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The future’s now electric and efficient for a traditional sand foundry

Production and metallurgical flexibility, improved efficiency and environmental credentials, along with the ability to increase SG iron production has led to the transition to electric induction melting at a formerly traditional cupola melting foundry in the West Midlands (UK).

On committing a total investment of £2.4m to upgrade the foundry at Joseph & Jesse Siddons Ltd in West Bromwich, it was recognised that a new approach to melting was fundamental. The purpose-built facility in the heart of a Victorian industrial landscape may only be metres away from the existing well established traditional foundry, but in truth it is lightyears ahead in terms of appearance and future-proofing the business. Housed adjacent to a series of imposing Victorian buildings, the new 650mbuilding is light and airy, thanks to the scale of the construction and the impressive extraction system and is set to propel the company into a new phase in its 176-year history.

Having adapted and evolved over the decades, J&J Siddons is one of the longest standing foundries in the region, but the time had come to further update and confine cupola melting to the past. Representing the fifth generation of the Siddons family, managing director Andrew Siddons explains the rationale behind the move. “The new furnaces will give us increased capacity whilst improving productivity, flexibility and metallurgical control. Having picked up work because of the sad closure of many of our competitors, we knew that we would be producing more SG castings moving forward. Electric melting means that we have been able to absorb new work with greater ease and accommodate a greater range of castings.”

Following extensive planning permission and with the involvement of the council’s environmental department to advise on the matter, the contractors broke ground on the new foundry in January 2020. The building was completed at the end of June with the furnaces and mechanised charging system commissioned in August. The first phase of the furnace installation was September 2020, with the second phase in September 2021. The project was undertaken throughout the tumultuous initial year of the global pandemic, with Siddons being able to work continuously without furloughing any employees.

The modern melting platform at Siddons is supported by new, internal scrap bays. “Having the scrap bays inside and next to the melting platform has made a huge difference,” Siddons tells Foundry Trade Journal. “The lorries can reverse straight in to deliver, so there is a noise reduction for our neighbours, and everything is protected from the weather. The three furnaces are fed by two vibratory chargers which are loaded by an overhead electromagnetic on 5t and 3t cranes, making the charging faster, more efficient and physically much less demanding.”

 

The right time

A tour of the established foundry offers an insight into the company’s lengthy ability to withstand the trials and tribulations that others have succumbed to. Much of the equipment was bought second-hand or refurbished but has served the company well over the years, primarily because of an appreciation of the virtues of investing in higher quality machinery that is robust enough to last in a foundry environment, but also because it is maintained to equally high standards. “That’s refurbished…that was second-hand…we’ve had that for fifteen years,” Siddons recounts when looking at some of the older kit. Yet, thanks to good maintenance and respect for quality machinery brands, everything is performing well, and expectations are still being met. Siddons is, however, shrewd enough to know that the time was right to adopt a modern approach to melting and invest in the latest electric melting technology to ensure that the foundry continues to prosper moving forward.

The result was the installation of two new Meltech 750kW 600Hz Pulsar IGBT power supplies each with 1,000kg furnaces. Plus, the refurbishment of an existing 2,000kg furnace system to enable two to be melting continuously and one to operate as the holding furnace.

“We knew we needed more capacity and engineered the project around the need for three furnaces,” Siddons explains. “I’ve got enough foundry experience to know that you start softly and undergo a slow conversion. We moved away from the cupolas in early 2021, transitioning gradually from the old plant to the new. I didn’t want to put people under too much pressure, and we needed to ensure we maintained good metallurgical controls.

“We had a relationship with Meltech, as we already had one of their furnaces and we have been pleased with the results. We had the confidence in Meltech equipment and in working with them. In terms of the new furnaces, I can honestly say that they have done what we set out to do.”

