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Honouring the ‘professor of professors’

The 2nd Carl Loper Symposium gathers more than 160 participants from 21 countries to share the most advanced technological innovations and applications of cast iron.

Organised by AZTERLAN Metallurgy Research Center, along with the American Foundry Society (AFS), the World Foundry Organization (WFO) and the Tabira Foundry Institute, this outstanding international framework reviewed the metallurgy fundamentals of cast iron by sharing some of the latest research and technological developments for the industry. The event also outlined some of the opportunities for this material that continues to offer a response to high-demanding applications in the automotive and the energy sectors, amongst others.

The symposium was held on 30th September and 1st October and attracted more than 160 professionals linked to cast iron metallurgy and transformation technology, representing 85+ organisations (companies, universities and research centres) from 21 countries.

Through an outstanding working programme formed by 40 technical presentations, industry and academic experts discussed the latest innovations aimed at improving the efficiency of industrial processes, optimising tooling design and enhancing physical and mechanical characteristics of alloys and components, as well as their resistance to corrosion, oxidation and wear.

From diverse topics, such as the control of graphite nucleation or the effect of different chemical and inoculating elements on the formation of the microstructure of alloys, various authors offered clues to improve the properties of iron alloys, also analysing their involvement in this complex manufacturing technology.

The symposium afforded the opportunity to learn about advanced testing methods and innovative software developments for predicting metallurgical quality, for designing parts and tooling or for configurating mould feeding systems. Among the novelties presented, new heat treatments and innovative processes, such as the application of high thermal plasma or some developments for the recovery of spent foundry sands, could be found.

The four invited keynote lecturers presented innovation experiences related to iron casting materials and processes, as well as a market-oriented vision on the evolution of cast iron components in the automotive sector and the energy sector.

The first of the guest speakers, Jorge Fesch, CEO and president of the foundry group SAKTHI Portugal, shared with the attendees the importance of incorporating innovation into the corporate culture of the foundry. In his words: “Building strong ties with suppliers, customers and workforce based on values like trust, transparency, commitment, proximity and excellence, while ‘keeping a clear focus’, is fundamental to succeed”.

With a closer view to product development, Per Samuelsson, head of metallurgy at MAN Energy Solutions, presented a case study on how a compact graphite casting was used to build cylinders for high dimension marine engines. The new material offers a significant weight reduction compared to the lamellar graphite casting used to date in this kind of application, achieving improved properties to wear and high temperatures. 

 

Iron casting challenges and opportunities in the automotive sector

The symposium offered the chance to share the vision and strategy of the automotive industry through the presentation from Renault, a leading European car manufacturer. Loïc Vaissiere and Eric Albertalli, experts in foundry materials from the French company, showed the attendees how the weight lightening strategies implemented by the industry, transitioning towards the gasoline engine and the “imminent and inevitable” jump to the electric engine, represent a steady reduction in the presence of cast iron components in passenger vehicles. In Vaissiere’s words: “These strategies respond to public policies aiming to reduce the environmental impact of passenger vehicles. To achieve such, it is necessary to act at three strategic levels: decreasing the size of the components by the improvement of mechanical properties and the optimisation of the design; enhancing the production processes: and continuing to develop materials that offer similar performance with less weight”. Vaissiere and Albertalli have identified aluminium (forged and cast) and steel (forged, cast and stamped) as potential substitutes for key car components from those that are currently produced in cast iron.

The representatives from Renault have predicted that by 2035 there will be an annual 1.85 per cent reduction in the presence of cast iron components in cars, a vision that poses a real challenge for the industry, which is under a continuous demand to improve the mechanical properties of its products and to optimise its production processes.

As a counterpoint to this vision, Dr Steve Dawson, CEO and president of Sintercast, blamed “miss-communication by the casting industry and the automotive sector” for the decrease of cast iron parts in cars. By showing a complete life cycle analysis of the components, he highlighted that the incorporation of aluminium as a substitute for cast iron fosters CO2 emissions resulting from the environmentally unfriendly production and processing of this metallic material. Likewise, he said, the automobile industry is penalised for an issue that in reality corresponds to the energy generation industry. Without any doubt, the incorporation of the electric vehicle, he said: “will increase the demand for energy, moving the problem to another area”.

Further on, he defined the electric vehicle promotion strategy as a “mainly European trend”, which does not correspond to the reality of other markets such as the American market, where he claimed: “the tendency and the demand is oriented to the use of larger vehicles”, that consequently will continue demanding cast iron components.

 

Honoring Dr Carl Loper

The memory and the figure of Dr Carl Loper was present in the symposium. Memories and special anecdotes about Dr Loper were shared during the opening and closing ceremonies, through the technical presentations of several speakers and in some of the social events. He has been defined and remembered as a prolific researcher, ‘professor of professors’ and an international reference in the field of iron metallurgy.

Bilbao has had the honour of hosting the 2nd Symposium in the name of DrCarl Loper. Ten years after the first celebration of the event in Madison (Wisconsin, USA), attendees were able to enjoy a world-class international technical framework, sharing two days of intense working sessions with technicians and specialists from more than 20 countries.

The organising committee for the event would like to highlight and to appreciate the collaboration and involvement of a good number of companies (not only from the auxiliary sector, but also foundries), which have supported this international framework through their sponsorship: HA Ilarduya (gold sponsor), ASK Chemicals (silver sponsor), Draxton (silver sponsor), SQ Insertec (silver sponsor) and Foseco (bronze sponsor), as well as the support of the Education Department of the Basque Government.