Hydro has decided to invest in new casting technology for its sheet ingot casthouses in Høyanger and Årdal, Norway. The investment will enable the company to better serve customers in the automotive industry.
With the NOK 80 million investment in casting tables with Adjustable Flexible Moulds (AFM), and new liquid distribution systems, Hydro strengthens its position as a supplier of advanced sheet ingot.
“This investment is strategically important, and fits very well with our strategy to high-grade our product portfolio and to become experts on advanced casthouse products,” says the head of the Primary Metal business area in Hydro, Hilde Merete Aasheim.
Now offering a wider product range
The AFM technology, which is an abbreviation for adjustable, flexible moulds, has been developed by the Hydro-owned casthouse technology provider Hycast, in cooperation with the researchers at Hydro’s Technology Center at the primary plant in Sunndal, Norway.
The technology represents several advantages over the previous casting technology.
“In addition to now being able to cast alloying series we could not cast before, this technology improves the geometry of the ingots. The surface will be flatter, and that will reduce the amount of milling the customers will have to do in order to get a level surface before rolling," says Aasheim.
Also in terms of safety, the new technology outperforms the previous one. "The safety of the operators is improved because the new system includes a new process control function, automating the start and end of a casting operation. That means the operators will be less exposed to the potential dangers of molten metal," says Aasheim.
Pilot in Høyanger
In order to test out the technology and gain experience, a pilot study has been run in the casthouse at the Høyanger primary smelter. The pilot has run since February this year, with positive lessons, says the head of Commercial in Primary Metal, Erik Fossum.
“We currently have the new technology under qualification with several customers, and so far the feedback has been very positive with regards to surface quality, geometry and microstructure,” he says.
Since the new casting tables are both flexible and adjustable, one AFM table can replace up to seven standard moulds. “As a result, the number of mould changes will be reduced significantly, and traffic risk inside the casthouses will be reduced as crane and fork lift operations will be reduced by 30-40 percent,” says Fossum.
Implementation of the AFM casting technology will start during first half of 2015, and the project is expected to complete by first quarter 2016.