Hero No. 738, Metallurgy

Edward, plant metallurgist.
Used ABB to keep business up in an economic downturn.

Today’s challenges:

1. Find the plant’s competitive advantage in a weakening market.
2. Work with plant management to find solutions to counteract an economic downturn.

Current situation
My plant used to run at full capacity. At the end of last year, however, some customers reduced order sizes or even cancelled contracts.

The plant now faces a difficult situation: contracts cover only 70% (and falling) of production. In a market with reduced aluminum demand, I needed to find our company’s competitive edge to halt this decline.

Three years ago I was put in charge of customer service. After visiting customer sites, I discovered that our customers’ rejected parts often had defects related to inclusion and oxide films present in the aluminum.

I suggested our company provide customers with an indication of aluminum cleanliness. The plant already makes a concerted effort to produce clean aluminum by filtrating aluminum, fluxing and degassing. Providing a reliable inclusion measurement number would gain customer confidence and give an advantage over the competition.

The solution
My solution to reliable inclusion measurement led me to ABB’s LiMCA CM (Liquid Metal Cleanliness Analyzer).

It is fully automated, fully integrated in the process, and requires minimal maintenance.

The plant can now:

  • precisely monitor in real-time the quality of molten aluminum
  • access process data easily and find crucial information at a glance
  • provide customers a cleanliness level value in thousands of inclusions per kilogram of melt (K/kg).

Why I chose ABB:
  • Detailed view of process quality
    Inclusion monitoring is tracked every minute, providing a detailed view of process quality. The LiMCA CM system measures total concentration and size distribution of inclusions in aluminum alloys.
  • Ruggedness, reliability
    The LiMCA CM can run 24/7 in the harsh environment of an aluminum plant with minimal scheduled maintenance.

It monitors in real-time the evolution of cleanliness along a cast showing the effect of process parameters and melt-handling practices. The impact of furnace preparation, alloying practices, feedstock mix, settling time, and similar parameters on melt cleanliness can be easily observed.

The results
My initiative to start measuring inclusions enabled our plant to preserve current orders and even get new ones—no small feat in today’s economy.
For example, ABB’s inclusion measurement indicates where and how to improve the process. This led to our plant delivering aluminum to a customer in the aerospace industry. While the specific aerospace alloy was difficult to work with and presented high quality requirements, it delivered nice profit margins.

Today’s difficult economy has compelled aluminum producers and aluminum foundries to produce the highest-quality aluminum and shape castings. ABB’s process expertise enables control of melt quality at all stages of the manufacturing process and is essential in producing a top-quality product.

For further information regarding ABB products and services visit www.abb.com/analytical

* Each ABB Hero Story is a real business case. In order to maintain confidentiality, the name of the "hero" has been changed and the company name is not mentioned.

ABB Metallurgical Analyzers
Metallurgical AnalyzerLiMCA CM

Our range of analyzers includes:
  • LiMCA – Liquid aluminium cleanliness analyzer (LiMCA web link)
  • Prefil®-Footprinter – Liquid aluminium quality measurement (Prefil web link)
  • PoDFA – Inclusion identification and counting (PoDFA web link)
  • AlSCAN™ - Direct hydrogen measurement in liquid aluminum (AlSCAN web link)

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