Aluminum plays a key role in the global quest for sustainability: Fully recyclable packaging, components for electric and fuel cell vehicles or electrical storage systems – many key technologies of the energy transition rely on this versatile metal. Without aluminum, there would be no climate protection, one might say. At the same time, the aluminum industry is facing far-reaching changes: It is essential to set up energy-hungry plants sustainably in order to also future-proof the production of the material itself.
Sustainability meets productivity
Achenbach Buschhütten GmbH & Co. KG ("Achenbach") from Kreuztal near Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia is approaching the challenges of the future in its own way. Under the motto "Green.Lean.Digital," it is successfully pursuing a corporate strategy that combines maximum efficiency and reliability with a climate-friendly orientation. The concept thus fits in perfectly with Messe Düsseldorf's ecoMetals campaign. Read here how it works in concrete terms, what successes the company can point to, and what role digitalization plays for them.
Achenbach supplies companies from all over the world with equipment for rolling and processing aluminum foil and strip. The Kreuztal-based company proves that sustainability and productivity are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually dependent: Since sustainably operating machines consume less energy, they are more productive. The calculation is simple - for every kWh of energy invested, the output quantity produced increases.
Achenbach UniHeat Curved Hot Edge System
This is exemplified by the Achenbach UniHeat Curved Hot Edge System. It is used to optimize the flatness at the strip edges. Instead of preventing heat dissipation as before by applying hot rolling oil, the system allows the necessary heat to be generated inductively in the roll itself.
Inductive heat generation can speed up the process by a factor of five. It also consumes up to 90% less energy than conventional systems. The inductive system is an excellent example of "sustainability meets productivity made in Kreuztal": while it reduces the CO2 emissions of the production process, the ROI is achieved more quickly,
Energy-saving fume hood
Another example is the haze hoods produced by the Kreuztal-based plant manufacturer. Rolling aluminum requires a special rolling oil that cools the components and keeps them pliable. However, some of this oil evaporates when it hits the surface. This produces vapors that have to be extracted. For this, conventional machines consume a large amount of energy. Not so the extraction hoods from Achenbach: with their flow-free design, they extract the rolling fumes completely and consume 50 % less energy than other fans. Up to 330,000 kWh of energy can be saved annually. Incidentally, the exhaust hoods are modular in design, so that even rolling mills from other manufacturers can be retrofitted with them.
Achenbach UniTorque Direct Drive Technology
The recently developed Achenbach UniTorque Direct Drive Technology also shows how productivity and sustainability can complement each other through innovation: By integrating the motor directly into the reel, Achenbach engineers were able to perfect controllability across the entire power spectrum. In addition, clutches and gearboxes were completely dispensed with. Overall, the technology achieves a total efficiency of over 95 %, as friction has been reduced and motor efficiency has thus been improved. The reduction in spare parts minimizes maintenance requirements. In short, in addition to CO2 emissions, CAPEX and OPEX also decrease while efficiency increases.
The Achenbach OPTIPURE systems are also a good choice for equally economically and ecologically minded plant operators: Achenbach AIRPURE® exhaust air purification systems and Achenbach ROILPURE® rectification systems are offered by the aluminum specialist as extra services to rolling mill orders. The systems can be individually adapted to the customer's needs. In practice, they allow above all the energy-optimized separation, recovery and regeneration of the rolling oil used. The advantages are obvious: instead of having to constantly buy new oil, thanks to the OPTIPURE systems customers can continue to use the material indefinitely while conserving resources and reducing costs – sustainability meets productivity. The efficiency gain can be expressed in figures: a single AIRPURE exhaust air purification system can purify the exhaust air from up to seven separate rolling mills. This allows a monthly recovery of nearly 100,000 l of precious rolling oil.
Achenbach ROILPURE® systems also contain a component that further improves rolling oil rectification: the Achenbach UniVap Draining Unit. By separating water from the rolling oil, it guarantees a consistently high distillate quality while the process vacuum remains high. But high process reliability and quality are not the only benefits: ROILPURE systems with UniVap dewatering unit also increase yield, as they are able to process 10 times more water in the dirty oil. This saves time and energy. The installation is therefore not only advisable in case of an increased water content in the rolling oil.
Achenbach supplements its portfolio of stand-alone systems with innovative solutions for linking the machines together. Only this completes the triad of "Green.Lean.Digital" for the sustainable and efficient production of high-quality aluminum flat products.
Achenbach Smart Plants
Achenbach is the world market leader in machines and systems for the production of qualitative flat rolled products made of non-ferrous metals such as aluminum. The systems are particularly characterized by their high degree of specialization: Systems from Achenbach produce wafer-thin aluminum foils - down to 4.5µm in double-stitch and 8µm in single-stitch - and process them further. The combination of sustainable technology and expertise has meanwhile also made Achenbach the first address for the production of highly sensitive battery foil. Both the quality of the thin aluminum cathode foil and its manufacturing process place enormous demands on the production infrastructure. Achenbach OPTIMILL® rolling mills and Achenbach OPTIFOIL® foil slitting machines meet these in the best possible way.
Especially complex production lines in the battery foil sector benefit from Achenbach's guarantee for quality, sustainability and productivity. Europe's largest battery foil production plant in Hungary also uses OPTIMILL foil rolling mills automated with OPTIROLL controls. They are each operated with a SUPERSTACK II rolling oil microfiltration system, an AIRPURE exhaust air purification system and SepaSlit separators. Within the industry, they are regarded as benchmarks for production plants with high demands on efficiency and sustainability. Two more Achenbach rolling lines for the production of battery foil have recently started operation in China.
Of particular note is a major order for the first greenfield battery foil plant on the American continent. It is located in Kentucky, USA. Achenbach is supplying high-tech rolling and slitting lines to long-time customer Lotte Aluminium Ltd., which is building a production facility for battery cathode foil here with an annual production capacity of 36,000 tons. The foil will be used to equip around 4,000,000 electric cars.
The fact that Lotte chose Achenbach for this major investment is due to the expertise of the Kreuztal-based company and the trusting business relationship between the two companies. Kentucky is going green, lean and digital: productivity and sustainability are also appreciated on the other side of the Atlantic.
System Achenbach OPTILINK®
Sustainable and optimized results are made possible by digitalization. The cloud-based analysis system Achenbach OPTILINK® can collect plant data from different sources across the process chain to extract valuable information about the production process. This reduces energy consumption and increases production efficiency - Green.Lean.Digital. "With OPTILINK Energy Monitoring, we can make a big contribution to greener aluminum by monitoring and optimizing energy use in relation to a single coil," said André E. Barten, CEO of Achenbach. Active monitoring and warning systems detect problems in time and can intervene to minimize unwanted by-products. At a customer's fine strip mill, an objectively verifiable productivity increase of nearly 30% was achieved. Previously, the customer had used the OPTILINK platform to collect and evaluate rolling data and take preventive measures on this basis.
The example shows: at Achenbach, the combination of innovative technologies with smart networking generates quality, productivity and sustainability. In line with the motto Green.Lean.Digital, Achenbach's disruptive solutions increase the customer's benefit and thus its competitiveness in a sustainable way.
The Bright World of ecoMetals
With its unique "Green.Lean.Digital" strategy, the company from Kreuztal-Buschhütten fits seamlessly into Messe Düsseldorf's ecoMetals campaign. ecoMetals stands for the ecologically sustainable path that companies from the foundry and metallurgy industry have increasingly taken in recent years. Messe Düsseldorf supports exhibitors like Achenbach who invest in innovative, sustainable and competitive technologies. The ecoMetals brand covers the three fields of sustainability: resources, innovation and production, and processes.