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Rautomead investigates how organisations across the global metals processing sector could better position themselves to take advantage of renewed growth as the economy recovers.

The technology provided by Rautomead is designed to present non-ferrous metals processing companies with the equipment and know-how to produce their own semi-finished near-net-shape bars and hollow sections in house.

The company has also recently introduced a range of market initiatives, including a technology funding programme that could benefit organisations looking to invest in new machinery.

Guy Henderson, Rautomead’s sales manager, said: ‘A robust survival strategy is essential for the ongoing wellbeing of any foundry business at the moment.

‘Such a strategy may be achieved by ensuring a measured reduction in processing cost, upgrading or modernising existing manufacturing equipment and continuing to invest in new technologies.

‘At the same time, it is important to fully consider the benefits of in-house production, move away from low-margin, higher-volume products and seek out opportunities to develop new product alloys and section shapes,’ he added.

In the foundry sector, the continuous casting operation can often replace existing processes to provide a much more efficient, economic and controlled manufacturing sequence.

Examples include: the continuous casting of the lengths of hollow bronze bearing alloys as opposed to the static casting of individual hollow pieces; the continuous casting of small-diameter alloy wires in place of billet casting and extrusion or bar casting and rolling; and the continuous casting of copper wire rod for continuous rotary extrusion to strip in place of billet casting and conventional extrusion.

Rautomead supplies continuous casting equipment to the non-ferrous metals industry.

The technology has continuously evolved and been modified, adapted and improved to meet the evermore demanding requirements of the industry.

Continuous casting technology currently exists for: the horizontal continuous casting of solid or hollow billets; the upward vertical continuous casting of small-diameter hollow bars and shapes; the upward vertical continuous casting of alloy wires; horizontal casting with Quick Die Change (QDC) technology for batch production; and horizontal and vertical casting for small batches of high-purity materials used in the electronics and jewellery industries.

The fact that continuous casting can be economic on a relatively small scale (50-500 tonnes per month) has led to opportunities for producers to install this technology at locations where metal-making activity was previously not possible and where process scrap arisings and off-cuts needed to be sold to others for recycling.

As a result, new users have been able to become independent from large metal producers and take complete control of their product quality and cost.

The ownership of their own metal manufacturing equipment has enabled these organisations to develop techniques for the production of new alloys and section shapes, equipping themselves with the flexibility to react and respond to changes in market demand, to expand their product range and to diversify into offering products to a wider range of industry sectors.

As an organisation, Rautomead invests in new product development and provides various retrofit and upgrade opportunities.

Recent developments in casting die tooling, withdrawal pulling systems, operation and data recording software are developed primarily for use in conjunction with new Rautomead furnace technology.

However, opportunities exist to retrofit the latest designs onto existing Rautomead machines and also to adapt the technology to enhance the operation of furnaces originally manufactured by different suppliers.

In today’s economic climate, organisations may be advised to consider all opportunities, even where this involves researching the ability to produce new materials and products.

Where there is a requirement to develop die/cooler designs or to adapt the continuous casting technology to attempt to process new alloys or section shape combinations, the Rautomead research and development facility and engineering team may be commissioned to undertake such an evaluation.

A recent project undertaken by Rautomead included ECO brass casting; the company had to develop the tooling design and identify the horizontal continuous casting parameters capable of producing high-quality, near-net-shape bars and hollows in ECO brass alloy while achieving an economic casting die life.

In another example, Rautomead developed techniques and tooling designs for the upwards vertical continuous casting of SQ oxygen-free copper wire rod; the objective of the exercise was to minimise, or eliminate, the ‘micro cracks’ that occur at the pulse mark of conventional continuous cast wire rods.

The company also developed specialist casting die tooling designed to overcome the problems associated with zinc bar processing.

Rautomead developed QDC technology to enable casting dies to be changed without requiring the casting furnace to be cooled down.

Granted a European patent in 2008, this technology is specifically designed for use with continuous casting systems that use graphite crucibles for the containment of the liquid metal and can reduce the casting die change time from 30 hours to one hour.

QDC is available on various new Rautomead horizontal casting models, as well as being a retrofit opportunity on several machines already in service.

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