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Improving melting efficiency with minimal expense

Many businesses are faced with the same dilemma, wanting to replace old equipment to modern efficient standards without production disruption and maintaining business continuity.

David Harriman, managing director of South Lincs Foundry, recognised that there were more cost effective ways to produce castings but, due to the limits of his old 350kw 1,000Hz induction melting furnace, it was difficult to find a way to improve efficiency and production methods without huge expense, upheaval and disruption to the business. With budgets being stretched by energy costs and increasing service and maintenance requirements, the investment in new machinery moved from being on the company’s wish list to being imperative. The existing melting system at SLF simply “worked” but there was an ever increasing anxiety that after 34 years of operation it was no longer the most efficient or reliable system.

Spare parts availability and technical support were becoming more of an issue and could possibly create major issues in future production. Investment in a completely new system wasn’t really an option either for the established independently run foundry in Spalding (UK), as existing infrastructure like cranage and moulding lines dictated that any new investment should be positioned within the same location. Having worked with Meltech for many years to maintain the existing induction melting furnace, Harriman was aware of the possibilities to lower energy consumption and improve melt speeds based on implementation of state-of-the-art transistorised (IGBT) induction technology and decided to implement improvements while retaining the existing layout and part of the existing infrastructure. Existing furnace bodies, platform, hydraulics and mains transformer remained while the old inverter and water cooling system were to be upgraded to the latest technology with the power rating remaining the same.  

The increase in electricity costs, together with a need for future reliability, brought these initial discussions to the fore. Meltech was the preferred option thanks to their long and trusted partnership with SLF and their expertise in the latest highly efficient IGBT melting systems. The two existing furnace bodies were still quite serviceable and operational. So, a bespoke Pulsar IGBT inverter was discussed to couple to them, utilising furnace selector switches connecting to the existing busbar runs. The proposed cabinet would need to be reduced in height to fit into the existing space allocated for the system, a remote touchscreen panel was also required to be placed on the melt platform for ease of operation. Overall melting efficiencies were further enhanced with the intelligent control for the water cooling system. With a PLC controlled pump module linking to the inverter and offering a smart operation of the system, pumps and fans. The whole installation and commissioning project took only a week to complete, which minimised disruption and production loss, which was considered a major benefit and in the end saved much money.

As David Harriman explains: “With the vast range of materials that we cast here at South Lincs Foundry, early indications show that we are averaging a reduction in time per melt of around 35-40 per cent, based on a 650kg melt of steel. We are monitoring melts with the easy use of the touchscreen display system, which gives an accurate reading of time and kilowatts used, and we are now expecting to pay off the investment sooner than initially thought. Not only has this reduced our melt time, which in turn reduces energy consumption, but it has also led to an increased number of melts per day, thus increasing our productivity.

“Throughout the project the team at Meltech was knowledgeable and helpful, the speed and efficiency of the installation was so fast and the resulting melt performance was exactly as Meltech promised”. These savings have fully vindicated the outlay for SLF and the additional remote downloadable melt data has proved to be beneficial in costing future jobs.

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