A properly sized furnace will accommodate “reasonable” production increases, ensure that melting and holding are optimal, and still a buffer of capacity for “catching up” after cleaning and maintenance.
Metalcasters are right to be concerned about energy efficiency, but sometimes we see overlook other factors that contribute to the “energy footprint” of a process. So, it’s important to look at optimizing the overall energy costs of a melting shop.
Many foundries will watch Btu/lb. of metal melted, but not always the amount of metal melted to ship one good quality casting. Poor yields or scrapped products mean melting the same metal several times, an unnecessary energy cost and reduction of efficiency. Improving the metal quality to reduce metal-related scrap effectively reduces overall energy consumption.
We believe that melting and holding is a complete interdependent system that should be optimized in its entirety. The drivers for developing state-of-the-art technologies are global.
Energy costs have always been higher in Europe than in North America, and one of the greatest drivers of European energy efficiency. When petrol (gas) costs over $8/gallon, the average motorist is very interested in efficient cars and will accept smaller vehicles/engines as the price for this. But, like everywhere he doesn’t want to pay more for a smaller car, thereby putting pressure on manufacturing costs. This goes directly back to cost-effective, energy-efficient metal handling. International competition is intense in manufacturing, and the competition is no longer just local; the world is getting smaller.
Different peoples of the world also have very different views on what constitutes a good technology. And, different countries have different natural resources, and therefore must be creative with those that are available. Natural gas is not prevalent in many countries, so foundries have learned to deal with furnaces running on propane, butane, oil, diesel, town gas etc. When imported, these are not always cost-effective fuels. This has required some adaptation of technology and operations to get best efficiency; coal-fired crucible furnaces are not as uncommon as one would think!
Metal availability also encourages frugal use of resources, hence the development of newer processes, including the StrikoMelter® shaft furnace technology.