RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES

In addition to the industrial sites, R&D work pertaining to melting and handling is ongoing in both Japan and Europe at central facilities and/or university laboratories. These are reviewed in this section.

Japan

Nagoya University

At Nagoya University, Professor Asai's electromagnetic fields laboratory is a major resource for the metal casting industry in Japan. His work is well supported by the Ministry of Education (Monbusho), as well as the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). Much research on electromagnetic fields and their use for the handling of molten metal is ongoing. The well-equipped laboratory at Nagoya has current projects on the following:

An example of electromagnetic applications in the metal casting industry is at Nippon Steel, which currently is experimenting with continuous casting of clad stainless steel over a carbon steel core. The process produces a fine definition and bonding between the two materials and thereby allows rolling to a much thinner gauge. The fine definition between the similar materials is produced by a magnetic field that keeps the two liquids separated (suppressing convection) in the caster's mold.

Separation of nonmetallic inclusions is difficult to achieve by flotation or gravity where the density of the inclusion is close to the density of the clean metal. A theoretical analysis indicates that a direct magnetic field magnifies the difference between metallic and nonmetallic particles and aids separation. Laboratory experiments conducted by Prof. Asai's group confirm the ability to reduce the silicon and iron content of molten aluminum. This technology when commercialized could make widespread use of contaminated aluminum scrap feasible for critical casting applications. Funding from the Japanese government is significant since some of Prof. Asai's work could easily produce important energy saving for the country. This is an example of Japan focusing its research and development yen on specific problem-solving situations. Other benefits from these research projects will be in the improved filtration and refinement of nonferrous alloys.

NEDO

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) focuses on recycling aluminum. Recycling is a very effective means of reducing the load on the global environment and improving the efficient use of energy. Since 1990, NEDO has initiated a global environment industrial technology development program with financial support from MITI. This project, which started in 1993, supports the needed R&D and technology to promote nonferrous metal material recycling based on alternative energy sources. NEDO oversees the overall project through the Japan Research and Development Center for Metals (JRDCM), which focuses on aluminum, and the Center for Eco-Mining (CEM), which focuses on base metal and rare metals. With respect to aluminum, the cooperative study partners with JRDCM are Kobe Steel Ltd., Sky Aluminum Co., Nippon Light Metal Co., Furukawa Electric Co., Showa Aluminum Corp., Sumitomo Light Metal Industries, and Mitsubishi Aluminum Co. Universities affiliated with JRDCM are the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Technological University of Nagaoka. The research projects address advanced melting technologies, advanced purification technologies, liquid phase purification, gaseous phase purification, half-molten state purification, molten scrap cleaning, and supporting technologies such as dross recovery and the effective use of dross.

Europe

CTIF

The Centre Technique des Industries de la Fonderie (CTIF) is a research institution devoted to serving the French foundry industry, which is an over Fr 30 billion/annum industry employing 50,000 people. There are 160 professional and nonprofessional employees at CTIF, most of them located in the main central facility in Sevres. A small staff is employed at CTIF satellite branches throughout France at Tours, Charleville, Saint-Dizier, and Lyon. Funding for CTIF comes totally from the industrial sector; it receives no government funds. CTIF's budget is about Fr 75 million/year (roughly $15 million). Two-thirds of this comes from membership fees, and the other third from services rendered, i.e., from consultation and specific custom-tailored projects. The membership fees are dictated by a syndicate of metal casters in France, and the fee structure at present is 0.31% of company sales. Foundries with fewer than 10 employees do not pay a fee. The syndicate sets the fee structure and mandates that the industry support CTIF for a five-year period. The syndicate evaluates this mandate every five years based on its evaluation of CTIF's performance.

CTIF's research agenda is very much decided through a committee structure. Technology transfer and dissemination of information is very important for CTIF.

Though the research programs carried out at CTIF are quite extensive, many of the issues it is working on relate to molten metal processing and metal handling. For example, CTIF has developed an apparatus -- called Qualiflash -- that tests the inclusion quantity in an aluminum bath. This is a simple "go, no-go" test, which uses a small quantity of metal. Sample cleanliness is estimated on-line by the use of a specially designed ingot mold that measures the quantity of metal that passes through a filter. CTIF also has developed the ANAPROD software to analyze the causes of downtime in die casting machines. It is a Windows-based system that allows corrective measure and predictive maintenance planning and provides the statistics for each machine, each part or die, and each worker.

CTIF is a model for industrial sector funding of a national resource base for the development of needed technologies to support the metal casting industry. It carries out precompetitive research for the benefit of the whole industry.

Madylam Laboratories

The Madylam Laboratories facility is located in the southern part of France, not far from Grenoble. These laboratories are dedicated to the modeling, simulation, and experimentation of electromagnetic technology. They are jointly funded by industry and the French government. The annual budget is Fr 25 million, of which Fr 15 million comes from the industrial sector and Fr 10 million from the French government. Graduate students from various universities carry out their research at Madylam Laboratories, and there is a close interaction between the academic sector and the researchers at Madylam. Madylam researchers are working on electromagnetic valves for ceramic-free metal casting. Clean metal processing is an important agenda at Madylam. Future activities will be addressing issues arising from recycling. There are 15 scientists and 10 engineers/technicians working at the laboratory. Madylam is a good example of how all three parties -- the academic sector, the industrial sector, and the government -- come together and fund a focused research activity for the advancement of the manufacturing sector. The activities are narrowly focused on electromagnetics and their use in the metal processing industry.

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Published: March 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian