As raw material costs and finished product selling prices fluctuate, companies are being pinched by their operating costs,” Buenemann explains. “But doing condition-based as opposed to time-based predictive maintenance, which was set up arbitrarily schedule that was set up sometime in the past, can help them to lower those costs as it enables them to maximise their throughput while also eliminating unnecessary downtime.”


SAP’s Koch says one example of an aluminium company that has achieved very tangible results from its digital transformation efforts is Bulgaria-based ETEM Gestamp Extrusions, which he conservatively estimates has achieved about $300,000 per year savings through their use of data to gain insights as to how to improve the efficiency of their aluminium extrusions processes. This, the company said during SAP’s September Metals and Mining Summit in Moscow, was achieved in many ways, including data unification, which involves establishing a unified view across different data sources and using advanced analytics tools and methodologies for insights extraction; productivity rate “onthe-fly” computation, which involves the combination of various production performance metrics to quantify in real time the effectiveness of production lines

settings; recipe “best run” detection, which involved analysing millions of records in real time on top of the unified data across all data sources to retrieve the operational settings that have historically led to optimal production; operational simulation, which involves employing the Cloud use what-if analysis to compute the impact of new settings upon productivity; and advanced analytics and reporting, which uses the Cloud to obtain meaningful reports on top of the collected data. Koch explains, this includes taking data that they have collected in the past for existing product profiles and shapes and analysing that data in a way that has given them a better understanding of their production processes so they can come up with solutions, including what the best parameter settings would be to achieve to improve certain aspects of production performance that might not


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have been optimal in the past. ETEM has also done something similar for new product profiles that have different geometric shapes from the previous products it has produced. This, Koch says involved the use of data analytics to determine what the best parameters would be to start production of a new extruded product shape to get the desired results, including such factors as temperature, speeds and pressure. He notes that there was a learning curve as to determining the best matching “recipe” to achieve what the company wants for this new product. Koch says that a third way that ETEM has reaped savings using data analytics was in determining beforehand what the benefit would be if they change certain production parameters or incorporate certain emerging technologies, such as machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, into their operations. “Because they already have some experience with the data, they have collected in the past they can make certain predictions through such simulations,” he says, noting that this wasn’t an option for them in the past. In their presentation, ETEM estimated its savings using best run detection being more than €150,000 per year, its savings through recipe recommendations for new profiles being more than €120,000 per year and the use of operational simulations as being “invaluable.” Koch says that ETEM isn’t alone in making such changes in their processes. “Many aluminium companies are in the process of investing in everything related to data analytics and are drawing conclusions from that data. “Whether this is related to machine learning, AI, image recognition or another algorithm, it involves taking data that has been collected and stored and applying science to it to solve a defined issue by applying it to a certain recipe.” He points out that this goes beyond manufacturing activities. “While you can analyse the data relating to the production at a company’s plant, it could also be used

for other things, such as tracking trends in end use markets and product, raw material and energy prices.” It is also being rolled out more or less across the entirety of the aluminium industry and its supply chain, Buenemann says, noting that in addition to being done at all levels of an aluminium producer’s organization, that is also true for their suppliers, downstream processors and end use customers. Crowe’s Barnes points out that historically aluminium mills have used some types of advanced technology to predict downtime and to be more exacting about when they need to do some maintenance on their equipment or if adjusting some of their operating conditions, such as the equipment temperature or the grades of material that they put through the equipment, could influence either that or their operational efficiency, or product quality. “Downtime avoidance is one of the biggest issues for manufacturing in general,” ABI Research’s Martin points out. “If equipment goes down, then everything comes to a complete standstill. However, you can’t integrate maintenance or perform preventative maintenance unless you have good information and real time reporting. As far as the newly developed data analytics technologies, Buenemann says that at least for the time being probably 80 to 90 percent of these investments are being integrated into existing facilities. “That is because the technology is so new and would require a proof of concept at an existing facility before it could be designed into greenfield plant.” Also, Crandall says they are actually quite easy to incorporate into existing operations as most new technologies have been specifically developed to be able to seamlessly be integrated with other information technology (IT) software and infrastructure to enable companies to increase their productivity immediately, especially given that if it required a huge change in network arrangement or the addition of a lot of new equipment

it would be a non-starter for a lot of aluminium companies, who are already financially squeezed. “They were developed to sit on top of existing infrastructure so the company can just plug it in, connect to their data and start solving business problems right away without changing anything or cancelling any other initiatives.” Barnes points out that the aluminium and other metals industries have also been actively working to upgrade their legacy business applications, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), investing in Cloud-based systems, standardising processes, consolidating support and upgrading end user interfaces. He says the No. 1 reason for doing so is to eliminate the risk of technology obsolescence given that running systems that might no longer be supported could result in security risks. Another major reason it to find new ways to provide new, unique solutions for their customers, including, through new portals, allowing them to see more information about their business. Going forward, the aluminium industry will continue to do more and more to address the analytics topic, Koch says. “It is just nature for companies to continue to find ways to make better use of the data that they are collecting and to apply machine learning and AI to those analytics to derive conclusions from the data to help them make decisions of how to change their business processes, he says. The same is true about transformational digital technologies in general, Barnes says, predicting that over the next two or three years there will be “incredible” advances in companies getting intelligence out of their data and over that timeframe, both machine learning and AI will continue to evolve and become more prevalent in the aluminium industry. In fact, he points out that in Crowe’s latest survey, 35 percent of the respondents said that machine learning was an advanced technology they will begin to use within the next three years, while 33 percent of the respondents said that would be the case for AI. �


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The beneďŹ ts of digitising the aluminium supply chain By Bryan Hellman* Every company that sells a product uses a supply chain to create the product from raw materials and deliver it into the hands of their customers. The aluminium industry involves a long and complicated process that starts with mining and creating aluminium and can end with, for example, a customer buying aluminium foil in the supermarket. The aluminium supply chain is becoming increasingly digitised, offering such advantages as smart warehousing and supply chain analytics. These benefits make the gap between demand and supply as short as possible while maximising resource efficiency. Despite these advances in digital technologies, the aluminium industry has been slow to implement digitisation. Aluminium manufacturing is a competitive industry, and the companies that have become digital champions have seen staggering results when it comes to revenue and efficiency. By digitising their supply chains, aluminium companies have been able to achieve a 7% revenue growth in only five years. It’s clear that digitisation is the way of the future; but what exactly is supply chain digitisation? What is supply chain digitisation? A supply chain consists of the network of all the people, organisations, activities, information and resources involved in the movement of a product from supplier to customer. This begins with the creation of the product and ends with the customer receiving the finished item. Supply chain digitisation involves applying the Internet of Things, the use of advanced robotics and advanced analytics of big data in every area of the supply chain.

Supply chain digitisation aims to create a network of sensors and automation that can be resilient and responsive to anything that might disrupt the normal orderly flow. Instead of forcing manufacturers and suppliers to communicate things like arrival times and inventory via phone calls or email, they can use automated technology to ensure that everyone is informed of everything. What are the goals? One of the goals of supply chain digitisation is to improve customer engagement. When the supply chain is digitised, customers can see where their package is at every step of the process. This allows them to see when it gets shipped, where it is in the delivery process, and when it gets delivered. They can also see what is affecting their ability to receive the product such as low levels of a raw material or increase in demand. Customers will get their products delivered much faster and without as few hiccups as possible. Another goal is to improve operational efficiencies. Robotics and automation play a huge part in boosting the efficiency of physical tasks as well as planning. Robots can be used in material handling and manufacturing in the warehouse, from assembly to loading/unloading. Automated planning approaches can help create an ideal workload through things like special offers for delivery time slots when truck utilisation is low. The more the supply chain is digitised, the more efficient it becomes. Supply chain digitisation also has the goal of attaining better data and improved visibility. Digital performance

management systems provide real-time transparency from one end of the supply chain to the other. This allows everything to be broadcast and shared within the supply chain from the overall service level to the position of trucks in the network. One last goal of digitisation is to enable predictive analytics. Manufacturers can set and adjust accurate targets when they have a clear idea of what is disrupting the supply chain, whether it is an issue of transportation or sourcing. Predictive analytics also allows manufacturers to determine internal data such as demand or external data such as weather in order to reduce delivery time. Manufacturers can also be more flexible when it comes to reacting to changes with demand or supply. They can make planning a continuous process that will constantly react to new requirements or restraints. What are the new technologies? Industry 4.0 networking is a collection of the biggest new technologies in supply chain digitisation. This network uses machines augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors that are connected to a system that can visualise the whole production. Once it analyses all of the key factors, it is then able to make its own decisions. Real-time inventory tracking helps ensure that you have sufficient inventory to meet customer needs. This helps to debit product from the stock every time an item gets purchased. Real-time inventory tracking is achieved through the use of unique barcodes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and Quick Response (QR) code. These RFID sensors can help show what’s been delivered and

