From Nuclear Opportunities to AOD refinement ..
Branch event focussing on Steel proves popular
More than 70 ICME members and guests attended the recent ICME Chesterfield and Sheffield branch technical seminar at the Tapton Conference Centre, which was sponsored by the branch in association with ASK Chemicals Ltd.
Steve Roberts IEng Prof MICME, Technical Director Goodwin Steel Castings Ltd, gave the first presentation on the ‘Benefits of AOD Secondary Refinement for the Production of High Integrity Steel Castings and Ingot’. Steve explained the reasons for carrying out Argon Oxygen Decarburisation and talked through the steps in the process.
He described how, with ever increasing efficiency demands from the power generation industry, this requires the use of steel castings that are able to operate at increasingly high temperatures. This requires sophisticated alloyed steels such as the newer MarBN steels. AOD refining helps to improve quality and particularly impact toughness values, both of which are demanded by customers.
Steve described how their company has benefited from the introduction of AOD noting however that the technology does require a high level of technical knowledge and ability from technicians, engineers and metallurgists to operate the converter and to cope with the range of alloys that the company processes, indicating that it can take up to 10 years to build up the necessary experience and competences. It is also not cheap to install and run, due to the complex piping needed to deliver the gas to the converter, and the necessity to have 3 converters at various stages of maintenance and operation at any time.
The AOD technology has clearly been a worthwhile, if not vital, investment for Goodwins, although Steve also noted that the AOD process does not solve all casting problems and that attention to moulds and tranquil, non turbulent liquid metal filling to reduce oxide entrainment are also very important.
There will be more on the AOD secondary refinement in a future issue of Foundry Trade Journal when we consider steel casting in our July / August issue.
"Opportunities for Casting Supply to the Nuclear Industry" was the next talk, presented by Richard Cinderey of NAMTEC. Richard explained how the current 19 UK reactors generate around 18% of the UK electricity demand and that most of these reactors will reach the end of their planned production lives in 2023. Whilst the demand for electricity is increasing, and government is aiming to reduce reliance upon gas, oil and coal, this 18% of our need is not going to be met by renewable. Work is underway to extend the lives of the existing reactors and at the same time a new build programme is underway.
Richard explained that there are many opportunities for foundries in the supply chain for this build programme since each reactor plant will require up to 4700 valves.
He also affirmed that only 30% of the plant is nuclear specific and much is reliant upon conventional technology and design standards. This means that for a foundry to become part of the supply chain, at tier 5 or 6, this would not require overly onerous certification; most of this would be carried by companies higher up the chain.
A robust quality system would be a requirement, something that most foundry companies already require and have particularly if they supply the automotive or aero sectors as well as environmental and H&S credentials.
There is a desire for 70% of the UK build programme to be UK sourced but there is no means to enforce this although he thought that offshore suppliers would be disadvantaged by logistics, distance and also mounting concerns about counterfeit goods.
Richard’s advice for companies wishing to get involved as suppliers is to start preparing the ground now:
Register with, and join, some of the nuclear supply chain networks (this is not expensive at tiers 5 and 6),
Attend the networking events that Namtec arrange through the special metals forum,
Use the dedicated Nuclear Industry Association resource at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre www.nuclearsupplychain.com
The third talk of the afternoon featured "Optimising the Phenolic Urethane Cold Box Process in the Foundry" presented by Andrew Busby Prof MICME, Senior Product Manage ASK Chemicals Ltd.
Andy was able to provide an informative and amusing presentation demonstrating his long and varied experiences helping foundry get the best from their coremaking process with many practical examples of good and poor practice.
The final presentation was by Toni Carannante FICME, Engineering Director, Wm Lee Ltd, part of the Castings plc Group who spoke about "Building new foundry in the UK - From Concept to Delivery" describing the process whereby the foundry at Dronfield was conceived and is now in full production.
Antony Rowett, Branch President, and Mike Leaney, Branch Secretary, with the rest of the branch council are clearly pleased that the event is so well supported by the industry. The format is quickly becoming the highlight of the branch’s calendar enabling members from the local branch, but also from branches further afield, to meet and learn from industry experts. Indeed so popular is the event proving that the branch may have to look for a new venue for next year!