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METEC 2015 Specialist Article

met0000_tm01_cmyk01.jpgMetal smelting: indispensable and innovative
Shorter development cycles – a challenge for the industry

METEC 2015 – International Metallurgical Trade Fair with Congresses will present innovative solutions for smelting, rolling and steel mills.

We depend on metals in practically all areas of life. The term is derived from the ancient Greek word μέταλλον (métallon, quarry) and stands for certain chemical elements. Their atoms form a lattice with free moving electrons that is characteristic in each individual case. The typical properties of metals, such as electrical conductivity, heat conductivity, ductility (formability) and metallic lustre, are based on this structure. With a few exceptions, metals only occur in nature in the form of ores, in which they are bonded with non-metallic substances. The metal content is separated, processed and formed into raw material (“smelted”) by metallurgical processes. This raw material then comes onto the market as a semi-finished product for further processing. The word “metallurgy”, which also comes from ancient Greek, essentially means “smelting technology”. The processes chosen depend on the metal. While copper and iron ore was already smelted at an early stage in the history of mankind with the help of higher temperatures that were produced by burning charcoal, titanium – for example – was not produced industrially until the end of the 1930s.

Metals are divided into ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The former include iron, steel and cast iron, while the latter include copper, aluminum, titanium and alloys of them, i.e. combinations with at least one other metal. The choice of a metal for specific applications depends on the properties and the production costs. The automotive industry is an excellent example of the use of metals. According to the brochure “Chemie am Auto” published in 2014 by Wirtschaftsgesellschaft des KfZ-Gewerbes, steel and other ferrous materials account for more than 60 percent of the total weight of a motor vehicle; non-ferrous metals (such as copper, zinc and lead) account for 2 percent, while 8 percent are attributable to lightweight metals (aluminum and magnesium) and special metals like gold (in electronic systems) and platinum (in catalytic converters) contribute 0.2 percent. Plastics account for the second-largest proportion of the weight (about 19 percent).

The following article highlights some of the special technical features of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, the processing of the feedstock materials and the production of crude metals as well as the refining and shaping of them into semi-finished products that are ready for use. The companies in the metallurgical industry – smelting, rolling and steel mills – face tremendous competitive pressure; they do, however, have a number of technical options that enable them to reduce operating costs while increasing manufacturing strengths. METEC 2015, the leading trade fair for metallurgy and smelting technology, taking place from June 16 - 20, 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany, will give a comprehensive overview of current and future developments.

Traditional – in tune with the times - innovative
The end of the 18th century and, above all, the 19th century, which are known as the “industrial age”, were characterized by numerous discoveries and inventions that influenced each other and contributed to the industrialization process. Thanks to new developments in smelting technology, it became possible to manufacture steel in large quantities. After centuries in which it had been produced labor intensively by manual methods, steel now became a key material due to its outstanding mechanical properties. With steel, it was possible to build structures like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, railway stations, railway lines, locomotives and other rolling stock as well as machines that harness energy. The large-scale generation of electricity that became feasible in the second half of the century stimulated further developments. Due to its excellent electrical conductivity, copper played an increasingly prominent role in power transmission and helped – among other things – to enable the aluminum ore bauxite to be smelted and aluminum to be exploited industrially.

Ferrous materials – more than 3,500 different types of steel
Steel is defined as iron and carbon alloys with a carbon content of between 0.01 and 2.06 percent, which – in contrast to cast iron – can be processed by forming. Depending on the temperature and carbon content, the iron atoms form two different types of lattice – body or face centerd cubic. The result of this special feature is that the technological properties of steel can be varied to a very large extent by heat treatment processes and the addition of alloying elements. According to the World Steel Association, there are in the meantime more than 3,500 different types of steel, so that it would be correct to say that steel is by far the most used metal material. An original model of the basic iron cell (in the body centred cubic configuration) can be seen in the Belgian capital: the “Atomium”, the Brussels landmark, is a basic cell magnified 165 billion times; the balls – eight at the corners and one in the middle of a cube – represent the iron atoms.

Steel is manufactured in two stages. First of all, iron ore is smelted into raw steel in a blast furnace. Global raw steel production amounted to 1.6 billion tons in 2013. The molten raw steel and steel scrap are then refined into steel in converters or electric arc furnaces, where the alloying process is also carried out. Steel that is needed in large quantities is given its final form via continuous casting followed by hot rolling while the steel is solidifying. Semi-finished products like strip, rods, profiles or tubes are manufactured in this way.