*Business Management, Intern at Do Supply Inc Aluminium International Today

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communicate that across the entire supply chain. Smart warehousing uses robots to transform every element of the warehouse. Trucks that are on their way to the warehouse can communicate their estimated arrival time to the warehouse management system. This intelligent system can then choose and prepare a docking slot to make delivery more efficient. The RFID sensors can then relay what’s been delivered to the entire supply chain. Lastly, the system can use flying drones to map the facility in order to quickly and efficiently take inventory. Supply chain analytics is a key element of Industry 4.0. While companies can describe the current state of their supply chain, digitisation gives them the ability to predict certain elements. This allows them to anticipate demand for production capacity or changes in the requirements for raw materials. By using prescriptive supply chain analytics, they can then change any part of the supply chain as needed to optimise for certain factors. Essentially this means that if something changes in the supply chain, prescriptive analytic systems can act automatically in order to account for it. This minimises costs and ensures on-time delivery and customer satisfaction. The IF4.0 standard is an upcoming standard created by the Industry Business Network 4.0 association that defines the relevant data integrated in the various control systems via a neutral interface between the control system and the Smart Factory. This data will provide the operator of the production facility with a transparency for his plants and machines. It also gives them the ability to access applications either locally or in a cloud. Customers can then integrate their products into the Smart Factory . How can digitisation improve every element of the supply chain? Digitisation affects every element of the supply chain including planning, information, sourcing, inventory, production, location, transportation, and return of goods. Supply chain analytics helps a company plan on how much raw material they need to keep up with customer demand. They also help information technology management become more adept at budgeting and staffing by giving companies a clearer idea of what their workload is going to be. Digitisation helps with sourcing by alerting manufacturers immediately to any changes in the availability of raw materials required to make their product. RFID sensors in the warehouses helps them track inventory in real-time, and March/April 2020

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robotics assist in the producing a finished product out of the raw materials. Drones in the warehouses can help locate products to be delivered, while smart trucks can transport the goods from the facility to the customer. Digitisation can even assist customers in returning goods by allowing companies to easily collect returnable packaging. Digitisation can help save money and increase communication no matter what part of the supply chain it’s applied to. How can the aluminium manufacturing industry benefit? The metals industry has a history of being slow to incorporate new digital technologies when compared with industries like media or banking. However, aluminium companies have started to add innovations in analytics and other forms of automation that have helped increase efficiency at enormous rates. Strategy& did an in-depth analysis of 19 aluminium companies from 2012-2017 that showed many positive effects from digitisation. The companies who adopted digitisation showed good top line and margin performance, increasing their revenues by 7%. These companies were more easily able to handle fluctuations in the prices of raw materials. They also had less debt and were able to stay viable despite their Asian competitors offering lower prices. The more digitally integrated the aluminium companies were, the better they performed. Some of the methods of digitisation they implemented involved using autonomous trucks for internal transport and drones to measure volume and maintain safety. They also used augmented reality hardware and software to digitally enable workers with real-time access to data. Strategy& believes that the next step for aluminium companies is to spread digitisation across the whole supply chain. This includes digitising the physical product, the services and the interaction with the customers. A Norwegian technology company called Klaveness Digital conducted a case study on aluminium smelters in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf. Their study found that many of these companies from miners to refineries used spreadsheets, phone calls and emails to communicate instead of automated technology. They found that this led to delays that caused demurrage and last minute spot shipment. Klaveness Digital implemented project “CARGO” to come up with a solution. This project determined that digitising

and automating manual processes with sourcing, shipping and managing inventory would be of great benefit to these companies. They then created a platform called CargoValue that allowed players across the industry to collaborate in real-time on the same shipping schedule and inventory. This helped stakeholders to realign plans without needing to waste time manually updating them. CargoValue becomes smarter every time users interact with it, which gives users more insight into the planning and scheduling process. This will reduce the amount of time spent on repetitive tasks and allow users to spend more time on value creation. In the future, companies will have to focus on things like data security and reliability in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that supply chain digitisation offers. Why digitisation is vitally important Digitisation is a quickly growing trend in every industry from manufacturing medical supplies to providing services such as ridesharing. Being on top of the latest technological trends is a requirement if you wish to remain competitive in your industry. When it comes to manufacturing aluminium, digitisation can provide you with the extra communication and information you need to be one step up from the competition. There’s nothing worse than ordering something online and waiting weeks for it to arrive. If a customer comes across the words “out of stock” on your website, they are very unlikely to keep coming back for long. By digitising the supply chain, companies can minimise these difficulties and ensure customer satisfaction. No more will customers have to wait weeks wondering where their package is; with a digitised supply chain, they’ll receive realtime feedback about where their product is in the shipping process at every step. Companies will also save time and money by getting a more efficient supply process. They’ll be able to predict exactly how much of a material they’ll need before ordering it, reducing waste and ensuring they don’t run out of a vital element in the production process. They’ll also be able to replace arduous and time-consuming tasks with the use of automated robots that can streamline the manufacturing process through material handling. Everyone in the supply chain will be fully informed about what’s going on at every level to ensure that they have the information they need to do their jobs efficiently. � Aluminium International Today

04/03/2020 12:13:23


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Recently closed, last open furnace in Russia at Vyksa plant

Russia to conduct large-scale modernisation of domestic furnaces By Eugene Gerden* The Russian government, together with leading local smelters, have announced their plans to conduct a large-scale modernisation of domestic furnaces, which will take place within the next several years, according to recent statements, made by some senior state officials and representatives of producers. It is reported, implementation of these plans will involve decommissioning of old facilities and modernisation of the existing ones across a number of industries. This will be part of the existing state strategy for the reduction of energy intensity of the Russian national GDP. According to a spokesman of Alexander Novak, the Russian Minister of Energy – at present a significant share of energy consumption in the domestic engineering sector is associated with furnace heat treatment of metal, while one of the ways to reduce it is to complete modernisation of some of the already existing facilities. So far, some works in this field have already been done. For example, on March 2018 operations at the last open-hearth furnace in Russia was officially stopped.

The furnace was operated on the basis of the Vyksa Metallurgical Plant in the Nizhny Novgorod region and was positioned as Russia’s oldest and one of the largest furnaces. According to a spokesman of the Vyksa plant, the facility began its operations as far back as at the end of XIX century, while the peak of its operations was observed during the World War II. In the meantime, in addition to Vyksa, representatives of Russia’s largest iron and steel enterprises in recent months have also announced their plans for the modernisation of their furnaces. For example, the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK), one of the largest iron and steel producers in Russia and the world has confirmed its plans to begin reconstruction of its blast furnace No. 2 – one of the largest furnaces, operated by the company at its plant in the city of Magnitogorsk. The furnace has been operating since 1932, while its last reconstruction took place in 2000. At present its internal volume is 1380 cubic metres, while the

capacity is about 3800 tons of pig iron per day. Planned modernisation involves the dismantling and complete replacement of the majority of elements, as well as the modernisation of the cooling system of the furnace. The latter system will be replaced by equipment with horizontal cooling elements, that will be supplied from the Luxembourg company Paul Wurth, which was selected as a result of a recent tender. In the meantime, in addition to MMK, the Novolipetsk Steel, another Russian steel giant, several weeks ago completed modernisation of its blast furnace No. 6 (DP-6). According to the company, that has become one of the key projects, implemented by the company as part of its corporate strategy, designed until 2022 in the last several years. As a result, the capacity of the furnace grew by 8% to 3.4 million tons of pig iron per year. It was equipped with a new air purification systems, which is capable to separate up to 99.9% of dust, providing residual dust content at the level of the best available

*Russian Correspondent Aluminium International Today

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technologies - 5 mg/m3. All the blast furnace gas, which is formed during the smelting of pig iron, is used to generate electricity at the combined heat and power plant. At the same time most of obtained blast furnace slag is processed into products for the construction industry. The volume of investments in the project amounted to RUB 35 billion (US$600 million). Today, the Novolipetsk Steel has five blast furnaces with the total capacity of 13.8 million tons of pig iron annually. The last furnace, with a capacity of 4.2 million tons per year, which is known as Rossiyanka, was launched by the company in 2011. Finally, Severstal, one of Russia’s leading steel and mining companies, have recently announced its plans for the long-term modernisation of its blast-furnace ironmaking. According to the company, that will take place on the basis of “Cherepovets Steel Mill” – the flagship facility, operated by the company with the use the latest technical solutions. For this purpose, the company plans to invest about RUB 30 billion (US$500 million) in the construction of a blast furnace No. 3, that will have the design capacity of 2.9 million tons of pig iron and become the the largest investment project, which has been implemented by Severstal in recent years. The furnace is planned to be commissioned in 2021. Thanks to the planned use of some modern production technologies the company plans to significantly reduce its impact on environment and ensured 25-30 years of its operation. Successful implementation of these plans will allow to increase production capacity of the furnace from the current 11.7 million to 14.6 million tons. At the same time, planned modernisation of last furnace No. 5 will be postponed until 2022. “Over the past years, we have invested a lot in modernising the final stages of production and updating rolling facilities. Now our goal is to improve the initial stages of the production chain,” said Alexey Kulichenko, Deputy General Director for Finance and Economics of Severstal Management. In the meantime, the Russian government, from its side, have already promised local smelters to provide assistance during the implementation of their projects. That will be probably in the form of tax, customs and other benefits and exemptions. � Aluminium International Today

