Hydro is investing NOK 150 million (US$17 million) to upgrade its casthouse at its Husnes smelter in Norway. The new low pressure casting (LPC) technology will enable the company to produce more advanced products for the growing automotive aluminum forging market.
“Forge stock for products like suspension arms and knuckles is an attractive market for aluminum within the automotive industry, which needs ever more aluminum to fill its need to lightweight cars and reduce emissions,” says Ola Sæter, head of Hydro’s fully owned primary aluminum plants. He added that the demand growth for forge stock is high, and that Hydro is ready to take its share of this growth.
The new LPC technology is a form of gas cushion (GC) billet casting technology developed by Hydro Aluminum and Hycast, which preforms the casting process under vacuum in order to reduce the segregation zone in the aluminum billet. The LPC technology enables a shift from traditional extruded forge stock to cast forge stock, eliminating costly steps in the production process, while also improving quality. This is because as-cast surface is ready for forging and homogenizing is not required. (The technology was installed at Rio Tinto’s Arvida facility in 2018.)
After the upgrade, the Husnes plant will be able to offer materials with enhanced properties for various extrusion segments, as well as materials for forging. Husnes is able to provide further cost and quality improvements, since the production of materials for various niche segments, such as forging stock, is supported by a large casthouse that uses liquid metal directly from electolysis — when compared to traditional smaller-scale casthouses that are typically based on melting of ingots and horizontal casting methods.
Johan Berg, plant manager at Hydro Husnes, says the new technology will strengthen the plant’s ability to deliver more advanced aluminum products. “The key for us is the flexibility to be able to cast both extrusion ingots and forging materials according to customer demand in a flexible and efficient way,” said Berg. “This investment is timed well with the ongoing upgrade of Hydro Husnes’ second electrolysis line that is due to start operations in 2020, with an annual planned output of 210,000 mt of aluminum semi-products. Making use also of this new technology will significantly strengthen our position as a preferred partner delivering of aluminum to the automotive industry.”
The new casting operations are set to start up in 2020.