Winter 2006 Issue 6
In This Issue

Metals and Money

Metal Tech: Liquid Nitrogen Improves Rolling of Metal Strip

Cutting Costs in Half

Air Products' Audits Can Help Lessen the Impact of High Fuel Costs

Cool Deal for Hard-Turning

Ask the Expert

Where to Find Us

Meet This Quarter's Metal Head: Annemarie Weist

Useful Web Links

Contact Us


Quotes and Quips

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him…”
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
   400–320 BC

Contact Us
You can request more information or any of the documents referenced in this issue by calling us at 800-654-4567 code 373, or sending us an e-mail.


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Metals and Money

For accurate forecasting and planning, it helps to understand the movement of key industry indices. The following graphs compiled by Air Products' economists illustrate three-year trends for utility and metals pricing as well as industrial production. We'll continue to keep you updated once a quarter.

Industrial Production Indexes Industrial Production Indexes
Source: US Federal Reserve Bank Board of Governors
Click here to view the graph.


Utility Pricing Metrics Utility Pricing Metrics
Source: Inside F.E.R.C., Bureau of Labor Statistics
Click here to view the graph.


Steel Prices Steel Prices
Source: Market Pricing
Click here to view the graph.


Key Metals Prices Key Metals Prices
Source: London Metals Exchange
Click here to view the graph.


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Metal Tech: Liquid nitrogen improves rolling of metal strip

Conventional dry cold rolling techniques have certain production restrictions. Generally, they're revealed when high heat is generated by friction between the work rolls and strip surface during the plastic deformation of the metal. Most of this heat is dissipated in the work rolls and in the strip itself. However, if the temperature rises too high, it can oxidize the metal surface of the strip and the working rolls, which causes process and product issues.

Strip producers usually run their rolling mills at the highest speeds possible. The heat of friction generated between the rolls and strip causes high temperatures and increased wear on the work rolls. As a result, strip producers need to change the work rolls frequently, which increases mill downtime. The wear on the rolls adversely affects the strip quality and can increase reject rates.

To reduce friction and remove heat, strip producers often perform wet rolling—cooling the rolls by adding an oil or emulsion, which also acts as a lubricant. This allows them to significantly increase the line speed by reducing the heat of friction between the work rolls and strip. However, the use of rolling fluids results in a matte surface compared to the brighter finish found in dry rolling. The strip surface may corrode after the rolling process. Plus, there may be a need for a cleaning process to remove the residual oil or emulsion.

To address the issues of attaining higher mill speeds and maintaining a brighter strip surface quality while reducing downtime, C.D. Wälzholz, a metal strip manufacturer, and Air Products jointly developed a new cooling technique with liquid nitrogen. This technique, the Air Products cool rolling technology, uses liquid nitrogen as the cooling medium during the final or skin pass rolling step. Use of this technique in rolling mills has shown that it can increase production rates dramatically compared to traditional dry rolling—in fact, in some cases by up to 50 percent. The Air Products cool rolling technology can also replace conventional lubricants in wet rolling and can reduce strip surface quality issues present with wet rolling. In addition, the Air Products cool rolling technology can reduce the number of work roll changes, can reduce or eliminate the need for any strip cleaning process and can minimize product losses caused by post-rolling corrosion.

To learn more about the benefits of the Air Products cool rolling technology and how it can help your processes, read the full article describing our research or contact us for a copy.

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Cutting Costs in Half

A leading international manufacturer of heating and air-conditioning components was looking for ways to improve its operations. To achieve this goal, the company called Air Products to assess its facilities in North America.

"We were looking for suppliers that provide value-added services," says its vice president of procurement in North America. "We were impressed with Air Products' portfolio of technologies and thought they'd be a great fit for us."

After meeting with the company's operations team in the fall of 2005, Matt Thayer, senior principal industry engineer at Air Products, audited a number of their facilities. The results were impressive. Most notably, Thayer found a way to save the company over $500,000 per year at one of its facilities by shutting down one of its two exo generators. The company uses exo generators to create an atmosphere for annealing certain air-conditioning parts.

"We made some changes in the company's process work flow and looked at all of the production units in the entire plant," explains Thayer. Thayer discovered that one of the exo generators, a late-1990s Surface Combustion generator, was being underutilized. By taking advantage of the unit's turn-down and shut-down capabilities, the manufacturer was able to produce the same atmosphere flow output using only the Surface Combustion generator at less than half the cost. This allowed the company to idle the second generator, a 1950s vintage unit that was inefficient and lacked the most up-to-date capabilities.

By using the more productive and efficient of the two exo generators in the plant, Thayer was able to create significant savings. "The biggest component is the natural gas savings, which results in $360,000 a year alone," says Thayer. "Air Products literally cut our natural gas bill in half by shutting down one of the exo generators," says the company's vice president.

And this is just the beginning. The company is currently looking for ways Air Products can help at other plants and with other technologies and is also considering solutions from Air Products' marketing associate, Surface Combustion.

To help find ways to optimize your process, we can assess your operation too. Contact us today.

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Air Products' Audits Can Help Lessen the Impact of High Fuel Costs

Industries across the board have been affected by the dramatic increase in fossil fuel prices. In fact, energy used to cool, compress and liquefy gases is the single largest cost component in the manufacture of atmospheric gases. It's inevitable: as energy prices rise, so do the prices of atmospheric gases.

