Industrial Laser Trends

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Environmentally Friendly Projects Throughout the Aluminum Value Chain

Aluminum is used in a wide array of products and it is well known for being highly recyclable. In this blog post we outline examples of initiatives that make the grey metal even more environmentally friendly. First, in the primary transformation with Rio Tinto and Alcoa, then in the final product with the Ford Motor Company.  

Without further ado, here is the example from Rio Tinto. 

 

Aluminum producers must find a way to respond to the increasing demand of clients requiring aluminum that is produced in a more environmentally responsible manner.

Extract translated from Un métal profitable : Vers un aluminium durable au Saguenay. RTA

The global average quantity of CO2 released into the atmosphere during the production of one ton of Aluminum is 11 tons of CO2. The Rio Tinto plant in the Saguenay (Quebec) produces aluminum with 100% of its energy coming from hydroelectricity. They have recently launched RenewAl, a brand that promises the production of aluminum at no more than 4 tons of CO2 per ton of Aluminum produced.

Alcoa another giant of the Aluminum world has its own ecologically responsible line of products, Sustana. The Ecolum brand is primary aluminum produced using only hydroelectricity. It produces 2.5 metric tons of carbon for each metric ton of aluminum produced. Which is much less than the industry average. The Ecodura brand of aluminum billet is made of 50% recycled material and uses up to 95% percent less energy than similar products.

 

“Companies across a range of end markets have made sustainability a core business imperative and, as a result, they’ve prioritized the use of low-carbon aluminum products with proper certifications,” says Timothy Reyes, president of Alcoa Cast Products. “

Timothy Reyes, president of Alcoa Cast Products extract from Alcoa Releases New Aluminum Product Line, Recycling Today

Rusal the second largest aluminum producer in the world also has similar eco-friendly objectives.*

 

The US withdrawal [from the Paris climate agreement] has some international political influence on the climate process but not a fatal one
Oleg Mukhamedshin, Deputy Chief Executive of Rusal, extract from Rusal plans to power its smelters wholly on hydro electricity by 2020, South China Morning Post.

In this article, Mr. Mukhamedshin states that Rusal will keep its commitment to changeover the last of its smelters, which are presently running on electricity produced using natural gas or nuclear power. They plan to change them for cleaner hydroelectricity by 2020. Smelting aluminum requires a lot of energy; the electricity bill of a typical aluminum smelter represents ⅓ of its costs. Rusal is also committed to increasing its revenues derived from higher value-added products mainly in the construction, electrical and automotive industries.

With final products such as those found in the automotive industry, vehicles using lightweight metals such as aluminum have improved gas mileage. Also, aluminum’s high recyclability allows manufacturers to reuse all the scrap in these new vehicles. These features mean that their manufacturers can tout them as ecologically responsible.

F-150 2015.jpgFig. 1 - Ford F-150 2015

Ford relies on aluminium in manufacturing its popular F-150 pickup truck series, along with other trucks and even a line of law enforcement vehicles. Now they've flipped another switch – on an innovative recycling system that allows the company to recover aluminium waste used in the manufacturing process and recoup the material savings with it.

Extract from All About Aluminum, FORD'S PHENOMENAL RECYCLING SYSTEM 

To accomplish this an automated vacuum system was put together. First, the aluminum scraps from the stamping of doors and other operations in the plant are shredded to pieces of 1 inch or smaller. Then they travel inside the plant through vacuum tubes. The system tracks 4 grades of aluminum bringing each to a designated area. The equivalent of 1,000 F-Series truck bodies per day is salvaged this way. According to Chip Conrad, a stamping engineer at the Ford Motor Company: "Not only does this make sound business sense, it's helping Ford reduce its environmental impact".

Conclusion

These examples deliver a positive corporate image; for employees, clients and other stakeholders; by taking advantage of the heightened environmental consciousness that exists in today’s marketplace. Being able to provide traceability for a product and authenticate its origin and CO2  footprint will also help to establish a product’s credentials in our environmentally conscious world. Laserax with its low maintenance marking solution, safe laser marking and with direct part marking can help meet the challenges arising for today’s industries.

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*Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2017.  The section pertaining to Rusal was added the following month.
Title image conceived by Freepik
Creative Commons License
Figure 1 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License by Tuner Tom on Flickr
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