Future smelting is digital

Digitalization has made its way to smelting processes, increasing efficiency through stable processes and automated tasks. The use of automation in smelters has increased significantly in the last years, but humans continue to play a part in manual roles and predictive work, with digitalization improving safety. Outotec is increasing automation in smelting processes.

Digital solutions have already proven themselves highly valuable for Outotec. The stability and efficiency of processes improve recovery, decrease energy consumptions, and as a consequence, create a smaller environmental footprint.

Digitalized smelting also provides significant potential for optimizing processes and responding to customer needs. Outotec offers advanced automated solutions with automated control based on thermodynamic models that outperform even the most experienced operators in efficiency. Outotec’s digital control solutions can also help optimize production rates through valuable data. Digitalizing the use of data is also crucial for analyzing processes over time and providing predictive maintenance for avoiding problems and shutdowns.

Outotec’s technologies can capture and safely process over 99% of the total sulfur dioxide produced at the smelter, resulting in less than 1% leaking into the atmosphere. A more efficient process also results in less energy used per production ton, thus reducing emissions. Outotec’s Fully Automated Smelter initiative seeks to reduce these fugitive emissions even further through digitalization.

Fewer risks and greater sustainability 

Smelters continue to have many manual tasks operated by humans. People drive cranes and tap the molten metal and slag by opening the tap hole. The skills and expertise of humans doing the manual tasks greatly affect the performance of these tasks.

Automating processes means fewer risks for humans, who often work close to hot and molten materials at smelters. Robots can do measuring work that has previously been assigned to humans and provides consistent results.

Outotec plans to automate processes at the smelter entirely by 2020, with humans still carrying out predictive and crisis maintenance but leaving dangerous work to machines.

“Digitalization and automation are strategically very important to Outotec. They are among the most important trends in the industry, and we recognize a clear customer need for digital smelting technologies,” says Mikael Jåfs, Director, R&D – Smelting. “As the global economy improves, more and more companies have come to realize that average performance is not enough. Digital solutions provide a significant competitive edge.”


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