The Pulsar IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) system comes with transistorised technology, fibre optic firing and digital interface as standard. It offers full diagnostic capabilities and better control. The HMI touchscreen enables a greater understanding thanks to easily displayed, and thus accessible, real time data from anywhere remotely. IGBT’s are already the go to choice for all other applications such as electric cars and AC motor drives where frequency modulation is applied, thus reinforcing its credentials as a reliable and efficient improvement over other outdated technologies. Andrew Drage, sales manager at Meltech explains why the company’s Pulsar IGBT inverters have been making a difference in recent years. “The IGBT technology is all about efficiency and speed, with some installations having shown savings of up to 30 per cent via improvements in energy consumption and melt times. The Pulsar inverter is a thoroughbred IGBT series inverter, so it offers better efficiency like for like than any other traditional SCR or thyristor driven system. The Pulsar IGBT can connect directly to a standard distribution transformer to drive all makes and types of induction furnace body.

“During customer installations, there have been instances where melt times have been reduced from 90 minutes to 55 minutes. While the performance exhibited during the melting and holding cycle has in certain circumstances reduced energy consumption to give the customer a very tangible cost saving and payback. One customer noted a decrease in power consumption from 125 to 60kW during their holding cycle.

“The equipment runs on a near perfect power factor of 0.98 or above, which offers more benefits.”

Meltech had no problems in working to the Siddons’ timescale and was able to meet the foundry’s needs, working with them to ensure that the platform and chargers were consistent with what was required. The result has been an improved melting facility – faster, with much greater response and control, and of course more detailed analytics.

 

Growth in demand

Having originally been established in 1999 as a company skilled in offering induction furnace spares and maintenance, Meltech has expanded over the years and is now recognised as a renowned manufacturer of high specification and efficient coreless induction furnaces, in a range of styles – flush platform, tilting, rollover, crucible induction. The company’s growth has been driven by the determination, skills and experience of the team at Meltech.

Such is the growing demand for the equipment that Meltech has expanded to accommodate increasing sales over the past four to five years despite unpredictable market conditions. “We have increased our floorspace by 35 per cent and increased our staffing levels. We are now leaders in IGBT technology which has almost rendered our traditional SCR technology unsellable, IGBT technology has now become a standard in our equipment throughout Europe” Drage says.

The upgrading of the melting facility at J&J Siddons is the second stage of the investment program to modernise the foundry, under the watchful eyes of Andrew Siddons and his son Alec, ensuring the sixth generation can continue to grow the family business. “Although we have a commercial property side to the business, the foundry is a separate cost centre,” Siddons explains. “The investment shows that we see a real future for the foundry.” It is a future that has the efficiency and flexibility of electric induction melting and proven technology from Meltech at its heart.

Joseph & Jesse Siddons Ltd is a well-established iron and steel foundry supplying complex cored castings from its base in West Bromwich, West Midlands (UK). The foundry engineers a wide range of castings including pumps, compressors, clutch housings, filter casings and has undertaken high profile work for renowned sculptor Antony Gormley. Other aspects of the recent upgrade include new shotblast and robotic grinding machines, and the lengthening and mechanisation of the casting tracks. Read more about this in future issues of Foundry Trade Journal.

Joseph & Jesse Siddons Ltd, Tel: +44 (0) 121 556 0218, email: [email protected] www.jjsiddons.co.uk

Meltech Ltd manufactures a range of electric induction furnace systems including power units and a variety of furnace bodies to suit all processes and casting methods. The Pulsar IGBT Inverters offer induction furnace power supply between 75 to 750kW with frequencies of 200 to 10,000Hz for both air and vacuum melting applications, while offering an operating efficiency of 98 per cent. Clearly laid out instrumentation provides the operator with uncomplicated visual feedback of the equipment’s operating conditions. Optional analogue metering is also available with backlit LEDs in addition to the HMI display.

Along with the cutting-edge new equipment, Meltech also has a long-standing reputation in the rebuilt furnace, service and spares market for foundries throughout the UK and Europe.

Meltech Ltd, Tel: +44 (0) 1902 722588, email: [email protected] web: www.induction-furnaces.com