Aluminium Industry – Pure / Low Al and Al Alloys
Aluminium – Testing requirements
The Aluminium industry serves several critical sectors, including Transmission, Automotive, Aerospace, Defence and packaging and / or cans for the Foods and Pharmaceuticals industries. Aluminium finds itself used in the widest array of industries and applications , each of which places stringent requirements on the quality of materials being supplied. For both buyers and sellers therefore, having the right equipment is critical. This is used for testing incoming materials, melts, master alloys, finished goods and also scrap – as Aluminium is the most recycled metal in the world!
The two key requirements in Aluminium testing include:
- Elemental analysis of the metals / melt for composition
- Testing molten metal for Hydrogen content (to minimize it and therefore eliminate porosity
Elemental analysis of Aluminium
Here, it becomes critical to know what exactly the application is – and how elemental composition will affect the metal. A few examples would include:
- Pistons or brake cylinders typically demand demand high wear resistance. It is therefore essential to have an even, small grain size of the primary silicon phase in order to obtain homogeneous alloy properties. This can be achieved with the addition of small quantities of Phosphorus. For such applications therefore, the OES must be able to analyse Phosphorus!
- Aluminum-magnesium alloys are brittle at hot-working temperatures if contaminated by even very small quantities of Sodium. Indeed, it is advisable for such alloys to maintain this level to 1 ppm levels! Again, therefore, such applications would require the OES to analyse Sodium down to low levels.
An OES, as its core function, measures precisely this – the elemental composition of the Aluminium in weight percentages. Within 8 – 20 seconds (depending on model), an OES provides extremely accurate, precise and very granular results covering 35+ elements in Aluminium, including Sodium, Lithium and Phosphorus. This is invaluable as the user can now assess his future course of action. If buying Raw Material, he can set / assess the price. The same results would then go into computation of the melt inputs too. During in-process testing, these results will tell a Smelter whether the melt can be cast or whether some changes are needed to save the melt. And of course, there is the Final QC, during which these results help make the TC proving the product to be “QC Pass”.
Testing Aluminium Alloys
Alloy makers don’t focus on the overall purity of Aluminium, but on ensuring that all ranges are met for alloying elements and that all trace and tramp elements are maintained under the specified “max” level, which is typically less stringent than for Pure Al / Low alloys. That said, this does not lessen the impact an OES makes for alloy makers in any manner. Indeed, if used well, an OES can add as much – or even more – value for alloy makers.
For every alloy, the key elements, such as Silicon, Magnesium, Titanium, Copper etc., have a target range. The elemental composition must be within this range for the product to be acceptable. The firm therefore has the choice of whether to work at the absolute margin of these limits or to build safety buffers. The idea of safety buffers is appealing, but this comes at a cost! Staying above the min. level of expensive alloying elements like Mg (Nickel), Cu (Copper), Ti (Titanium) etc. would mean significantly higher raw material costs! None of this higher cost though will result in improved revenue realization though.
Hence, the best practice for profit-optimization is to be close to the minimum level specified – ensuring a safety margin, but also minimizing the material cost as much as possible. This requires knowing the actual concentration of these elements in the melt before casting! This is where a spectrometer comes in. Process controls do not give full control – leading to users keeping a wide margin for error. An OES though solves this issue. Using sampling moulds, a sample can be taken from the melt and tested within seconds, giving highly accurate analysis while the metal is still in the melt.
If analysis results show that the melt is of the correct mix, then it may be poured. If not, then adjustments can be made rapidly and without going through any rejection / re-melting process. This ability to make proactive change is only possible if you have a spectrometer of the required quality working in the Laboratory. The higher the resolution of the Laboratory’s spectrometer, the better is the capability of the instrument to support work closer to the margins, regardless of the limits and ranges involved.
Now, while the OES enables the firm to work closer to the limits of the range, the target has to be kept within the Standard Deviation (SD) of the spectrometer – which is determined by the precision that the OES offers at that particular concentration level for that element! Thus, a logical corollary is that for maximizing savings, the OES should not only be highly accurate (represent correct concentration) but should also offer ultra-high precision!
In effect, while an entry-level or lower-end model may be well-suited to makers of a small number of grades, if the range of grades is wide, a model with higher-resolution is advisable.
Metal Power OES for the Aluminium Industry
With the world’s widest range of Laboratory and Mobile OES – in terms of applications as well as budgets, Metal Power offers solutions for every need across the value chain
The Metavision-10008X and the Metavision-1008i3 offer solutions for Aluminium companies seeking high-resolution, low detection limits and high-end features. Indeed, the Metavision-10008X, features virtually every feature required while also making it possible to analyse – quite literally – every element on the periodic table – all within a span of just 10 seconds! The Metavision-10008X and the Metavision-1008i3 Master alloy, ultra-fine wire and ultra-thin foil analysis as well! This makes these models absolutely ideal for those high-end Aluminium firms.
