Smelting Newsletter Issue 1 / 2019
Dear smelting enthusiasts,
The world is changing faster than ever before. New technology is everywhere, and change is constant. While the first computer I owned back in the 80s had a magnificent 5 MB of memory and a processor that doesn’t even come close in power to those we see in modern smartphones, I was proud of it because most of my friends didn’t even own a computer and I felt like I was living on the technological edge.
While change is constant, some things remain the same. In mining and metals the focus is and always has been on production efficiency and costs – understandable since the prices of metals and raw materials are fixed, meaning improving productivity is the only way to gain a competitive advantage.
So what has competitiveness got to do with an ever-changing world and new technology? The answer is a lot. Today’s technology gives us totally different opportunities to steer and optimize our processes than, for example, 70 years ago when the first flash smelting furnace began operations in Harjavalta. Back then all the process control was done manually using valves and other equipment.
Even if the process itself remains unchanged, many new features have been introduced in the intervening decades. The biggest innovation in the 70s was the introduction of oxygen enrichment, while during the 90s we saw the introduction of new feeding systems including the loss-in-weight feeder. At the beginning of the new millennium more sophisticated process controls were introduced in the form of Outotec ProcessAdvisor.
Other smelting applications have seen equally big leaps forward in technological terms. For example, in the ferrochrome industry we introduced state-of-the-art steel belt sintering technology in the 90s, and more recently we have launched the Outotec BeltGuard condition-monitoring system.
Ausmelt top submerged lance (TSL) technology was developed in the 70s and acquired by Outotec in 2010 to complement our existing smelting technologies. Outotec Ausmelt TSL together with Outotec Kaldo technology provides a versatile family of metallurgical units and allows different kinds of metallurgical processes to be achieved in the same vessel. These technologies have been developed over time, and we are further pushing the technological envelope with our Outotec LanceMotion and Outotec AutoLanceCouple applications.
All the technologies mentioned above were truly leading edge when they were first introduced, and the driver behind each of them has been the need to improve competitiveness. We are working every day to further develop our processes and equipment to improve the effectiveness of our customers’ production and the sustainability of their smelters. We have a vision of a fully automated smelter that includes new ways to enhance process control using intelligent automation and methods to improve safety by removing the need for personnel to work in high-risk areas.
You can read about some of our latest ideas and developments in this issue, and some of you may already have seen them first hand in your operations. I would like to thank you for continuing your journey with us on the leading edge of technological development – a journey that would not be possible without you and our common vision of improving processes beyond this edge.
Our flash smelting license holders can find more information about the upcoming 16th International Flash Smelting Conference here, so mark the dates in your calendar!
I hope you enjoy this issue of Smelting News.