At Novelis, our teams apply industry-leading knowledge and experience to find solutions and develop breakthrough process innovations that drive excellence across our operations. Our commitment to delivering consistent, premium-quality products and providing unique capabilities to customers keeps us focused on:
- Streamlining of critical manufacturing units using step changes in process efficiency
- Improving control over product quality
- Reducing production waste and inefficiency
- Improving the sustainability of our processes
Each process innovation developed by a team at one manufacturing facility is analyzed, and the results are shared with our other facilities with similar needs to undergo more testing and assessment. The process innovations that successfully emerge from this collaborative and rigorous commitment to manufacturing excellence are then deployed company-wide as “best practices.”
Innovation Starts at the Beginning – Molten Metal Processing
Many Novelis plants have the facilities to recycle post-consumer aluminum, such as used beverage cans, as well as scrap aluminum generated during the manufacturing process. This recycled metal is treated and melted, then cast into sheet ingots destined for our rolling mills.
Irregularities in the surface of the ingot generated during the casting process can produce subsequent defects in the rolled product. The irregularity in the top ingot shown here is called a “fold”. To remove it requires substantial scalping of the ingot before the rolling process can begin, a costly step in processing time and wasted metal. A Novelis research team determined that controlling the nature of the water used in cooling the ingot could eliminate this problem, resulting in substantial cost savings.
Our aluminum rolling and finishing experts apply their knowledge to solving problems and developing breakthrough process and product innovations that drive manufacturing excellence across all Novelis operations. Here are some examples:
Hot Rolling Modeling
This illustration represents a model of the deformation of a complete ingot as it undergoes multiple passes in a reversing hot breakdown mill to improve vital characteristics of final sheet product. Not only does the model predict how temperature and strain distribution develop throughout the metal, it also predicts the evolving shape of the ingot as it is rolled. In this way, the shape of the ingot can be optimized for entry into the rolling mill and during the rolling process, to minimize the scrap produced from its ends and edges.
In addition to contributing to on-going improvements in our core manufacturing processes, this modeling innovation also is applied to the rolling of Novelis Fusion™ ingots to better predict how the clad layer behaves during rolling for different combinations of clad and core alloys to meet exacting customer requirements.
Our vibration analysis group has ties with other world-leading vibration experts. If an production process engineer suspects that a piece of equipment has a vibration issue, research engineers can visit and diagnose the problem in the plant. By using high-frequency accelerometers and digital signal analysis and by working with the plant engineers, the research engineers are able to diagnose and resolve the problems. If the vibration problem is identified as being inherent to the equipment, the focus shifts to changing the resonant frequency (and hence the speed) at which resonant vibration is excited. Correcting resonant vibration involves modification to the mill, which starts with numerical simulation of its structural dynamics.
Flexcaster™ and Twin Roll Continuous Casting: Flexibility in Sheet Production
Novelis owns two continuous casting technologies for the direct production of aluminum sheet from molten metal: the Flexcaster™ twin-belt casting process and the Novelis PAE 3CM® casting process.
Flexcaster™ technology is a proprietary, high-productivity, twin-belt casting platform designed to produce sheet aluminum in a continuous liquid metal-to-coil process. Flexcaster technology can be configured for medium to high tonnages, from 70 to 200 kilotonnes per year.
A broad range of products can be produced using this innovative technology, from light gauge foilstock and finstock to sheet for automotive and industrial product applications.
Continuous casting involves complex materials interactions and engineering, because molten metal is rapidly converted into strip in a very short space and time. A well-controlled, uniform flow of molten metal is critical to the performance of a continuous casting operation. Our experts are able to model the process and predict the behavior of metal within the caster, and therefore enhance the control of the casting process itself.
The Jumbo 3CM® is the latest generation of Novelis PAE twin roll casters (TRC). This casting process is also advantageous because of its modular and flexible design and configuration options, its low capital and operating costs and its ability to meet customer requirements under a short lead time. The Jumbo 3CM provides a reliable, industrially proven continuous casting platform; to date, Novelis PAE has installed more than 100 Jumbo 3CM roll casters worldwide. Again the expertise within our modeling and metallurgical groups is focused on supporting our TRC installations, ensuring they achieve the highest quality and productivity possible.
Overall, these continuous casting processes combine a high solidification rate with a simplified downstream process route. Consequently, this processing imparts unique microstructural features that require a different approach to alloy and product development.
Novelis Fusion™ is an innovation by Novelis that enables the production of aluminum sheet products composed of multiple alloy layers, with an absolutely clean and oxide-free interface between the layers. We are the first company in the world to achieve commercial production of multi-alloy aluminum casting.
Customers increasingly need high-quality alloys that can combine the unique properties of aluminum in applications that require strength, lightweight characteristics and formability.
Our researchers have developed a range of core and clad alloy combinations designed to customer-specific characteristics for high-end markets, including:
- High strength
- Corrosion resistance
- Damage-resistant surfaces
- Variety of surface textures
- 100 percent recyclability
How Novelis Fusion™ Works
This technology process allows aluminum alloys to be combined, providing a single aluminum sheet with multiple attributes. A core and one or two outer layers of Novelis aluminum are cast simultaneously into one ingot. Once the ingot has solidified, it is rolled into sheet. The process produces a perfect metallurgical bond between the alloy layers at the molten metal stage. Alloy combinations are selected specifically to provide the properties needed—for example, to achieve high strength, excellent flexibility and corrosion resistance at the same time.