Aluminium has a “brilliant” future, as the light-weight material offers impressive solutions for sustainable mobility, durable packaging or urban construction projects, and SMS group is perfectly positioned to further growth, avers systems supplier SMS group aluminium business head Michael Schäfer.
SMS group sees its task as generating plants for the fabrication of aluminium products that stand out for their high energy efficiency and excellent product quality.
“The aluminium industry benefits from the fact that SMS group knows its material, its products and all its complex production processes. Meeting this prerequisite is the only way to create the innovative plant technology that will strengthen the competitive edge of our customers.”
Schäfer notes that the group has been a leading equipment supplier and partner to the aluminium industry for decades, with the company’s portfolio covering the entire process chain from the production of rolled and extruded products to special machinery for finished products.
Further, he mentions that the successful merger of the former business areas SMS Meer and SMS Siemag under the roof of SMS group will contribute to further sharpen the company’s profile as an integrated systems supplier.
Schäfer posits that the overarching view of the process routes opens up new possibilities for improving interfaces and developing new overall solutions. He notes that there are promising ideas and approaches available that SMS group will advance jointly with its clients.
“The strength of the group in the field of aluminium lies in the individual solutions that incorporate the company’s special process knowledge. This knowledge is applied not only to designing of new plants but also when services are performed or equipment is modernised.”
As life cycle partners to its clients, the aluminium experts of the group apply their know-how to the benefit of its clients through specific measures that help achieve significant competitive advantages in a tough market environment. This applies to the whole product portfolio: plants and units for melting and casting works, and hot and cold rolling mills, including strip processing lines, continuous casters and forging plants – all plants built by SMS group feature added value and unique selling points.
One such example is the group’s X-Pact electrical and automation system. Proven modules of the automation and electrical system were specifically tailored to the requirements of aluminium production in hot and cold rolling processes, which led to the development of AluControl. The automation solutions are optimised during the plug-and-work procedure in the test field prior to commissioning, and future operating staff are trained on the original equipment. The heart of plug-and-work is to visualise and simulate complex processes and procedures in the rolling mill in real time.
A further strength of the group is the adequate conceptual design and implementation of storage and logistics systems for aluminium rolling mills. One of the products included in the AMOVA range – which emerged from SMS Logistiksystems, in Germany – is high-bay storage systems with dynamic coil cooling. A central store management system controls the complete coil logistics and provides intelligent connection to all production facilities involved in the process.
Schäfer highlights the establishment of a new works complex for the joint venture between Ma’aden and Alcoa, in Saudi Arabia, for the production of aluminium strips, as one major project of SMS group. All core components, including electrical and automation systems, were supplied by SMS group. The package comprised a 1+4 aluminium hot rolling mill, a four-stand tandem cold rolling mill, a single-stand cold rolling mill as well as a combined heat treatment and chemical coating line for automotive plates.
This plant configuration offers Ma’aden Aluminium great flexibility in production: for optimal output of can bodies and can ends as well as high-quality automotive grades before processing in the heat treatment and coating lines.
Among the list of references of successfully commissioned aluminium plants in 2015/16, Schäfer notes the supply of a multi- chamber melting furnace Ecomelt PS-250 to aluminium supplier and exporter Hulamin, in South Africa.
Schäfer also notes that, AMAG Austria Metall AG in Austria and the Chinese company Tianjin Zhongwang Aluminium, contracted SMS group to supply all core components for the companies’ new aluminium rolling mills.
Schäfer informs that only about 5% of the energy required to produce primary aluminium is needed in the recycling process for aluminium remelting. SMS group puts the focus on optimised recycling processes. “With its Ecomelt furnaces, SMS group’s subsidiary, Hertwich Engineering, is setting new standards.”
Ecomelt furnaces are able to melt both clean and contaminated aluminium scrap with minimum metal loss. Design, supply, construction and commissioning of machinery and equipment for the aluminium industry company Hertwich Engineering CEO Franz Niedermair notes that, even if the aluminium scrap is tainted with oil or colour, this will not present a problem as the furnace will burn all impurities. “We use the energy thus released to minimise the demand for natural gas. This way, the plant user benefits twice.”
Further, a double advantage is enjoyed by those plant users who operate HybrEx extrusion presses from SMS group. Depending on the application, it is possible to achieve energy savings of up to 55% and to increase production by up to 20%. Schäfer posits that HybrEx extrusion presses thus meet the stringent criteria that characterise the economically and, at the same time, ecologically convincing solutions of SMS group.
In contrast to conventional presses, the hydraulic system is almost exclusively used for the extrusion process. The secondary movements of the HybrEx extrusion press are generated by dynamic, electrical servo drives that achieve twice the speed of previous concepts and thus shorten nonproductive times and increase productivity. Hence, the reduced hydraulic drive requires a distinctly lower tank volume, which means a HybrEx has a smaller footprint, compared with other machine types.
“Owing to a new type of pumps for extrusion presses, additional measures to pre- vent sound emissions are unnecessary,” he concludes.