In responding to market trends and opportunities, South Africa-based induction-heating solutions company Hot Platinum (HPT) has gradually developed a new range of products applicable to metals processing in several industries.
HPT technical director Irshad Khan says the company initially only produced small-scale platinum jewellery casting machines; however, it has shifted its production focus to large-scale equipment for the mining, engineering, automotive and renewable-energy sectors.
The company has also gained vast engineering design and manufacturing capabilities over the past ten years of trading, producing furnaces ranging from 2 kW to well over 500 kW for the heating, melting and casting of precious and nonprecious metals, he notes.
“Our ITM Series furnaces can melt iron, steel, copper, nickel, gold and platinum and, since the launch of the series in October 2008, we have introduced newer models to the range, which is why local sales figures and those for the export market have remained strong.” These furnaces are typically used in precious metals refineries and casting foundries.
Furthermore, he notes that HPT has installed high-temperature vacuum induction casting furnace systems, also known as the VHT range, to process platinum-group metals, such as iridium, rhodium and ruthenium, for local mining companies.
These machines are unique because they can melt iridium at 2 450 °C in less than a minute demonstrating our capability in ultrahigh-temperature metals processing, he says.
The VHT range of furnaces include the standard- and high-vacuum types of furnaces capable of achieving vacuum levels of 1 10–4 mbar vacuum pressure. The VHT furnaces are highly automated, featuring automatic vacuum, heat-cycle and casting features, which ensure process repeatability and consistency for any metals casting application.
Further, Khan highlights that the company’s furnace systems are not only safer and environment friendly – using electricity and not producing any combustible fumes – but also highly energy efficient, as heat is generated only when required.
“Our systems use about 30% less power to do the same work, compared with other furnaces on the market and, in some installations, 50% less,” he states.
HPT achieves this benefit by employing isolated gate bipolar transistor-based semiconductor technology in its induction smelters, which range from 1 kg to more than 1 000 kg, Khan notes.
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Khan explains to Mining Weekly that, apart from its standard ranges of furnaces, HPT also produces customised machinery using induction-heating technology.
He highlights that HPT has successfully installed induction-heating technology for a range of different applications, such as water and gas atomisation systems, for precious and nonprecious metals applications.
Khan highlights that HPT also produces custom-designed atomisation systems, which add significant benefits to precious metals refining because the fine powder produced has a large surface area, reducing the refining time substantially, he explains. This technology also has various benefits in powder metallurgy applications.
“HPT provides turnkey solutions, which consist of the automated atomisation chamber, a control unit and the associated induction melting systems required to produce powdered metal. These systems have a production rate from several kilograms to several hundred kilograms an hour of powdered metal.”
HPT, together with research, development and innovation programme HySA Systems and the Department of Science and Technology, launched the first locally manufactured 2.5 kW fuel cell backup power system, at the University of the Western Cape, in October last year.
HPT was responsible for the system design and the manufacturing of the prototype system, developing much needed local fuel cell integration expertise required for South Africa’s platinum beneficiation drive.
Khan believes this to be a fruitful venture in the context of the energy crisis in South Africa, adding that furnace electronics technology has been moving towards adapting to energy conversion electronics for renewable-energy technologies, like fuel cell systems, which use only hydrogen as generating fuel.
He adds that HPT has also recently branched out into robotics automation, which adds significant precision and productivity to the fully automated heating and product handling solutions they have to offer. “The robotic systems are also replacing complex pneumatic systems due to their precision, speed and maintenance reduction, as a result of servomotor technology,” he adds.
HPT’s export market has remained stable, with the company having exported products to several countries in Africa, as well as to India, the US, Thailand, Russia and Denmark, in the past ten years.
Khan says HPT’s success is owed to its developing a modular technology system that enables the company to efficiently produce standard and custom-designed heating solutions at competitive prices.
“Our ability to customise solutions for the local industry has enabled us to provide well-integrated systems for markets, such as the private engineering sector, mining and the automotive industry,” he concludes.