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Digitalisation in industrial furnace manufacturing By Simon Künne, Kunal Mody, Wilfried Schmitz & Günter Valder* The way to Industry 4.0 is an evolutionary process, which offers great potential for improving and stabiliSing production processes and for increasing energy and resource efficiency by way of digitalisation and networking. As a supplier to foundries and semis producers, Otto Junker GmbH is determined to meet this challenge as demonstrated herein on the example of its process models (Digital Twins). Introduction While the automation level and hence, the degree of digitalisation of modern industrial furnace equipment, be it melting or heat treatment systems, has kept rising in recent years, these systems and the associated peripherals have, in many cases, largely remained digital islands to this day. Although extensive digital networking and the consistent acquisition and, above all, consolidation of all available data for the purposes of comprehensive higher-level analysis within the meaning of Industry 4.0 is well underway in foundries and semi finished product manufacturing plants, there are still many steps that remain to be taken. Otto Junker GmbH is making every effort to support this global process in the best possible manner. This shall be detailed in the following sections on the example of its process models (Digital Twins). Process Models (Digital Twins) Motivation Thermoprocessing systems are used to selectively adjust the properties of a component by a defined heat treatment. To this end, the temperature profile within the material must be controlled in

such a way that the desired metallurgical processes can take place. The most important control parameters are the holding temperature and holding time, the cooling rate and the ageing temperature, if applicable. Although the ideal temperature profile may be known from laboratory tests, it is usually not possible in an industrial process to verify whether it is actually being observed. With the aid of process modelling, the full temperature profile inside the material or component can be determined by means of a few selected temperature measurements. Thanks to this mathematical approach, the data will be available in a struc-tured form that facilitates further processing in an Industry 4.0 environment: Thus, for every product passing through the system it is possible to automatically generate a digital twin that will facilitate networking with upstream or downstream process steps. Modular system for process models To be able to supply process models as efficiently as possible for all equipment in its product range, Otto Junker GmbH has developed a software library that enables processes to be mapped as an FVM simulation using a modular system of building blocks. The fundamentals of this system have been explained, e.g. in [1]. Volume elements can be created and linked to diverse boundary conditions. Each volume owns geomet-rical dimensions as well as information about its material properties. The links represent different heat transfer mechanisms. It is thus possible to map effects such as heat conductance, convective heat trans-fer

with or without phase change, radiation or enthalpy flows. The system is then transferred to a solver capable of providing both steady and non-steady solutions to systems of this kind. In doing so, it relies on various numeric methods such as the Crank-Nicolson method, MUSCL schemes or Adams-Moulton methods in order to be able to handle shocks and discontinuities in the temperature profile. These methods can be found in the standard specialised literature, e.g. [2–4]. Application example of an ingot quench In the production of aluminium strip, ingots with dimensions in the region of 4.5 x 1.2 x 0.5m are initially heattreated in pusher furnaces. Here they are homogenized at approx. 540°C. Thereafter, they must cool down to a uniform temperature of 400°C before they can be hot-rolled. For the ends of the ingot, a slightly higher temperature is desired because this is advantageous in the rolling process. Simply letting the temperature drop in air by free convection would take too long; moreover, the desired temperature profile would not be achievable in this manner. For this reason, water quenching with a subsequent soak phase is employed. The ingots are fed to the quench from the various furnaces on a roller conveyor. In the quench they are subjected to a selective application of water before they are transferred to a soak chamber. There they are held at an ambient temperature of 400°C for 20 min. After that the ingots are moved to the hot rolling mill for further processing. It is thus a requirement on the water quench that it should remove no more

*Otto Junker GmbH Aluminium International Today

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Time: 193 seconds

Time: 627 seconds


Time: 248 seconds



f Time: 751 seconds

Time: 326 seconds

Time: 1402 seconds

Fig. 1. Modelling the temperature distribution in an aluminium rolling ingot during (a-c) and after (d-f) quenching in water

energy from the ingot than needs to be withdrawn to achieve a uniform temperature decrease from 540 to 400°C. After all, it is not intended to introduce any further energy into the soak chamber. This way, both the energy demand and, ultimately, process costs will be minimised. For the foregoing purposes, the surface temperature of each ingot is measured directly upstream of the quench. Thereafter, its transfer from the furnace to the quench is simulated using a process model based on the above described modular system. The ingot is assumed to possess a homogeneous temperature distribution upon exiting the furnace, and to lose heat by free convection during the transfer. If the surface temperature thus computed coincides with the measured one, the simulated temperature distribution will be used as a basis for the further calculations. An initial recipe is now selected for the quench, and the entire process is simulated all the way to the end of the soak cycle. A test is then carried out to ascertain whether or not the requirements on the ingot temperature are met. If necessary, the recipe will be adapted to the quench and a new simulation will be carried out. This process will be repeated until a setting is found that will cause the ingot to leave the soak chamber with just the desired temperature profile. This recipe is then loaded into the quench controller and executed. About 5 to 10 simulation March/April 2020

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runs are necessary, but these take only a few seconds to complete. In this manner, every ingot geometry is treated with a tailor-made recipe so as to make optimum use of the residual heat. The results of such a simulation are graphically presented in Fig. 1a through Fig. 1f. Fig. 1a shows the temperature distribution in the ingot at the time when its front end has just exited the quench. In Fig. 1b, the first half of the ingot is outside the quench. It is evident that the surface of that portion has already become distinctly hotter again than it was in the quench. Its temperature has risen from around 50°C to approx. 250°C due to heat conductance from the interior of the ingot. Ultimately, the ingot’s temperature profile upon leaving the water quench is rendered in Fig. 1c. Fig. 1d through 1f show the temperature evolution over the soak phase. It should be noted that the colour scale in this diagram differs from that used in the previous images. In Fig. 1d we can still detect major temperature differences. As is evident from Fig. 1e and 1f, these differences decrease over time. Ultimately, a temperature of around 400°C is reached inside the ingot while its ends are slightly hotter to provide improved rolling properties. Conclusion and outlook The process model presented above generates a digital twin of every ingot,

documenting the temperature profile during the quenching process. Should any problems arise during hot-rolling of certain ingots, these could thus be correlated to earlier process steps through data mining methods. This is a precondition for an extensive interlinking of processes and equipment (‘networking’) in the context of Industry 4.0. In addition, an optimum recipe is generated for every ingot, thereby increasing process quality. The plant operator can directly specify the desired temperature the ingot should have upon exiting the soak chamber. Process parameters such as the water application density and ingot conveying speed are defined via an optimisation routine that maps the process with the aid of a process model. � Literature [1] Künne, S., Mertens, T.: Prozessmodellierung im Rahmen der kontinuierlichen Wärmebehandlung von Aluminiumbändern. Gaswärme international, 6-2016 [2] SCHÄFER, M.: Computational Engineering – Introduction to Numerical Methods. SpringerVerlag, 2006. [3 Dahmen W., Reusken A.: Numerik für Ingenieure und Naturwissenschaftler. SpringerVerlag, 2008. [4] Guinot, V.: Godunov-type Schemes: An Introduction for Engineers. Elsevier, 2003. Aluminium International Today

04/03/2020 12:16:22


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Hertwich chip melting furnace at Cromodora, Italy

Modernised recycling of alu chips Cromodora Wheels starts operation of a chip melting furnace supplied by Hertwich Engineering. Cromodora Wheels SPA has installed a chip recycling furnace for wheel production in Ghedi, Italy. The furnace with a capacity of 10,000 tons per year was successfully supplied and commissioned by Hertwich Engineering, a company of the SMS group. Since 1962 Cromodora Wheels has produced cast magnesium wheels used for competition as well as aluminium wheels. Currently the wheels are manufactured in the low-pressure casting process and using flow forming technology. As one of the leading wheel producers, Cromodora Wheels is today an official supplier of the most renown automotive manufacturers in the world, such as BMW, Jaguar-Land Rover, Daimler (including AMG and Smart), Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Fiat, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. With the Ecomelt melting furnace commissioned byHertwich, the company is modernising the recycling of its processing scrap. In wheel production, machining chips regularly arise in large quantities in addition to a relatively low portion of piece scrap. Chip recycling is challenging, since the extremely unfavourable ratio of surface area and volume causes a significant material loss through burn-off. The traditional method of recycling chips is to compact the chips before melting, which reduces the metal loss, however it requires an additional work step with considerable consumption of energy. In addition, the chips are frequently contaminated with adhering cooling lubricant. The recycling system developed by March/April 2020

