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University tests mobile sand reclamation system to help boost competitiveness of U.S. foundries.

The Metal Casting Center at the University of Northern Iowa is participating in a project to help boost the competitiveness of U.S. foundries by delivering sand reclamation technology to their doorsteps.

Working with government and private industry, the center is testing a one-of-a-kind, trailer-mounted sand cleaning unit at several Iowa foundries. Officials believe the system could save foundries from $27,600-99,600 annually.

Other project participants include Klean Sand, Inc., Waterloo, Iowa; U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE); GMD Engineered Systems, Inc., Ft. Worth, Texas; and the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources.

The unit's mobile aspect is crucial because 80% of American foundries are relatively small businesses employing fewer than 100 people. Although they are solid employers, these foundries don't generate enough sand to justify buying a $275,000 in-plant, sand cleaning unit.

"This technology has the potential to save communities, as well as jobs," said David Pellish, executive secretary of DOE's Metal Casting Competitiveness Advisory Board.

He noted foundries represent a major portion of the economic base of many communities in the 14,000-18,000 population range. And for such foundries and communities, dealing with the tonnage of spent sand has become a high-volume problem over the past few decades.

This is accentuated by the fact that the number of U.S. landfills has dropped dramatically in recent years to about 6000--and this figure is expected to fall to about 2000 in a few years. The result means disposal costs will continue to increase.

"The environmental aspect of dealing with used foundry sand is taking a greater and greater portion of the funds a foundry has available for such things as marketing, and research and development," said Dan Quick, the Metal Casting Center's director. "Approximately 10% of a foundry's income goes toward meeting environmental requirements--and that gets larger every year."

The total cost of ton of foundry sand in the UNI area (Cedar Falls) ranges from $55-115, with an average cost of $65 a ton, according to Fred Vondra, project director for the Metal Casting Center.

By comparison, the projected cost of sand reclamation will be about $32 a ton, he said. The estimated annual sand volume at which purchasing a reclamation unit becomes preferable to "renting" the mobile service is 1200 tons. Based on that usage level, Vondra said the mobile unit could save foundries $27,600-99,600 annually, with an average of about $39,600.

This type of savings is the sort of competitive edge Congress had in mind when it passed the Metal Casting Competitive Research Act in 1990, he said.

The Metal Casting Center and Klean Sand are testing the mobile sand unit in a pilot project at Fairfield Aluminum Castings Co. (FALCO) in Fairfield, Iowa. Testing is expected soon at several other area foundries.

Produced by GMD Engineered Systems, the unit uses a heat, fluidized bed system to clean about 1-2 tons of sand an hour. FALCO, which employs about 165 hourly workers, produces about 8 tons of sand a day. The mobile unit churns out clean, dry sand--a sharp contrast to the blackened sand that goes into the initial hopper.

"The unit arrived in mid-May and it took a little while to get the bugs out, but we are now in full testing," said FALCO's Doug Six. "So far, the reclaimed sand has looked good."

If tests substantiate the unit's technology from a quality, environmental and economic standpoint, demand for the system could increase dramatically. Vondra, other staff members and students recently unveiled the unit at AFS' CastExpo in April.

They answered more than 300 requests for technical information, fielded 100 requests for copies of the final technical report and received more than 70 requests from foundries to become active partners in the project.
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Title Annotation:Industry News; University of Northern Iowa
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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Next Article:A vision of computer-aided casting in the year 2000.

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