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A recipe for success

A multi million pound investment in production facilities including a new sophisticated sand conditioning plant will improve casting quality and help satisfy a growing export demand to Europe and China, says an historic foundry in the UK.
The latest phase of a four-year project at AGA Rangemaster’s Coalbrookdale foundry, near Telford, includes the construction of a new building to house the newly commissioned £1.8m state-of-the-art sand plant from Orthos Projects. Future phases will entail new moulding facilities and further improvements to the cupolas, which have been enhanced over the years. 
Speaking about the investment, which will total £4.5m, AGA's product development director David Carpenter told Foundry Trade Journal: “In the moulding process we aim to recycle approximately 97 per cent of the sand by cooling, conditioning and remixing. This will be at least 5 per cent better than our existing plant but the real benefit is the improvement in consistency which will enhance the quality of sand for the moulds and reduce operating costs.”
The new plant includes a conveyor system to deliver prepared sand to the moulding line; a return sand pre-mixer cooler to give a consistent 35-40°C sand temperature returning to storage; returned sand storage hoppers with optimum height to diameter ratio to improve consistency of flow; a batch mill with pre-mix testing and accurately weighed additives to give consistent sand properties; a high intensity batch mixer to consistently develop the desired properties of the moulding sand with lower additive levels of clay and new sand; automated control over plant operation and sand property control.

Moulding plants 
The AGA foundry uses vertical and horizontal moulding processes. The horizontal moulding machines are predominately for the production of larger castings like the AGA tops and fronts on the No4 moulding line, installed in 1990. 
The vertical moulding machine is predominately for smaller faster production machines and the production of parts such as AGA pots, pans and oven parts using a DISA GFD 230 line.
The next stage of the planned £4.5m investment will be the installation of a new automatic moulding plant with accurate mould positioning to replace the No4 plant.

Out with the old
The new sand plant had been on the cards for some time to replace an existing sand conditioning plant supplying the BMM HJ5 moulding machine, the old equipment was no longer accurately controlling the moisture resulting in compact ability results varying greatly. In recent times the foundry has been faced with the problem of scrap because of sand defects. The foundry operates one other sand plant installed by Othos in 2000 on the DISA line, which over the years has proven very reliable. 
Carpenter said the urgency to solve the problem led to the decision to make the significant investment now as demand for the company’s products is on the up: “Sand defect and consistency is the main reason for introduction of the new plant, which needs to be in place prior to installing any new automated moulding plant,” he said. “Otherwise dry sand defects are manifested as sand inclusions, pattern stripping issues, mould crush issues and ragged edges on casting joint lines; resulting in scrap or the need to carry out excessive dressing on parts.”

Customer diversity
AGA is a world-famous brand and the need to reduce scrap and increase productivity is crucial as the company targets international markets in expanding regions such as China. To meet the growing demand from the world’s fastest growing economy, AGA has approved its AGA ovens to satisfy Far East requirements, gaining full Chinese accreditation. This growth area plus the introduction of a new smaller oven – the AGA City 60 - has helped the AGA Rangemaster Group record an increase in operating profits for 2014 up 17.1 per cent.
At the heart of the product is the quality of the castings. The Coalbrookdale foundry lies in the shadows of Ironbridge – the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the UK and an historic site in metal casting history. This latest investment shows a commitment to a traditional product, produced at a traditional foundry, yet adopting the latest technology to ensure a lengthy future in both traditional and new markets.