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Hertwich Engineering therefore offers a more economical solution, provided there is a sufficiently large volume of chips. With the combination of the Ecomelt concept and a special tailor-made plant technology, very low metal loss values are achieved during operation. This guarantees by far the most economical solution of this special recycling task, as the previously installed units around the world clearly prove. In addition to the melting furnace, the scope of supply includes a chip pre-treatment with a bypass system for conveying in separate transport containers. During pre-treatment chips are centrifuged. Unfavorable chip shapes are shredded in a chip crusher to ensure stable further processing. Undesirable elements are removed by a separator. The chips prepared in this manner are then fed into the melting furnace. In the first step the charged chips are heated to approx. 400°C within a few seconds using an intensive hot gas flow. Thereby moisture and organic contaminants are removed. The energy required is provided by hot gas from the melting furnace and the flue gases from the dryer support the heating of the furnace. The preheated and cleaned chips are continually fed into the downward directed melting flow and immediately drawn under the bath surface to the furnace floor. The fast melting almost completely avoids metal loss due to oxidation – as a result, the dross formation

is also extremely low. The heat is removed to a very large extent from the flue gases in a regenerative combustion system and thus the combustion air is preheated to approx. 900°C. As result the process is characterised by a series of notable advantages: � Continuous operation: The chip recycling is integrated in the automated in-house material transport � Maximum metal recovery: Metal loss values below 1,0 percent are achieved during operation. That even exceeds the value of conventional furnace units melting ingots. � Low energy costs: In this regard the furnace profits from the advantages of the Ecomelt technology developed by Hertwich. Values of less than 600 kWh/t/ (930 BtU/lb) are achieved (taking into account chip drying and combustion). � Outstanding metal quality: An objective and neutral inspection of the metal quality, that was carried out in terms of the development process, showed that the untreated melt from the chip recycling furnace with regards to the content of non-metallic inclusions already corresponds to a melt ready for casting. � Low personnel costs: As a result of the high degree of automation, the complete plant with a capcity of 10,000 tons per year can be operated by one operator per shift. � Ecological compatibility: The strict central European emission regulations are met. � Aluminium International Today

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28 FURNACE TECHNOLOGY Remote-controlled demolition machines allow operators to stand safely away from the danger but close enough to have a clear view of what’s going on

Take the leap: Avoid the heat By Lars Lindgren*

On the surface, remote-controlled demolition robots can seem like a significant capital expense, but some operations have seen a return on investment after using a machine for just one kiln tear out. The versatile equipment speeds up refractory removal and cleanouts compared to alternative equipment for kilns, ladles, furnaces, castings, cupolas, runners and more. The machines also improve worker safety and free up resources for more critical operations in the plant. Here are a few reasons foundry and mill operations choose to use a remotecontrolled demolition machine: � More than a One Trick Pony: Unlike some specialised, inflexible equipment meant for removing refractory in only specific applications, demolition robots are flexible for a variety of tasks. The machines are equipped with a three-part arm design which allows for precision and optimal power, whether it’s needed straight ahead, above or below the machine. � Free Up Resources While Working Faster: Refractory removal and similar jobs have traditionally been accomplished with handheld tools, such as jackhammers or rivet busters. This type of equipment depends on the person holding it and there’s only so much a laborer can do before tiring out. A demolition robot never tires. Remote-controlled demolition machines also allow operations to complete projects with fewer people, freeing up workers for

Demolition robots that implement a three-part arm design allow for precision and optimal power during cleanout for kilns, ladles, furnaces, castings, cupolas, runners and more – whether it’s needed straight ahead, above or below the machine. A Midwest foundry removing old refractory lining from iron pouring ladles saw a 75% increase in productivity by switching from handheld tools to a demolition robot.

other tasks. A Midwest foundry removing old refractory lining from iron pouring ladles saw a 75% increase in productivity by switching from handheld tools to a demolition robot. They went from using two workers over a period of 16 hours to a single operator and machine taking two hours. � Save on Workers’ Comp: Injuries happen. But they happen less when you remove workers from dangerous situations. Remote-controlled demolition machines allow operators to stand safely away from the danger but close enough

to have a clear view of what’s going on. Instead of exposing laborers to the risk of falling debris, a hardened robot takes the impacts. Additionally, demolition robots can endure high temperatures, extreme levels of dust and harsh chemicals. Operations have seen as much as 50% savings in workers’ comp as a result of using robotic demolition machines. When it comes to maintenance equipment for hot applications, remotecontrolled demolition machines might seem like a big investment at first, but the versatility, efficiency and enhanced safety they provide quickly adds up to significant ROI. �

*President, Brokk Inc. March/April 2020

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Aluminium International Today

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Essential temperature measurement in aluminium extrusion Peter Unwin* looks at the latest developments in non-contact temperature measurement for aluminium extruders. The aluminium extrusion industry is growing rapidly, and world market forecasts show this is set to continue. Extrusions offer lightweight properties, excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, along with strength and corrosion resistance, making them suitable for a wide range of applications, particularly in the automotive industry where fuel efficiency is crucial. Due to their high malleability, aluminium can be formed into different shapes without spending excessive energy, therefore increasing their demand for industrial applications. They are also increasingly used in the construction of green buildings, a major factor driving market growth. However, the process of extruding high-quality profiles is not without its challenges. Understanding temperature and controlling press speed and quench rates during the extrusion process are critical to producing products that have the required quality and performance properties. The extrusion press exit temperature, for example, affects the dimensional properties and surface finish of the final product. Should the temperature be too high, the surface finish may suffer imperfections that, apart from being unattractive, can potentially lead to cracks. Extruding a product at an out-oftolerance temperature means it may not achieve the design dimensions once cooled. If the extrusion temperature is even slightly too cool, the die in the extrusion press may wear more rapidly due to the increased hardness of the metal and additional pressure required to extrude it. As a die wears, the physical size of the extruded section changes - whilst new dies are very expensive. For these reasons, it is imperative to continuously monitor press exit temperature as accurately as possible. Temperature measurement methods that involve direct contact are not well

suited to the extrusion process. These measurements are usually taken manually and at a single point. In addition, many contact measurement devices make an impact on the hot aluminium, which can damage the surface. In comparison, non-contact temperature measurement sensors allow producers to continuously measure the temperature of the metal at each stage of the process. Non-contact temperature sensors (infrared pyrometers) do not damage the surface of the aluminium because there is no contact. The pyrometer simply views the radiated energy that is emitted from the aluminium surface to receive and accurately measure temperature. Unfortunately, aluminium alloys have unique emissivity and reflectivity characteristics that challenge conventional infrared pyrometers. Emissivity values Emissivity is an object’s ability to emit (radiate) infrared energy. Knowledge of the precise emissivity value of an object is a critical factor for accurate non-contact temperature measurement.

Aluminium alloys have very low emissivity values, sometimes under 0.1, which means the aluminium alloy emits less than 10% of its energy. That is why when you approach a hot aluminium billet, it does not radiate heat towards you. This lack of emissivity, if uncorrected, can lead to an apparently low temperature reading from the infrared pyrometer. The reading needs to be compensated for by applying an appropriate emissivity (gain) correction factor. The emissivity value of the aluminium varies with the wavelength chosen, alloy grade and surface condition, including any slight oxidisation. Because the emissivity of aluminium is so low, infrared pyrometers need to employ high gain amplification. With such large amounts of signal amplification, any small changes in emissivity will be amplified and cause errors in temperature readings. In comparison with other metals like steel, aluminium is processed at much lower temperatures, so fundamentally less energy is emitted even before factoring in the effects of very low emissivity. It is extremely challenging to compensate for emissivity variations on these small

*Global Industry Manager - Metals at AMETEK Land Aluminium International Today

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signals, making accurate temperature measurements difficult to achieve. Commonly available single-wavelength infrared pyrometers are unable to cope with the combination of both low and variable emissivity that is prevalent with aluminium alloys. Alternative Ratio (2-colour) pyrometer designs are also unsuccessful, as the emissivity at their two measurement wavelengths varies at different rates. The ratio pyrometer’s non-greyness (e-slope) adjustment cannot compensate accurately for the diversity of aluminium alloy types. Research-based approach In the 1980s, research was undertaken by some pyrometer companies to find methods of correlating the energy emitted at many wavelengths and developing application-specific algorithms that would make sense of that radiation data. The aim was to produce a device that would accurately measure these materials with little or no adjustment requirements. Some resulting devices demonstrated much better results than prior measurement methods. However, the limited number of infrared detectors, low-noise amplifiers and computational circuits available at that time affected the performance of these early devices. Over the years, with improved designs and a better understanding of the applications, product performance improved greatly. Today’s infrared pyrometer designer can choose from an extensive menu of high-quality and highperformance components. Advanced application-specific infrared pyrometers are now available for challenging materials like aluminium. Most recently, AMETEK Land has developed the SPOT AL EQS multiwavelength pyrometer with the aid of extensive site trials and data collection from many different alloys. Complex signal processing algorithms have been

