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Enhancing Efficiency in Aluminium Tilt Rotary Furnaces using Data-Driven Control Strategies

Thursday 23rd May 15:45 - 16:00

Increasing economic, environmental and safety pressures are driving the Industry 4.0 revolution, resulting in increased data collection as industries are beginning to understand the potential benefits of data analytics on efficiency, safety and sustainability. Air Products work closely with the secondary aluminium industry and have developed smart oxygen-enhanced combustion systems, which have been proven to substantially enhance production, product quality and yield, as well as reducing emissions and fuel usage in aluminium remelting. Incorporating IIoT technology, combined with in-depth process knowledge and knowhow, can further increase the benefits of these systems.

Air Products Process Advisor technology takes advantage of cloud-based data storage and analytical capabilities to provide continuous improvement through process understanding and optimisation. Continuous monitoring of furnace, operation, process and control data, can be used in conjunction with the smart control aspects of Air Products’ burner technology to optimise furnace efficiency. The Air Products Process Advisor system provides a unique way of improving the prediction of when the charge material is completely molten. Currently, the estimation of pour readiness relies solely on operator experience, skill and inclination. Practically, this results in the realisation of a significantly higher metal pour temperature than is required.

A digital twin of the furnace is created, whereby a mass-energy balance can be used to calculate the energy required to completely melt the charge material and provide closed or open loop feedback. The Air Products Process Advisor technology was installed on a tilt rotary furnace at an aluminium recycling foundry, processing different types of scrap and dross materials. Base data showed that over half of the cycles were overheated beyond the target tapping temperature. Implementation of the Air Products Process Advisor technology has shown a significant reduction in end of melt prediction error, when compared with the base data.

Speaker: Dr Martin Lawrence, Combustion Development Specialist at Air Products

Enhancing Efficiency in Aluminium Tilt Rotary Furnaces

Dr Martin Lawrence joined Air Products in 2013 after attaining a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, studying laser diagnostics in combustion, where he developed novel measurement techniques and gained an in-depth understanding of combustion. At Air Products, he continued to develop sensor-related technologies for industrial processes before joining the Primary Metals & Minerals group, within the European combustion team in 2015. As a combustion development specialist, he applies his knowledge and skills to lead innovation and ensure technical solutions are at the forefront of science and technology. He works closely with remelting foundries to engineer solutions to improve efficiency, production and environmental impact.

Dr Lawrence has experience working on foundries around the world with varying furnace types and processes. A significant amount of his time is spent working with aluminium remelters, understanding the melting process and important performance factors. He is responsible for surveying customer processes in order to identify potential issues and areas requiring improvement. His aim is to identify ways to implement improvements, based on the individual customer needs. He then manages the project from design phase through to commissioning and beyond. His role is to support customers technically, ensuring that any technology installed continues to work optimally.

Aluminium remelting can have significant variability in charge material, equipment and furnace operation. Dr Lawrence says, "I have learned the importance of data to drive optimisation, especially in these highly variable processes. Such that, I am now spearheading an industry 4.0 project that aims to put more science into remelting processes and remove the ‘black art’ philosophy. After all, the remelting process is governed by physical laws and therefore a better understanding of the process can lead to significant gains."

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