Workhorse models – ideal for extrusion firms
For those that do not work at the highest levels of purity and therefore do not require the lowest detection limits or top-end features / master alloy analysis etc., Metal Power has two best-selling models – the Metavision-1008i and the Metavision-108NN+ that meet all the analytical needs for alloy makers while also offering great economy along with exceptional accuracy, precision and stability.
Economical solutions for entry-level
MOSS – Metal Power’s entry-level spectrometer offers the ideal solution for a wide range of Aluminium applications. For all manner of firms in extrusions etc., MOSS offers a truly breathtaking value proposition. The most compact and most economical OES in the world, MOSS still offer capabilities across 21 elements in Aluminium including all the critical ones! It is also fully scalable (including at-site)!
Mobile Solutions –Testing on Wheels
Aluminium firms, recyclersand scrap dealers also have extensive need for mobile testing solutions; these OES are needed for multifarious tasks including:
- PMI (Positive Material Identification)
- Sorting (typically needed in large yards)
- Testing large parts that can’t be sampled for Laboratory testing
- Testing materials at Entry gates
The Metavision-108M and the Metavision-1008M3 offer ideal solutions for such needs and are available with a range of probes – arc, spark, UV and various combined probe options too.
Unique Metal Power OES solutions for the Aluminium industry
Metal Power has developed some truly unique and ground-breaking solutions which have key upsides for the Aluminium industry to tremendously enhance the value our spectrometers deliver:
Fine wire analysis
Our patented solution analyses (fully quantitatively) fine wires that as thin as 0.1 mm in diameter! This solution isparticularly relevantfor those in the Transmission industry.
For foils, we offer analysis of foils down to 20-micron (0.02 mm) thickness; a patented solution, this offers phenomenal value addition – specially in applications involving packaging materails.
Master Alloys analysis
Aluminium foundries use master alloys with extremely high levels of alloying elements. As standard OES are not calibrated to such high levels, most users don’t analyse these and rely on accepting the supplier’s certificate and trying to “manage” the melt. Similarly, those that make the master alloys also struggle to actually control the melt as they can’t assess the levels optimally. MPA has developed solutions and offers customized programs that enable customers to rapidly and accurately analyse even their master alloys! Customer experience shows that such analyses can save money and time – while they also help in quantitative vendor quality evaluations and actual pricing for Master Alloys.
Measuring Hydrogen in Molten Al
Measuring Hydrogen in Aluminium is increasingly important – and for those catering to the automotive, aviation, military or aerospace sectors in particular, this is not just a “nice to have” but a “must have”. When it comes to castings, the difference between a casting made with well de-gassed Aluminium and one without, is substantial.
While most foundries and major castings units do have degassing systems and processes in place, the measurement of Hydrogen in the melt remains a major gap for most.
A lot of firms therefore rely on “first bubble” instruments – since these are cheap and “easy to use”. However, these have major drawbacks:
- Suspect reliability as these instruments rely on manual interventions.
- No traceability as these instruments have no certified calibration.
- No logging facility
Metal Power’s H-Scan addresses all of these and then more! Quite simply, H-Scan takes as input a sample of the molten Hydrogen and within 3 minutes, provides the user with a reading of the Hydrogen content in the melt. This reading – whether in ppm or in cm3/100g, enables users to assess if and how much more de-gassing is needed or whether the melt can now be cast without risk of high porosity. This enables adjustments to be made, if required in the melt itself, prior to casting!H-Scan offers a reliable and automated combination of four key advantages for users that are not available on any other instrument, making it the ideal solution for any quality-conscious foundry:
Accuracy – with automation
H-Scan provides measurement accuracy within 5% of the vacuum sub-fusion method. Also, unlike the low-cost first-bubble systems, the H-Scan is fully automated. This ensures that there are no manual errors and data is electronically stored
Traceability – without complexity
H-Scan is fully traceable and that it can be tested and calibrated on-site with minimum cost and fuss. The instrument is supplied with certified calibrated pipettes that can be used for simple and quick checking of accuracy and can also be used for correcting the calibration if needed by users themselves.
Speed – with reliability
With a cycle time of just 3 minutes, the H-Scan provides reliable outputs to the user well in time to make changes to the melt.
The H-Scan requires virtually no consumables. No expensive probes are used and the only consumable item is a thin SS wire. Including energy costs, oil for the vacuum pump etc. therefore, the instrument delivers an operating cost of just INR 5 (USD 0.07) per analysis!
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