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developed and function in real-time with the aid of powerful high-speed digital signal processing and ultra-low noise signal amplification. These applicationspecific algorithms and computational capabilities produce accurate results over a wide range of different alloys and surface conditions. Measurement locations At the start of the process, a billet is heated to temperature as it slowly progresses through a specialised reheat furnace. At the furnace exit, the billet temperature is measured, either a single reading on its cut face or a profile along the side of the billet from head to tail. Many extruders now prefer to measure the billet profile temperature just as the billet arrives at the extrusion press. AMETEK Land offers a motorized actuator, which rapidly scans the SPOT AL EQS Pyrometer along the length of the billet generating a temperature profile. The actuator can either be integrated with the press control system or driven manually from a handheld controller. A SPOT AL EQS Pyrometer (set in “E” mode) is typically positioned above the press exit, looking downwards onto the profile. Some customers choose a fixed installation with a manually adjustable mount that can be re-oriented following a die change. Often customers choose a combination of the SPOT AL EQS Pyrometer with a motorised actuator. In this case, the pyrometer and actuator communicate with each other directly, causing the pyrometer to be automatically aimed at the optimum measurement position on the new profile. Extrusions can wander laterally at this location and the actuator dynamically tracks any movement of the extrusion. Here too, the small and well-defined measurement spot of the pyrometer, combined with its fast 15 ms response speed, facilitates such dynamic

tracking. This temperature measurement is typically fed back to the press control system to enable dynamic press speed control. The quench exit is a popular measurement location, particularly with extruders who produce high-strength sections and those with specialized characteristics. A SPOT AL EQS Pyrometer (set in “Q” mode) is typically positioned at the exit of the quench section looking downwards onto the profile. The same model of SPOT AL EQS pyrometer is used at all measurement locations. This makes keeping a spare pyrometer on hand very affordable. The SPOT AL EQS Pyrometers digitally communicate over an Ethernet connection via Modbus TCP. There are versions of the AL EQS software available that combine data from multiple SPOT Pyrometers and calculate quench rates, and some customers have integrated SPOT AL EQS Pyrometers directly into their PLCs or press controls. Fully integrated temperature measurements of billet ‘taper,’ extruded sections and quench rate help to ensure superior extrusions with exact dimensions and superior finish surfaces. Summary As the market demand for extruded aluminium continues, producers are finding that being able to accurately monitor temperature measurement at key locations is helping them to optimise quality and achieve product specifications. The latest advanced infrared pyrometers are also enabling companies to meet Industry 4.0 requirements, providing access to accurate data at all stages of extrusion. The benefits in terms of performance and output are undeniable.” � Contact

Aluminium International Today

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Setting the standard in aluminium grain refining performance 4


AMG Aluminum was formed in 2011 combining the activities of KB Alloys, LSM UK (London & Scandinavian Metallurgical Company) and LSM Brazil with headquarters in Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA. One of the business units of the Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V. and its’ Critical Materials division AMG Aluminum’s sole focus is on the aluminium market. With over 350 employees and five ISO 9001 manufacturing sites: AMG Aluminum North America LLC in Henderson, Kentucky and Wenatchee, Washington, AMG Aluminum Brazil S/A in Sao Jaoa del Rei, AMG Aluminum UK Ltd. in Rotherham and AMG Aluminum China Ltd. in Jiaxing, AMG Aluminum is March/April 2020

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a world-leading provider of grain refiners and master alloys for the aluminium industry. AMG Aluminum offer a wide range of products including grain refiners, master alloys, compacted additives and rod feeders. With over 35,000 tones the production capacity, AMG Aluminum is one of the largest global manufacturers. The success of the aluminium industry is dependent on alloys that, for example, reduce automobile weight, promote forming for various products such as aluminium beverage cans, and increase the performance of electric transmission cables. AMG Aluminum’s development of grain refiners and master alloys has helped to facilitate these innovations. AMG

Aluminum’s products are used in several stages of the life cycle of aluminum. Meeting the needs of billet through to foils and aerospace alloy producers, AMG Aluminum is providing consistent high quality and superior performing products. Decades of experience This year AMG Aluminum UK celebrates 82 years of metal manufacturing in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Former LSM UK began its activities with etablishing the vanadium alloys facility in 1938, follwed by the aluminium departmnet opening in 1954 producing master alloys and TiBAl™ (titanium-boron-aluminium) grain refiners in waffle and ingot form; Aluminium International Today

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with the continoues cast/rolled route being introduced in 1978. Throughout its history, AMG’s predecessor companies have advanced metallurgical-based technologies to provide innovative solutions for industrial challenges. AMG Aluminum continues that proud tradition today. The next step in aluminium grain refining- TiBAl Advance In 2019 AMG Aluminum UK introduced to the market a new, improved and more efficient grain refiner called TiBAl Advance™. You may have noticed the three wheels appearing in various platforms, representing the advancement of technology and evolution. Grain refinement is the phenomenon of decreasing the size of the aluminium grains formed during solidification. As control over grain size is critical in aluminium castings, large grains are 5

1. Titanium-boron-aluminium rod coils. 2. titanium-aluminium master alloy waffle plates. 3. aluminium-manganese compacted additives. 4. rod feeder. 5. Un-grain refined (before grain refiner addition) vs grain refined cast aluminium (after grain refiner addition)

undesirable as they can be the cause of castings defects such as cracks and hot tears, or can lead to issues when casting undergo downstream processing i.e. rolling, drawing, extrusion. Casthouses continue to demand increasing quality standards for critical products and research into grain refiners continues at a practical and fundamental level. TiBAl Advance™ is a grain refiner that can be used at much lower addition levels than conventional grain refiners consistently and with confidence- while still meeting the demands of the casthouse. Utilising

the advanced DC casting simulation technology, AMG’s TiBAl Advance™ grain refiner is subject to a rigorous test regime to guarantee a controlled grain refining response, even at extremely low addition rates. Benefits of a lower grain refiner addition rate are not only reduced grain refiner inventory, less frequent coil changes, but also a significant reduction in the likelihood of adverse interactions related to the grain refiner particles. With TiBAl Advance™ equivalent grain sizes can be achieved at addition levels 75% lower than with conventional grain refiners. �

6 6. LSM UK aluminium department, Rotherham South Yorkshire, 1954.

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RACEForm: High-volume auto OEM production via (HFQ) Technology £10 million innovative aluminium manufacturing process project validated for high-volume automotive OEM applications. Environmental legislation to control emissions and reduce pollution continues to tighten across the globe. To meet these challenges in the automotive sector, manufacturers are turning to battery electric vehicles, hybrids and more efficient internal combustion engines. A key concern for developers of these technologies is a simple one: vehicle mass. This critical metric can significantly impact emissions, range and performance, and has led to the now well-established trend of vehicle mass reduction known as ‘lightweighting’. In its pursuit, demand has rapidly increased for lighter materials that are suitable for high-volume production. This growing need for lightweight automotive components, particularly for alternatively fuelled vehicles, is driving innovation in both materials and production technologies. Meanwhile, the importance of establishing an effective supply chain to validate these new technologies is encouraging greater collaboration within the industry. Technology pioneers, materials experts and the academic world are working together to catalyse technology commercialisation and help the adoption of lightweighting innovations. These trends are encouraging exciting ventures like RACEForm, a 30-month collaborative project started in November 2017. RACEForm aims to validate Impression Technologies’ innovative Hot Form Quench (HFQ®) Technology for the mass production of complex aluminium components and structures. The large programme has been successfully led by Impression Technologies and is backed by multi-million-pound funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK, with a total project value approaching £10million. To enable the successful scaling of HFQ, RACEForm is relying on a number of complementary collaborators including Gestamp, Innoval Technology, Brunel University London and Imperial College London. The significant interest in HFQ Technology Aluminium International Today

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stems from its ability to enable faster, less expensive production of complex and lightweight aluminium structures. It offers OEMs significant savings in weight, cost and system complexity through its ability to produce deep drawn, high-strength aluminium alloys with low cycle times, no springback and a level of formability that is just not possible with other techniques. It also helps aluminium compete with steel in terms of affordability – historically a sticking point for widespread aluminium use. The HFQ process begins by heating an aluminium sheet in an oven. The sheet is then transferred to a high-speed press for simultaneous forming and cold die quenching. This allows the aluminium

to be stamped while it is soft and then quenched to ‘trap’ the strengthening capability behaviour of the material. The part is then heat treated to gain high strength. “RACEForm is enabling us to bring HFQ Technology to high-volume applications,” explains Jonathan Watkins, CEO of Impression Technologies. “It is the world’s leading high-speed process to form deepdrawn and complex shapes from highand ultra-high-strength aluminium. HFQ is ideally suited to meet the lightweighting needs of manufacturers, enabling them to replace heavy steel or low strength coldformed aluminium components with a superior alternative. “To ensure its suitability for automotive March/April 2020

