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Sprue Crusher Lowers Melting and Power Costs

Nov. 28, 2003
ACP Manufacturing had safety and efficiency concerns about charging recycled sprues and runners at their ductile iron foundry. They discovered crushing material before charging yielded savings in power costs, a safer working environment, and a more effici

Not long ago, ACP Manufacturing, LLC, Lawrenceville, PA, had a need to streamline their ductile iron melting operation. The company produces ductile iron castings for a large variety of automotive customers.

According to Bob Harter, ACP’s operations manager, “We were breaking our sprues and runners down fairly well in our on-line processing, but we are always looking for improvements. We felt if we had smaller returns with which to recharge our furnace, we could handle our melt more efficiently and melt faster and cleaner.”

At ACP, they drop the removed metal sprues and other returns into charge cars that vibrate into their melter. They were occasionally getting some entanglements where sprues were not properly flowing back into the melters. Some sprues were too large and unwieldy. This slowed down production and it caused a safety hazard getting the sprues loose and into the melter.

To help solve the problem, ACP contacted Nissho Iwai American Corporation (NIAC), Southfield, MI. “Our firm saw the Runner Breaker on display at the International Cast Expo Show in Kansas, City, MO. The machine caught our interest,” said Harter.

Runner Breaker

Harter continues: “At this location we are running about 70 different castings for the automotive industry. The returns may vary from 2 in. square to 14 in. and larger. Sprue weights range from 5 lbs to 30 lbs. When we first installed the Runner Breaker model ALP1200-100TA last February, we were handling about 8 to 10 tons per hour, but we wanted even higher output.”

To accomplish this, ACP ordered a larger hydraulic unit from NIAC that was built and shipped within about 6 weeks. Their own technicians installed it, and the Runner Breaker now handles all the production requirements with no problems. “We have not had any down time on the machine and we are running 3 shifts, 24 hours a day. There is very little maintenance, and our through-put is up to 12 tons per hour,” Harter added.

Significant Monthly Savings

ACP maintains cost records for all its machinery. From the data, ACP has been able to determine that, to date, the Runner Breaker is saving them $10,000 - $12,000 per month.

“We are always looking for equipment that pays for itself. This equipment was not in our initial budget, but was approved due to its quick return on investment. The major savings was in electrical power. We run medium frequency melt furnaces and we found major savings in electrical consumption. Like most foundries, we are locked into power demand by our electricity supplier, and the performance of the melter is very important. I would say 90 percent of our savings was in electrical power,” said Harter.

Lower Maintenance Means Less Down Time

The other 10 percent of the savings came from the reduced maintenance and repair costs on the company’s charging system. Because the broken down runners and sprues were smaller and easier to handle, this lowered our maintenance cost in the melting department. They built a large funnel that allowed them to place even larger sprues and runners into the Runner Breaker. This worked fine.

They had the option of using an air-cooled or water-cooled system, but decided to use both cooling systems, which has worked out well. Their maintenance department was trained on the machine, and ACP included the machine on its PM (preventive maintenance) program, but there has not been much to do there.

“We check the cylinders and valves and the PM schedule and since we’ve been operating this machine, we haven’t had any downtime,” recounts Harter.

A Safer Melt Shop

Before they installed the Runner Breaker, the company occasionally had large runners jamming in the charge cars and they had to be removed. They use charge cars that carry and vibrate runners and sprues into the melting furnace. Once in a while, a large runner would get caught in the car before it went into the melter and they would have to stop the car, back it up, and someone would get in the car and pry the runner loose so it would go into the melt. Sprues and runners can be fairly sharp so this was a safety concern. After we installed the new equipment, this problem was eliminated.

No Extra Labor Costs

It used to be that one person operated the crane, but that person now also operates the Runner Breaker and puts crushed material into the charge cars. Consequently, installation of the crusher resulted in no extra labor costs. Within a short few hours the operator was trained to operate the machine and hasn’t had any problems with the machine’s controls.

Lean Manufacturer

ACP encourages cost effective productivity and works hard to be a “lean manufacturer.” Their customers expect high value for low cost and on-time delivery and the company endeavors to adhere to that policy. Having started producing castings in 1997, they are a tier-one automotive supplier and also provide castings to a large number of other automotive customers.

Around-the-Clock Use

Akira Okuda, NIAC’s national sales manager, commented, “The Runner Breaker is especially designed for heavy duty, round-the-clock foundry performance. The hydraulically driven, patented, cast alloy crushing blades with the cone teeth are designed to break runner returns efficiently and safely. Sophisticated PLC controls with motion and pressure sensor systems provide built-in crushing know-how.”