Seco/Warwick to deliver equipment for the titanium recycling plant EcoTitanium

The equipment supplier Seco/Warwick Europe and Retech Systems LLC signed a contract for the delivery of a comprehensive melt shop equipment package to a new European facility for recycling of aviation-grade titanium. The facility called EcoTitanium will be Europe’s first aerospace-grade titanium recycling plant. At the end of April 2015 the first stone of the EcoTitanium project was laid in Saint-Georges-de-Mons, Auvergne (France), in the presence of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

EcoTitanium – Laying of the foundation stone
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during the laying of the foundation stone ceremony of the EcoTitanium project
The EcoTitanium project in detail

At the end of 2014 UKAD, a subsidiary of Aubert & Duval (Eramet Group) and UKTMP, the French state, through ADEME and Crédit Agricole Centre France signed the agreement to launch the EcoTitanium project. The aim of the project is to build and operate Europe’s first recycling plant for aviation grade titanium in Saint-Georges-de-Mons, Auvergne, France.

The aviation titanium recycling project will provide the European aircraft manufacturing industry with a new channel that is independent from American and Russian sources, giving it greater control over its supply of a strategic raw material, titanium.

EcoTitanium's qualification cycle will begin in 2017. Industrial production is scheduled to start in 2018. Here are EcoTitanium’s key figures:

  • 3 shareholders,
  • 62 direct jobs should be created,
  • 48.7 €M capital invested,
  • 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions prevented by this recycling approach, compared with conventional primary production.
The scope of delivery by Seco/Warwick and Retech Systems

Both companies belong to Seco/Warwick Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of heat processing furnaces and a technology leader. The full delivery will be comprised of three metallurgical units: one plasma arc melting furnace (PAM), two vacuum arc remelting furnaces (VAR) plus accompanying equipment.

The Retech PAM system fully integrates robust mechanisms with proven melting systems and control techniques. The feed system consists of a rotary can feeder and vibratory chute combination that delivers turnings to the melt hearth. Also included is a bar feeder for feeding titanium scrap. Once in the melt hearth the material is thoroughly melted by Retech’s transferred-arc plasma torch.

Material continues on to a series of refining hearths where both high and low density inclusions are removed under the action of the plasma torches and the residence time provided by the refining hearths. An ingot is formed within the water-cooled copper mold on top of a matching water-cooled copper puller. As the puller withdraws out the bottom of the mold, the titanium alloy solidifies as new liquid continues to flow into the top of the mold. The system will be able to produce large ingots which will be then used as electrodes for the VAR system.

Why plasma melting technology?

Plasma melting systems have the proven commercial ability to consistently produce titanium alloy ingots and castings more efficiently than other competing technologies. This is primarily due to the fact that plasma melting systems operate under an inert gas atmosphere which allows the alloy composition of the metal to be maintained easily with minimal evaporative losses, as opposed to other processes which operate in a vacuum.

In the EcoTitanium facility there will operate two vacuum arc remelting furnaces from Retech, each of them equipped with two melt stations. The VARs are designed to melt and refine titanium and titanium alloy final ingots. These ingots will be produced from fully-dense electrodes produced by Retech’s plasma cold hearth melting process. New ingots will be formed in copper crucible by melting of the consumable electrode under the vacuum conditions by the means of the electric arc.

(Source: Seco/Warwick Europe Sp. z o.o.; Retech Systems LLC; Eramet)

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