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applications, the HFQ process has been designed to meet the cycle times required for low-cost, high-volume manufacturing. Perhaps most significantly, HFQ opens the possibility of using highly recycled aluminium grades that cannot be formed cold. In turn, this will have a significant impact on emissions by reducing the need to smelt aluminium.” Whilst the HFQ Technology has already been successfully demonstrated in various automotive platforms, the RACEForm project is to certify the HFQ part design and manufacturing process in highvolume structural applications. The project has focused on the production of A-pillar components and chassis assemblies for SUVs and electric vehicles to meet specific OEM requirements. Collaboration has proved to be one of the projects greatest strengths, with each partner addressing specific challenges. Gestamp, a Tier 1 supplier and key collaborator, is proving out HFQ for high production trials. Its trial at the Gestamp Ludwigsfelde hot stamping line facility in Germany achieved a cycle time of less than five seconds for an A-pillar component and subsequent, larger trials at Palencia in Spain.

Meanwhile, Imperial College London is leading RACEForm’s structural adhesive bonding and pre-treatment test programme, where researchers have completed surface pre-treatment and analysis evaluations. They have been supported by Chemetall and Innoval, who have characterised the microstructure and surfaces of samples. The projects self-pierce riveting test programme is being run by Brunel University, alongside structural simulations and the evaluation and modelling of joining methods. To prove the technology’s recycling

capabilities using lower grade aluminium, RACEForm is being supplied with highly recycled aluminium sheet from Jaguar Land Rover’s REALITY project, another Innovate UK funded programme. A testing phase has been planned to confirm that the HFQ process can maintain excellent formability, even with high levels of impurities and analysis of the resulting parts. Early forming trials have been successful. “We have already demonstrated significant cycle time improvements, as well as potentially substantial reductions in CO2 emissions due to part integration,” concluded Jonathan Watkins. “We’ve been successful in lowering embedded carbon content and reducing production costs. Through the use of HFQ Technology, automotive manufacturers will be able to affordably enhance the range and overall performance of their future vehicles. Our successful volume trial has demonstrated the feasibility of the process, replacing a three-part cold formed aluminium A-pillar component with a single HFQ part while simultaneously reducing the part’s overall weight.” Overall, RACEForm and HFQ has been a great success for all parties involved. �

Innovative Solutions • UNIFOUR Automated Gas or Electric Ageing Ovens • Die Handling and Storage Systems • State of the Art Infrared Die Ovens

March/April 2020

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Aluminium International Today

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Focus on: Automotive aluminium Pressta Eisele offers an automatic miter cutting line to counter the increasing pressure on times and precision in the cutting process of industrial aluminium profiles. Every aluminium extruder or processing plant which supplies the automotive industry has experienced the increased pressure over the last few years – higher required product quantities in shorter times, higher precision requirements, more flexibility demands on the production processe. Pressta Eisele now has an answer for these demands – the SW600 automatic miter cutting line. The SW600 has been developed to be used for 90° or miter cuts on parts lengths from 20mm to 4000mm with high speeds, easy use and maximum cutting precision. In its standard entry-level version, the line consists of a loading magazine with an automatic pusher, the actual cutting station and an outfeed table for short and

long parts. The loading magazine can store several raw profile bars of up to 7000mm length and moves them towards a material pusher with a linear drive, which precisely pushes the profiles into the saw with a speed of up to 180 m/min., while still maintaining a precision level of +/0.15mm per metre. The miter angles range from 22.5° to 157.5° and can be programmed though the main PC control unit of the machine – generally all cutting related information like dimension, lubrication, cutting speed, rpm and so on, can be programmed and stored in the PC control unit and simply accessed for production by choosing the corresponding data file. The motor driving the saw has 5.5KW

and can be upgraded optionally to 9.2KW, allowing quick and precise cutting even of thick-walled industrial profiles, while the shape and type of the pusher and the clamping units allow very short rest pieces of 65mm minimal length (depending of profile geometry). Directly behind the saw blade is the outfeed gripper, which takes the ready cut parts and deposits them on the outfeed table, from where they are transported to the machine operator. Several available upgrade options allow for far more than just cutting though – may it be milling and drilling stations, measuring and marking stations or automated part handling - the machine can easily be adapted to the customer’s needs. �


Pressta Eisele is the number one supplier of high speed and precision saws for the aluminum industry worldwide. We manufacture from simple single station saws to fully automatic cutting lines with loading magazines and handling stations anything a modern production needs to keep up with the steadily increasing market demands.

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Aluminium International Today

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8th International Conference on Electrodes and Support Services for Primary Aluminium Smelters Iceland 13-14 May 2020

The future is now Innovation and new technologies of electrodes and support services for primary aluminium smelters

The International Conference, ICESS, focuses on Electrodes and support services for primary aluminium smelters. Since 2001, about 830 people have attended the conference, with delegates coming from 15-20 countries. The focus of the conference always includes new developments, automation, increasing productivity, environmental issues, as well as prospects and challenges in the aluminium industry. The 8th ICESS conference will be held 13th – 14th May 2020 in a new location, Egilsstaðir in east Iceland (, about 40 minutes from the Alcoa Fjardaal smelter ( Emphasis will be on Automation in aluminium smelter operations. New possibilities are becoming viable because of rapid development of sensors and Artificial Intelligence, including self-driving vehicles. This development presents opportunities to increase productivity of smelter operations. Implementation of these new options will be addressed and discussed. During the conference, delegates will have opportunity to visit the Alcoa Fjardaal smelter in scenic Reydarfjordur. Other notable places within reach from Egilsstadir are Fljótsdalsvirkjun hydropower plant and Hálslón reservoir at Kárahnjúkar dam. For more information see the conference website Speakers include: • Barry Sadler, Net Carbon Consulting Pty Ltd • Kristján Leósson, DT Equipment

• •

Gudmundur I. Einarsson, Alcoa Fjardaal Gudmundur Gunnarsson, Innovation Center Iceland

To submit an abstract, please contact Birgir Johannesson at

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What are aluminium metal foams? The latest constituent bringing automobile light weighting to the forefront...

The industrial and manufacturing landscape witnessed the emergence of several unrivalled developments in the 19th century. These developments have led to the advent of several of today’s significant technologies, the most prominent among them being brainstormed for the automotive sector. The automotive industry has ushered in several prolific changes and transformations across several aspects of life including mobility, social interactions, commerce, infrastructure and even employment patterns. While the core concept of cars remains the same, the way these vehicles are designed, styled, powered and the facilities they offer has evolved considerably throughout the historical journey of automobiles. In the current scenario, the primary concern of the automotive industry is light weighting. Automotive engineers are working tirelessly to develop and adopt lighter materials for automotive components including chassis, body, power train, interior as well as under-thehood applications. This quest for lighter vehicles has brought about a considerable change in the way assembly and manufacturers conventionally function, resulting in Aluminium International Today

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escalating research interest in the development of new light weighting technologies. These include the emergence of new multi-material-based vehicles comprising materials like aluminium, carbon composites, titanium, plastic, rubbers and more. One of the most lucrative developments in automotive light weighting is the creation of the metal foam. Back to the origins The earliest known history of the metal foam market can be traced back to 1926, in a French patent by Alexandre de Meller, who suggested that light metals could be foamed through the incorporation of gas, either by injection or by introducing blowing agents. Drawing inspiration from naturally porous materials like cork, bone and coral, material researchers and engineers have made significant strides in creating metal foams or porous metals, which demonstrate similar strength characteristics as regular metals, but at much lighter weights. One of the most prominent metal foam uses in the automotive sector is the decrease the number of parts in the car structure, essentially reducing the weight of the final product, which in turn leads

to more efficient assembly, reduced costs and enhanced performance. Metal foams are cellular structures that involve a solid metal with a large number of gas-filled pores. Metal foams can be segmented into two broad categories, closed-cell foam, in which the pores are sealed, or open-cell, where the pores form an interconnected network. Although both are types of metal foams, closed-cell foams are the ones referred to as metal foams, while open-cell foams are known simply as porous metals. Transition from heavy metals to lightweight metal foams In the early twentieth century, the primary and preferred material for automotive production was steel. This preference was largely due to the metal’s robust strength, relatively lower cost, and shorter production time. However, steel-based automobiles were considerably heavy which led to a decrease in travel speeds. In order to address this, during and post the WW1 period, many automotive companies began to explore the usage of aluminium in automotive design and production. This material was deemed a suitable alternative, as it is considerably lighter than traditional steel, highly March/April 2020

