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Evolution of Automation in the Casthouse – Hands Free Casting – Interview with Olivier Gabis, Wagstaff

While at the ALUMINUM USA trade show in Detroit, Michigan, in November 2015, Light Metal Age had the opportunity to interview a number of notable members of the aluminum industry.

The sixth interview in the series — conducted by Ann Marie Fellom, publisher — presents Olivier Gabis, area manager Eastern U.S. and Canada for Wagstaff, Inc. Olivier has worked in the aluminum industry for 34 years. His career has spanned work beginning at Pechiney in Lancaster, PA, to VAW, Ormet, and Thakar, and he is currently at Wagstaff, Inc. He has always worked in some kind of technical role as a process engineer. This included being involved in quality registrations to ISO 9000 for eight plants. He has worked in nearly every aspect of aluminum production, semi-fabrication including extrusion and rolling, and recycled metal. Olivier has four alloys registered with the Aluminum Association. As someone who has primarily been concerned with quality and productivity, he sees automation as the biggest change that has come over the industry in recent years toward achieving these goals.

While working at Wagstaff, Olivier has furthered these concepts in doing sales and technical support, providing the whole package from furnace to solid metal, and especially the casthouse. Wagstaff specializes in vertical direct chill (VDC) casting. Further development in automation has brought about “hands free casting” — you don’t need to be in the casthouse in order to cast. He describes some of the features of a fully automated billet casting system where processors can view a cast taking place remotely on a screen. This system includes automatic detection of bleed outs as well as automatically plugging the mold. Olivier expounds on many topics such as casting primary vs secondary aluminum, the life of a casting cylinder, minimizing scrap generation, when it’s time for an extruder to justify installing a casthouse, and how demands for higher quality have forced producers to update their technology.

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