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Case Studies: AMCAST Industrial Corporation

Location:
Wapakoneta, Ohio, aluminum casting plant

Energy Management Activities:
AMCAST Industrial Corporation is known for its expertise in developing unique metal products with high-technology content, and its ability to offer appropriate manufacturing processes to meet customer requirements. A variety of niche markets utilize AMCAST's spectrum of metal process technologies that are used to manufacture automotive and flow-control products. The company has 17 operating locations throughout the U.S. and Europe, and its Wapakoneta, Ohio, plant has approximately 300 employees and produces 20-25 million pounds of aluminum per year. AMCAST is employing the same innovative approach it uses in developing its products to help the company realize significant energy savings and productivity improvements.

In early 2000, AMCAST's Wapakoneta plant undertook a plant-wide energy assessment to evaluate energy savings and waste reduction opportunities. AMCAST, DOE, independent contractors, and representatives from the Ohio Department of Development, Office of Energy Efficiency, participated as partners in the assessment. The assessment resulted in 13 recommendations for process improvements and plant modifications, including:

  • Switching to aluminum-titanate riser tubes from dense fused silica material
  • Using electric infrared heaters to pre-heat dies
  • Improving tooling and tool maintenance
  • Hiring engineers to reduce scrap rate
  • Using exhaust heat from reverbatory melt furnaces in heat treating furnaces
  • Using exhaust heat from heat treating furnaces in aging ovens
  • Implementing identified energy savings opportunities for reverbatory furnaces
  • Relocating jet melt furnace
  • Installing adjustable-speed drives on casting machines
  • Improving process flow
  • Using a blower to pressurize die cast hold furnaces
  • Using a cooling tower to cool compressed air
  • Using exhaust heat from heat treating furnaces for scrap preheating

Potential Annual Savings: $3.7 million in immediate savings; additional savings expected.
Initial Capital Requirements: $1 million
Payback Period: Variable, depending on project, but some as little as 3 months.
Potential Emission Reductions: 11 million pounds of CO2

Several of the recommendations have already been implemented and the results to date have been dramatic. Energy costs per part have decreased more than 20%, and productivity has increased by more than 75%, allowing AMCAST to change from a 7-day-a-week to a 5-day-a-week schedule.

Other Energy Achievements:
AMCAST Wapakoneta has already implemented or is in the process of implementing many of the assessment recommendations. In addition, Wapakoneta is reviewing or implementing the following:

  • Reducing heat treating cycles
  • Improving tooling designs
  • Enhancing metal delivery
  • Briqueting chips and flash
  • Using exhaust heat from melting furnaces for ingot pre-heating
  • Using a new method for sprue melting
  • Applying robotic deburring of parts
  • Installing a charging conveyor on jet melt furnace

Industry-wide Application:
The energy-assessment survey conducted at the Wapakoneta plant involved the review of primary plant systems, such as major gas and electrical equipment, plant lighting, and compressed air systems.

Although the study resulted in recommendations for specific conservation measures and savings estimates for the Wapakoneta plant, the assessment approach was generic in nature and could easily be applied at other aluminum casting facilities. Many of the areas the study addressed, including plant lighting and compressed air systems, could be included in the analysis of almost any industrial process facility.
AMCAST plans to replicate many of the recommendations from the Wapakoneta's facility assessment at other AMCAST facilities (based on experience gained at Wapakoneta).