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durable and more suited for aerodynamic design due to its malleability. Production trends in the industry remained constant for many years till the 1950s, when the emergence of fiberglass composites led to their increasing adoption in full production automobiles. In the 1970s however, fuelled by the looming oil crises, manufacturers began to recognize the urgency for improved fuel-efficiency and began to experiment with materials that could make their vehicles as lightweight as possible, a trend that continues to this day. Metal foams are of great use in this aspect. The primary metal foam material is aluminium, but in recent years metal foams derived from other materials like lead, titanium, zinc, copper, etc. have also gained prominence. The metal foam industry is contributing significantly to the proliferation of electric vehicles, helping them achieve their efficiency targets through the use of various lightweight materials, especially aluminium foam. Advantageous aluminium metal foam properties include enhanced lightness, recyclability, formability, high conductivity, as well as robust absorption characteristics, making them ideal for future-ready automotive applications. Demand for passenger safety in automobiles One of the most important concerns faced by automobile manufacturers is providing a safe driving experience. The safety of drivers and passengers is paramount, which is why vehicles need to be extremely durable and sturdy, so as to efficiently safeguard its occupants in the event of a collision. Reducing the weight of the vehicle is one of the ways of enhancing durability and efficiency. Experiments with using softer materials for the front of vehicles have shown significant promise in increasing passenger safety during collisions, as soft materials have adequate shock absorbing properties which can mitigate the impact through shrinkage. Since porous materials are good shock absorbers, metal foam applications in automotive domain show a lot of potential. Working off this theory, a Ph.D. student from the University of Newcastle, Mehdi Taherishargh has created a new lightweight, low cost metal foam concept, which demonstrates great application potential in the automotive industry, including passenger safety and damage control. The aluminium foam is developed by incorporating a new super light particle called expanded pearlite into molten aluminium. Rigorous compression tests and experiments have revealed that this March/April 2020

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particle has enabled the creation of a material with such low density that it can float on water, while being able to withstand a load of nearly eight tons. Rising demand for EV production Vehicle light weighting is also of massive importance in the present landscape as a solution to the growing GHG emissions and environmental impact of the automotive industry. Industrialisation and the heavy reliance on fossil fuels are leading to rising levels of greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions, especially from the transportation sector. As a solution to this burgeoning issue, many automotive brands are now committed to developing a wider range of electrically powered vehicles in the future, working towards decreasing the level of fuel-powered vehicles in use. In fact, studies suggest that the rapid decline in battery prices and consistent technological evolution will enable auto manufacturers to sell all-electric vehicles at lower prices than fossil-fuel powered vehicles, as early as 2022. One possible solution for CO2 emission reduction is light weighting. Lightweight designs, particular in electric vehicles, are particularly important, in order to enhance their driving range, and consequently their market performance. Battery packs, in particular, need to be as light as possible so that they can provide longer driving ranges to EVs. In order to achieve this, in 2013, the SmartBatt project was launched, with support from the EC under the 7th Framework Programme. The aim of the project was to develop a 20kWh battery pack exhibiting a weight reduction of almost 10-15% in comparison with the State of the Art. The project, which concluded successfully in March 2013, resulted in the formation of an innovative new battery housing prototype, which achieved the project’s objective of enhanced performance at lighter weights. The product was developed using unique sandwich materials comprising aluminium face sheets and a core made of hybrid aluminium foam. This experiment also paved the way for several new innovations in the use of metal foams in EV battery packs, the most recent being the Havel metal foam battery box. The use of metal foam in the product allows for lower weight, better crash behaviour, high stiffness, and enhanced temperature regulation possibilities, among others. Composite metal foams and how they contribute to a bullet-proof automotive future Recently, persistent research activities at the North Carolina State University have

given rise to a new bulletproof material, exhibiting properties that match the performance of traditional armour, but at only half the weight. This innovative new material is known as composite metal foam, or CMF. CMF is manufactured by incorporating gas through molten metal to create a frothy mixture. This mixture is then cooled to produce a lightweight matrix which comprises several hollow, metallic spheres. The research undertaken by professor of Mechanical & Aerospace engineering, Afsaneh Rabiei and her team is based primarily on the use of this metal foam material, which is much lighter than conventional metal products used in armoured defence vehicles but exhibits the same strength characteristics. Composite metal foam also possesses better insulation properties against extreme heat, when compared to regular metals and alloys like steel. The composite metal foam armour created by professor Rabiei and her team is less than half the weight of the rolled homogeneous steel armour used conventionally, and yet achieves the same level of blast protection. This CMF material is expected to make significant strides the defence sector, through their use in sturdy armoured vehicles that are more lightweight, and fuel efficient than their traditional counterparts. These findings indicate that composite metal foams are a lucrative solution to future advancements in space exploration, nuclear safety and medical technology applications. Working along the same lines, materials scientists Anne Jung and Stefan Diebels, based in Saarland University, Germany have also developed a metal foam product that is strong enough to be used as a protection system in vehicles, owing to superior shock absorbing qualities that can mitigate the impact of even shockwaves created by detonations. In addition to this, the material is extremely light and can be adapted to a wide range of applications. The foam system incorporated in this product is inspired by the robust structure and properties of bones. The Saarbrücken team’s highly stable, porous metal foam invention is created using a patented coating process, which can be utilized across myriad applications apart from automotive, including in lightweight construction projects. With such promising characteristics, metal foams are fast becoming a favoured research topic both from industrial as well as scientific perspectives. This interest is likely to add great impetus to the metal foam industry potential and bring about a considerable change in the automotive sector outlook in the years to come. � Aluminium International Today

04/03/2020 12:29:18

ALUMINIUM 2020 13th World Trade Fair & Conference

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25-27 MAY 2020 Centre des Congrés de Québec, Québec City, Canada Vincent Christ, Chief Executive Officer, ELYSIS

Antti Koulumies, VP Aluminium Business Line, Outotec

Éloïse Harvey, President, Mecfor Inc.

Hans Erik Vatne, SVP, Chief Technology Officer, Norsk Hydro ASA

FROM PILOT TO EVERYDAY If you want to know what’s happening in the world of digitalisation then look no further than the only aluminium conference in the world dedicated to Industry 4.0 and how it – and its related technologies – can aid and optimise the aluminium manufacturing process.


The Future Aluminium Forum will return on 25-27 May 2020! Now in its third year, the Forum has established itself as the key event to show case studies, discuss optimisation through machine learning and examine robotics, automation and augmented reality across the value chain. The Keynote Speaker has been announced as the CEO of ELYSIS, Vincent Christ. He will discuss the opportunities that ELYSIS brings for the aluminium industry and for Québec, in view of the upcoming start-up of ELYSIS Research and Development Centre in Jonquière, Québec. Join us to hear from other experts on:   

The automated casthouse Data capturing and handling Cyber-security: Prevention and cure


Implementation & challenges Industry 4.0 maintenance Additive manufacturing FutureAluminium_DPS_A4.indd All Pages

Sponsored by:


NEW FOR 2020 Alcoa Deschambault site visit The Alcoa Deschambault smelter has kindly offered to host a visit for 40 guests on the afternoon of 27 May. Please confirm if you would like to register for the opportunity to attend this trip when registering for your pass. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and are at no extra cost. Official Media Partner:

Organised by: INIUM IND UM US AL




Supported by:






TO FIND OUT MORE AND BE PART OF THE FUTURE, CONTACT: Nadine Bloxsome | Conference Director +44 1737 855115 Nathan Jupp | Sales Manager +44 1737 855027

03/03/2020 14:29



25-27 MAY 2020 Centre des Congrés de Québec, Québec City, Canada Vincent Christ, Chief Executive Officer, ELYSIS

Antti Koulumies, VP Aluminium Business Line, Outotec

Éloïse Harvey, President, Mecfor Inc.

Hans Erik Vatne, SVP, Chief Technology Officer, Norsk Hydro ASA

FROM PILOT TO EVERYDAY If you want to know what’s happening in the world of digitalisation then look no further than the only aluminium conference in the world dedicated to Industry 4.0 and how it – and its related technologies – can aid and optimise the aluminium manufacturing process.


