Reliability, plant availability and efficiency are invariably at the top of any requirement specification when it comes to equipment for foundries and steel production plants. ABP Induction has been a key partner for foundries and producers all over the world for decades. An exciting project in Italy at San Gregorio Fonderia Officina Meccanica Spa shows just what this means in practice.
The company looks back on a long tradition: Founded in 1964 as a private company owned by the Crespi family, it is now in its second generation and produces rolls up to 18 tons finished weight. The San Gregorio roller foundry is widely considered to be one of the leading foundries in the world, thanks to constant investments and decades of continuous specialization in the field of nodular cast iron rollers. At present, 80 percent of the production of the world market leader from San Macario di Samarate, northwest of Milan, is destined for export.
The company's outstanding market position means that San Gregorio can count on full order books. However, this also entails a certain amount of time pressure and often production stress, under which the team and the systems have to operate. If one adds to this the high customer requirements for these special rolled products, reliability, plant availability and efficiency are of utmost importance. Dealing with this requires reliable technology and strong partners.
"We were using melting equipment and converters from a local manufacturer, but they themselves ceased operations years ago. The first consequence: Service and spare parts are hard to come by," San Gregorio says. San Gregorio then experienced the second consequence in practical operation at the end of 2018: A defect in the system brought operations to a standstill for two full months because there was simply no service available for the old model. Other plant shutdowns in the production chain were unavoidable, as there were also no other melting units available as a backup.
San Gregorio contacted our in-house experts via the ABP Induction website. We contacted the customer that very same day to respond to the urgent request. Carutti, as ABP Induction's representative in Italy, conducted the discussions with the customer together with the ABP experts in order to put together the most suitable offer within the shortest possible amount of time. After submitting a cost estimate in February 2019, a customer visit was conducted in March with Carutti and ABP experts to perform a survey of the local conditions by the specialists. Based on this survey, the final offer was then prepared with all the specifications and special features that the customer required. The offer also had to be drawn up very carefully because as many existing components as possible were to be integrated into the new system. A new 4.25 MW / 145 Hz converter with a high constant power range was installed. The existing condenser frame with 34 condensers was able to be reused and adapted, as well as the transformer and the cooling water monitoring system for the furnace.
The pump station for the electrical system was to be newly installed, as well as a new control cabinet with a melting processor, plus a new temperature measurement system. A new console near the melting furnace was also necessary to ensure better operability. The pump control and control cabinet for the furnace cooling system, on the other hand, were to remain and be integrated, as were the existing hydraulics. The entire project was implemented on site with a site manager and additional external installation personnel. The commissioning and training of the San Gregorio personnel on site came at the very end of the project.
This overall configuration provides an indication of the very practical challenges that then arose during execution. This actually was a kind of "open-heart surgery", and there was also the task of integrating third-party components for which there was insufficient documentation. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic also had an impact: The region around San Gregorio's headquarters was massively affected by the pandemic in the spring of 2020, so project work had to be postponed over and over again.
Apart from that, the actual project time was able to be adhered to. We even succeeded in completing all the work a few days below the originally planned time window. This also meant that the customer was able to go back into production much earlier. And that's not the only advantage for San Gregorio: "After acceptance and commissioning of the system, we are now fit for the future thanks to ABP's advanced technologies. With this, the system now has a digital interface, so that we were able to bring what was actually an old system up to date with the latest components," says Valerio Crespi, partner at San Gregorio. This ensures full spare parts availability for all ABP parts and components.
For instance the DICU3: Absolutely nothing works in an ABP thyristor melting plant without the "Digital Inverter Control Unit". The DICU3 is M2M-ready, so that error analysis can be performed via remote service. This makes customers' systems Industry 4.0-capable. In addition, the PRODAPT®-Advanced melt processor calculates energy requirements based on furnace content and automatically controls the energy supply for the melting and holding operation.
"Thanks to the new components, we are equipped for ABP's 24-hour service and digital Expert on Demand," says the ABP customer with delight. Here, ABP experts can provide completely digital, location-independent and contactless assistance. The core tool here is Augmented Reality: It makes it possible for ABP experts to see exactly what the customer sees. To do so, the customer uses AR glasses, a tablet or simply a smartphone. ABP brings a greater level of intelligence into the furnace systems – for the highest possible productivity, maximum availability and optimum quality on the customer's side.
All in all, San Gregorio is extremely satisfied with the support and implementation provided by ABP Induction. The ABP experts are also very happy with the fast implementation and the manner in which they mastered the major challenges, especially the digitalization of the system and the successful integration of existing components. A further important aspect was the excellent cooperation with the employees of the customer San Gregorio.