The first order, destined for automotive giant Bajaj, in India, will be specifically used to make engine blocks and piston heads. Between 2.5% - 4% copper is added to the furnace in order to create an alloy that can tolerate a higher operating strength and temperature. These type of alloys have never been produced before at Qatalum. However based on detailed preparation, this first cast was an immediate success.
The Cu alloy casting team
Dilip, the FA Process Engineer in the team responsible for the first casting reported that, “After testing several parameters of the casting process we were able to target quality and productivity within a short time, making the first trial cast a success with optimum surface finish and production efficiency.”
100% Cu (Copper) being prepared for addition to the furnace
Fundamentally adding copper to the liquid metal pollutes the entire furnace. In order to go back to standard products, for example, the entire furnace needs to be cleaned out and the standard product process begun from scratch. Therefore there need to be justifiable reasons to make the change to copper! In this case the copper alloys bring an increased premium to the product with higher margins.
The first batch of Cu alloys being cast
Copper alloy ingots ready for shipment
Equally important to the financial gain is that the casthouse has reached a stage of organisational maturity whereby handling change determined by market forces is sustainably handled within its operational capability.
In order to fulfil this achievement, the FA team had backing from the Hydro Casthouse support team and the Sunndal PFA team who provided core competencies for the processes and casting recipes. “It was down to the joint teamwork that the casthouse team at Qatalum were able to hit their target procedure during the first trial,” said Stian Tangen, Casthouse Production Manager.
This success at the FA casthouse allows Qatalum to add a copper alloys to its product portfolio and remain flexible to the market demands placed on it with minimal losses in changes to the process.
Steinar Benum, Casthouse Manager said, “The copper based alloys are another step in broadening our product portfolio and meeting challenges from the market, while maximising margins.”