The Future Aluminium Forum will return on 25-27 May 2020! Now in its third year, the Forum has established itself as the key event to show case studies, discuss optimisation through machine learning and examine robotics, automation and augmented reality across the value chain. The Keynote Speaker has been announced as the CEO of ELYSIS, Vincent Christ. He will discuss the opportunities that ELYSIS brings for the aluminium industry and for Québec, in view of the upcoming start-up of ELYSIS Research and Development Centre in Jonquière, Québec. Join us to hear from other experts on:   

The automated casthouse Data capturing and handling Cyber-security: Prevention and cure


Implementation & challenges Industry 4.0 maintenance Additive manufacturing FutureAluminium_DPS_A4.indd All Pages

Sponsored by:


NEW FOR 2020 Alcoa Deschambault site visit The Alcoa Deschambault smelter has kindly offered to host a visit for 40 guests on the afternoon of 27 May. Please confirm if you would like to register for the opportunity to attend this trip when registering for your pass. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and are at no extra cost. Official Media Partner:

Organised by: INIUM IND UM US AL




Supported by:






TO FIND OUT MORE AND BE PART OF THE FUTURE, CONTACT: Nadine Bloxsome | Conference Director +44 1737 855115 Nathan Jupp | Sales Manager +44 1737 855027

03/03/2020 14:29


The American Red Cross states “Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters”. Flooding often occurs following a hurricane, thawing snow, or several days of sustained rain. Flash floods occur suddenly, due to rapidly rising water along a stream, river or lowlying area. This happened in July 2018 to a Japanese aluminium plant located on the west bank of the Takahashi River and a few hundred meters to a nearby town. The region was warned earlier in the day that heavy rains would lead to flooding. There are conflicting reports on whether or not the aluminium company acted on this weather alert. One report stated “Although the danger by heavy rain was coming, the boss of the staff told them to continue casting.” The aluminium company stated that at 22:00 their workers evacuated when the river over flowed its banks. The 40 ton capacity furnace was half full when waters from the Takahashi breached the casthouse at 23:30. An explosion occurred shortly thereafter. The explosion destroyed the casthouse and set fire to nearby homes. A resident commented “we had had no warning that the plant posed such a risk.”

*General Manager, Wise Chem Aluminium International Today

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Whatever the weather

No matter which side of the debate over climate change you are on, it is hard to ignore the extreme weather and natural disasters over the past few years. Our industry is not immune to its extreme weather events. Each plant has to be prepared for natural disasters unique to its own location. Companies without plans and preparation endanger their workers and nearby communities. In this article, Alex Lowery* covers the most common natural disasters affecting our industry.

Strong storms that form over oceans have a variety of different names around the world; huricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. Regardless of the name, these storms can be life-threatening and cause serious hazards including flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes. In August 2019, Typhoon Lekima made landfall on the Chinese mainland with sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour. Hongqiao Group Limited’s affiliate Weiqiao Pioneering’s aluminium plant was in the storm path. Official social media posts, the aluminium plant suffered damage when a wall on the east side of the plant was “immediately overwhelmed” by flood waters from the nearby Xiaofu River late one evening. The firm described the water rushing into the plant as being “like a wild horse” and inundating the plant with up to two meters of water. It is unknown if the plant prepared for the incoming storm like the Weigiao Aluminium plant that ceased production beforehand “in an effort at protecting its smelting operations” as Typhoon Lekima approached. March/April 2020

05/03/2020 14:04:39

SNOW Severe weather also occurs during cold weather. Some plants get a tremendous amount of snow on an annual basis. Removing accumulated snow can be challenging. In the past, snow storms contributed to slip and fall incidents for workers walking from the parking lot to the factory. Aluminium companies will spread salt as a deicer on roadways, parking lots, outside steps, etc. to prevent accidents. However this practice prevents one incident but may unknowingly result in another, more serious incident. Salt gets tracked in on the bottom of workers shoes and may accumulate overtime on the floors throughout an the plant. Salt naturally attracts moisture. If an item has salt on it and is introduced into a molten bath an explosion could result. The Aluminium Plant Safety Blog has posted numerous explosions involving a piece of equipment or hand tool touching a factory floor and salt on the floor attaches to the item. Then equipment or tooling was placed into molten metal resulting in an explosion.

March/April 2020

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Preparing and having drills for a weather emergency beforehand should not be underestimated. Residents in localized areas where tornados occur acknowledge the importance of drills. Tornados are not limited to any specific geographic location. In fact they occur all over the Earth. Tornadoes have been documented in every state of the United States, and on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica (even there, a tornado occurrence is not impossible). Wherever the atmospheric conditions are exactly right, when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air. Tornados can occur at any time of the year. Their duration may only last for only a few minutes but the damage can take months, if not years to rebuild. A tornado formed near Lafeyette, Indiana without warning one afternoon on November 17, 2013. Winds in excess of 193 kilometers per hour. It traveled 6.5 kilometers during its short 3 minutes of duration. Workers at the Nashan Aluminium plant had minutes to shelter in place as tornado sirens sounded through the area. At the last moment the tornado slightly turned away from the Nashan plant and instead hit the automotive plant across the street causing substantial damage.



High winds are also associated with sand storms or haboobs. Haboob an Arabic word meaning “strong wind”. Dust or sand storms result from thunderstorms. Travelling at speeds in excess of 90 km/hr these storms accumulate wind and as the precipitation begins to fall, pressure is suddenly released and winds fall downward and out. This creates a force that picks up momentum and carries dust and debris many kilometers long and several thousand meters high. Haboobs are common in desert regions throughout the world including but not limited to North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Western USA, Australia, and China, etc. Haboobs have caused numerous power losses and affected workers caught outside unprepared as these storms passed through. Motorists in these areas are taught to pull off the roadway if they drive into a dust storm and to turn off their lights. Shutting off head lights prevent cars exiting the roadways behind them from using their lights as a guide and inadvertently running into them.

Aluminium International Today

05/03/2020 14:04:42

World leader in the manufacturing of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) for the light metal industry

HENCO-2426_Adv_A4_AGV_GB_Df.indd 1

12-08-1933 15:09

FIRES A wildfire is an unplanned fire in a natural area such as a forest, grassland, or prairie. The US Forest Service states “Wildland fires are a force of nature that can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.” They often start in rural, wilderness areas but migrate to rural-urban fringes, affecting buildings, animals and people. There have been many incidents where wildfires approached and even burnt buildings at aluminum company complexes. Australia has been fighting wildland fires that started in August 2019 and have continued through February 2020. Australian news organisations have stated that in the past 7 months over 110,000 sq km or 27.2 million acres of bush, forest and parks across Australia has burned. That area is larger than Greece. In January 2020, the fires in the state of New South Wales destroyed electric poles and wires caysing in an extended disruption to its power network. In response, Tomago Aluminium chief executive Matt Howell said the smelter was facing “severe short term energy shortage” due to the fires. The smelter was forced to turn off power to its potlines for a period of time. The destroyed power poles and lines are expected to be replaced by February 2020 a full two months after they were destroyed.

Extreme weather events affect every plant in our industry directly or indirectly. It could be direct impact such as typhoon or a flood. Indirectly when a weather event affects the power grid leading to an aluminium plant. Regardless of the potential impact every aluminium company has to determine which weather events could affect their operations and plan appropriately. We have only to look at our industry’s history to see the mistakes aluminium companies have made when they did not plan properly for extreme weather events. Some of those mistakes not only affected their own workers but their surrounding communities as well.

ONLINE AUCTION by order of the insolvency administrator (a.o.) due to the insolvency of Sächsische Druckguss GmbH of



YEAR 2002 2011 2004 2011 1981 1997 2006 1990

CAP. 1.600 T 900 T 800 T 585 T 500 T 400 T 220 T 160 T

Alu melting furnance “ZPF THERM”, tilting crucible furnaces “Thermoconcept” (2014), warming and dosing furnace “Balzer”, trimming press “Diesse”, mobile temperature control units “Robamat”, vibratory grinding machine “Spalek”, troughed belt blasting machine “RAGA”, rotary table blasting machine “DISA SPE”; UNIVERSAL METAL WORKING MACHINERY incl. bedmilling machine “Keppler” HDC3000, milling machine “Fidia” Digit318, 2 CNC milling machines incl. “Mikron”, 12 vert./horiz./ univ. machining centers incl. “Fanuc”, “Enshu”, “Deckel Maho” and “Akira”, die-sinking EDM machine “Charmilles”, CNC lathe “Traub”;

CLOSING: Tuesday 7 April 2020 | VIEWING: Wednesday 1 April 2020 from 10:00 till 16:00 hrs WWW.TROOSTWIJKAUCTIONS.COM Aluminium International Today

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March/April 2020

05/03/2020 14:04:44

Ask for low-carbon aluminium With electrification, the car industry has come a long way toward meeting demands to reduce tailpipe emissions. Now the next challenge is to work for CO2 neutrality in the production of the car. To achieve this, we need low-carbon materials, low-emission manufacturing and lower production waste. Aluminum is one of the most important lightweight materials in the automotive sector, but production comes with a footprint. This is why Hydro has invested for more than 10 years in new technology to be able to develop low-carbon, high-quality primary aluminium. We can now deliver Hydro REDUXA for automotive, our low-carbon primary aluminium. Through the use of renewable energy sources like hydro power, we can reduce the carbon footprint per kg aluminium to less than a fourth of the global average. Visit to learn more.

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Aluminium International Today March April 2020  

Aluminium International Today March April 2020  

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