To help offset these increased costs, Air Products offers technical personnel experienced in process evaluation and optimization in the metals industry. They can audit your processes, which could uncover ways to improve your productivity, lower your costs or even reduce your gas usage. For example:

  • By changing the supply mode, customers may be able to reduce gas costs. After evaluating your gas usage needs, Air Products' industry specialists may find it is more efficient to upgrade your supply from cylinders to microbulk delivery for small-volume users, from microbulk delivery to bulk delivery for larger-volume users, or from bulk delivery to an on-site system.
  • System inspections can help find costly leaks in your process equipment or house lines. Additionally, our technicians check whether flow rates are correct and if gases are blending in their proper ratios.
  • Evaluating alternate gas systems, such as industrial gas recycle systems, or reburning vented flue gases may help reduce costs. Our specialists could find that mixing combustion gases with oxygen (with the use of an oxy-fuel burner) could also reduce fuel gas usage and give you more control over the operation.
  • Equipment efficiency audits may lead to more productive use of your equipment—and possibly idling of equipment, which may enable energy savings without a loss of production output or quality.

Air Products' technical expertise—combined with proven offerings such as PURIFIRE® process management and recovery systems and air-oxy-fuel burner technology—can help you identify and implement cost-saving measures. And with fuel prices at an all-time high, it's a perfect time to ask for our assistance. For more information, please contact us.

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Cool Deal for Hard-Turning

Do you want to increase hard-turning cutting rates by up to 200 percent and improve tool life by up to 250 percent? Air Products' ICEFLY® machining technology can help you achieve these goals. The technology is now available through Hardinge, Inc., a leading manufacturer of machine tools. Through a marketing relationship with Air Products, Hardinge, Inc. is offering the ICEFLY technology as part of its QUEST® line of metal cutting lathes.

Ordinarily, when machining hard material (over 50HRC), extreme heat is generated. This causes rapid tool edge breakdown, which greatly reduces tool life and limits productivity. The ICEFLY machining technology uses a patented technology where a small amount of liquid nitrogen (–320°F) is used as a coolant to overcome the heat issue, thereby increasing tool life and lowering costs. The technology's ability to offset the extreme temperatures normally generated during the cutting of hard-to-machine materials allows customers to effectively operate in the "fully hardened condition" that enables the precise cutting of the strongest and hardest metals.

"This is the most complete and cutting-edge solution for hard-turning machining operations today," explains Mike Epting, business manager at Air Products. "Both Hardinge and Air Products are recognized market leaders, and our technologies complement each other well. While it's a great business decision for each company, our customers are the real winners."

"Nowhere else will our customers be able to find such high-performing hard-turning options," added Hans Strey, Hardinge hard-turning specialist.

ICEFLY machining technology can be retrofitted to existing lathes or added as an optional feature on a new Hardinge QUEST lathe. To find out more, contact us.

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Ask the Expert

Mark Lanham

Mark Lanham
Senior Principal Industry Engineer

Q: What is dezincification and how does it apply to thermal processing of brass?

A: Dezincification is typically defined as the leaching of zinc from copper alloys in an aqueous solution. In thermal processing of brasses (and other zinc-containing alloys), dezincification is the removal of zinc from the metal substrate during thermal processes, like brazing and annealing, typically due to the very low vapor pressure of zinc in the alloys. Dezincification can result in excessive furnace dusting, zinc vapors alloying with other metals, and in extreme cases, loss of alloy properties. While eliminating dezincification is not always possible, it can be reduced during thermal processing.

Read Mark's full answer.

Also learn whether you're following best practices in atmosphere supply and other operational areas by assessing your process at www.metalsassessment.com.

As seen in Industrial Heating, past "Ask the Expert" questions can be viewed online.

Have a question for us?
Send it to gigmrktg@airproducts.com. Each quarter we'll select the most challenging question to win a $100 gift certificate. Congratulations to Paul Tibbals, last quarter's winner.

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Where to Find Us

Our representatives will be at the following events. We hope to see you there to discuss your metals processing needs.

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Meet This Quarter's Metal Head
Annemarie Weist

Annemarie Weist Her title might be "Technology Owner, Gas Recycle and Recovery," but Annemarie Weist could very well be called "Juggler Extraordinaire."

"Sometimes I get cost estimates together for customers. Sometimes I'm working on globalization. I spend time doing literature and patent research," Weist says. "I also focus on ways we can improve our industrial gas recycle systems, which lowers overall engineering costs in the long run. We pass these savings on to our customers."

With more than 13 years of industry expertise, Weist leverages Air Products' extensive knowledge and product base, including adsorption systems, membrane systems, combustion systems and cryogenic technologies, to offer customers the best low-cost solutions for gas capture and purification.

Not only is Weist a multitasker—she's also a supersleuth.

"One time a customer thought they had a leak because the analytical testing showed an impurity that could only come from a leak in a piece of equipment," she says. "I suggested that their sampling technique was incorrect. Sure enough, when we had personnel that were experts in taking high-pressure samples, we were able to rule out a leak and help the customer focus their efforts on improving their process."

Weist holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts and an MSE and Ph.D.—both in chemical engineering—from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Useful Web Links

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Contact Us

You can request more information or any of the documents referenced in this issue by calling us at 800-654-4567, code 373, or by sending an email to gigmrktg@airproducts.com.

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© Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. 2006          330-06-021.2-US