Non-ferrous metals
Non-ferrous metals are all metals except for iron, including alloys in which no iron is present or iron is not the main metal. Light metals are a sub-division of non-ferrous metals. Copper and aluminium are in widespread use. Copper has very good electricity and heat conductivity properties, while it also has favorable mechanical properties, is easily processed and resists corrosion very well. About 60% of copper production is used in energy technology and telecommunications engineering. Copper is, however, also a very important material in electrical installation. In contrast to other metals, aluminium is less dense – a feature it combines with good mechanical properties and high corrosion resistance as well as high electrical and thermal conductivity. Typical application areas are aircraft manufacturing and – to an increasing extent – car manufacturing. The physical properties of copper, aluminum and other metals can be changed to a very large extent by alloying processes.

Innovation pressure and trends
The requirements made on metal products are growing all the time. Since their properties depend substantially on the composition and structure of the semi-finished feedstock, the demands of the metallurgical industry are increasing too. Companies work constantly on the optimization of their processes and materials. Close co-operation with the downstream companies in a production chain, such as foundries or wire manufacturers, as well as with research institutes and within trade associations has therefore become increasingly important and helps everyone involved to remain competitive. The metallurgical industry has to come to terms with growing innovation pressure combined with shorter and shorter innovation cycles, while it is also forced to reduce operating costs – one way to do this is to make efficient use of raw materials and energy. Environmental factors need to be taken into consideration to an increasing extent as well. Electronic systems have become indispensable in order to be able to monitor and control processes but also to simulate casting, cooling and forming operations and optimize them on this basis. Close attention has to be paid to temperature control in casting and production with dimensions as near to the final requirements as possible. Sensible use of energy also means taking advantage of the heat that is generated in many processes. This is done either in-house or by passing the heat on to neighboring industrial operations for it to be used there.

The METEC 2015 trade fair
Smelting companies need innovative machinery, equipment, software systems and much more.
The International Metallurgy Trade Fair METEC will offer information about the latest developments. Exhibit categories include machinery and equipment for producing and processing raw and feedstock materials, for manufacturing pig iron and non-ferrous crude metal, for refining, casting and shaping steel and non-ferrous metals, for recycling and for many other purposes. METEC will be held concurrently will be the trade fairs GIFA, THERMPROCESS and NEWCAST, focusing on associated fields. All four events take place with the motto “The Bright World of Metals” from June 16 – 20, 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The Bright World of Metals
The four international technology trade fairs GIFA (International Foundry Trade Fair), METEC (International Metallurgical Trade Fair), THERMPROCESS (International Trade Fair for Thermo Process Technology) and NEWCAST (International Trade Fair for Precision Castings) will be held in Düsseldorf, Germany from June 16 – 20, 2015. Visitors from all over the world will attend to get the latest information about castings, foundry, metallurgy and thermo process technology. A program of high-quality ancillary events - consisting of seminars, international congresses and lecture series - will again complement the exhibits. All four trade fairs and their programs will concentrate on the issue of resource optimization and energy efficiency. A total of 79,000 attendees from 83 countries visited the stands of the 1,958 exhibitors at the trade fairs’ last staging in 2011. Further information is available at www.gifa.com, www.metec-tradefair.com, www.thermprocess-online.com and www.newcast.com

Messe Düsseldorf organizes not only GIFA, METEC, THERMPROCESS and NEWCAST but also other first-class trade fairs for the metallurgy and foundry industries all over the world. They include FOND-EX (International Foundry Fair) and Stainless in the Czech Republic, Metallurgy India, Metallurgy-Litmash (International Trade Fair for Metallurgy Machinery, Plant Technology and Products) and Aluminium Non-Ferrous in Russia, indometal in Indonesia, metals middle east in Dubai, ITPS (International Thermprocess Summit) Americas and Asia and the aluminum trade fairs in China, India, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil. The range of events for the metal industries at the Düsseldorf location is rounded off by Valve World Expo (International Trade Fair and Congress for Industrial Valves and Fittings) and ITPS Düsseldorf as well as the international trade fair ALUMINIUM organized by Reed Exhibitions and Composites Europe.

 

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