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What a Difference a Month Makes

EMSCO engineers rebuild seriously damaged furnace in record time

Picture the scene – an explosion in a melting bay which rips through the facility causing devastating damage to all three melting furnaces, ancillaries and the melting staging. Thankfully there were no fatalities or serious injuries to people but such was the wreckage that at the time it was believed the damage to the equipment was beyond repair, spelling catastrophe for the foundry. Yet, within 24 hours the foundry was once again melting and some four weeks later all order was restored and the facility was back up to full production.

The UK foundry acted quickly after the explosion. Once the initial fire was controlled, the next course of action was to bring in the experts to assess the situation, which is what the foundry in question did when they rang the engineers at EMSCO, a world leading repairer of induction furnaces, coils, water-cooled leads and associated systems.
EMSCO sales director John Green takes up the story: “We got a telephone call to say something’s wrong with the furnaces!!”

But they couldn’t have been prepared for what they saw on arrival at the site, where the scene was more akin to a warzone than a metal casting facility. “We found carnage and devastation but we defined the task and set about the job in hand. Our engineers cleaned and repaired the smaller furnace of the three in situ which had been the furthest from the blast. This furnace was working again within 24 hours of the explosion. The second furnace was cleaned and rebuilt on site and was working again within three days.”

The culprit for the explosion had been a 3-tonne furnace which suffered failure due to a bridge across molten charge. This was of course the piece of equipment which suffered the most damage and would be written off by many. It was covered in frozen metal and the cradle, coil and assemblies were damaged to the point that nothing could be dismantled and the platform had to be cut away to extract the assembly as one complete lump with metal still over it.

Once the EMSCO engineers had it back at their manufacturing base in Sheffield they could assess whether any of the parts could be salvaged. With time and financial constraints dictating the procedure, the foundry in question prepared itself for the bad news. However, the EMSCO team is used to challenges that seem insurmountable to the uninitiated and, although the original thought was that the furnace would need to be totally scrapped as it appeared to be beyond any kind of repair, the assembly was cut away to enable individual components to be identified and assessed.

Remarkably once the onerous task of stripping the furnace down had been completed the decision was made to rebuild. “Even though there were considerable man hours required and new components, the cost of salvaging what we could and repairing the existing furnace was half the cost of a new one and could be completed in less time than building a new furnace from scratch,” Green said.

One of EMSCO’s greatest advantages is its relationship with sister company Inductotherm, resulting in the availability of parts at short notice. Indeed such was the severity of the accident that the entire melting bay was re-commissioned by Inductotherm.

The rebuilding of a furnace
One casualty was the furnace steel cradle which had to be scrapped and a new one manufactured.
The induction coil was also totally wrecked; the distortion from the explosion had left it too large to be removed from the top as design allows. The coil and cradle were cut away and removed piece meal. A new coil was wound from the company’s stock of copper section and installed in to the new steel cradle assembly. Green explains: “Being able to draw on our own stock was critical, having to wait for section would have seriously compromised delivery extending it by some 12 weeks.”
All lamination shunts had to be built and installed as the existing ones were unsalvageable. A new furnace base and top blocks also had to be made.
Of the parts that could be salvaged the only major components were the ‘A’ frames which had escaped the worst of the damage and the hydraulic rams which, although requiring a full overhaul, were structurally intact.
While the jigsaw of the rebuild was on-going at the Emsco works, company engineers remained on site at the foundry overseeing the restoration of all hydraulics, water and power. This required items such as new bus-bars, water hoses and water cooled power leads to remake all the services and circuitry lost in the ensuing fires.

Despite the size of the task EMSCO engineers worked a 24/7 shift pattern to achieve a remarkable turnaround on what looked like a near impossible job. Their determination and skills resulted in the third furnace being re-built in record time within a four-week period.

A family of support
As part of the Inductotherm Group, EMSCO was able to live up to its reputation of keeping customers’ critical production furnaces up and running by drawing on its wide reaching support network of skilled engineers, experience and stock levels; something other companies would not have been able to tap into. With fully-equipped facilities in Sheffield (UK) and throughout the world, EMSCO is able to respond quickly to customer’s needs anywhere in the world. 
“I hadn’t seen a furnace damaged this bad for many years and I don’t believe there’s anyone else in Europe who could have taken this on and do it in the required timescale,” said Inductotherm Europe Ltd’s managing director Steve Hill. “It’s worth noting that EMSCO had plenty of other work on at the time, so for the engineers to be able to pull this one out of the bag is exceptional.”
As for the customer, they are “overjoyed”, says John Green. “The furnaces have been up and running for several months now and have been given a new lease of life.”

EMSCO is responsive to customer needs and has highlighted that anything is possible, if you have the expertise and the back-up needed to perform minor miracles in just four weeks. What a difference a month and a skilled team makes!

Contact: Electric Melting Services Co Ltd, Lovell Street, Sheffield S4 7WN UK. Tel: +44 (0) 114 273 8700, email: johnemscouk@btinternet.com web: www.emscouk.com