Company to unpack copper wire rod plant at inaugural wire conference

8th November 2019 By: Shannon de Ryhove - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Polity & Multimedia

Metallurgical industry plant and integrated systems provider SMS group will present its modular compacROD copper wire rod plant during the inaugural Africa Wire, Cable & Tube Conference, for which it has partnered with commodity research company CRU Group for the event.

SMS group is a silver sponsor of the conference, which will be held later this month in Johannesburg.

The compacROD plant is one of the group’s technological developments designed specifically for emerging markets which require low-volume and high flexibility production.

Africa has vast potential for increased trade in wire and cable, tube and pipe related industries. In many African markets, the business environment is also improving and the implementation of structural reforms is leading to increased business confidence.

SMS group MD Pieter Bezuidenhout agrees, adding that the wire, cable, tube and pipe industries are important for Africa as a developing continent. “The demand to expand energy resources by expanding gas and oil pipelines can only grow. Producing the material for these expansions is key. This is also the same for other civil infrastructure requirements using rebar and rods.”

This inaugural event is an opportunity for the local industry and stakeholders to meet with the international supply chain, and discuss the main trends impacting on the global market and how they can be applied to the opportunities and challenges on the continent.

The compacROD modular plant is a cost-effective solution for the production of high-quality copper wire rod in volumes of between 30 000 t/y to 50 000 t/y, states SMS group key accounts manager Samuel Gounden.

SMS group has combined its extensive experience and expertise in copper wire rod manufacturing with the latest melting and rolling technology to develop this new type of plant. “Consistently high product-quality and low process-costs mean plant owners are assured of long-term success,” notes Bezuidenhout.

Gounden explains that the plant turns copper cathodes into copper wire rod with precise diameters of between 8 mm and 16 mm. The previously charged starting material is melted down to liquid copper in the gas-fired, energy efficient shaft furnace.

It is then conducted through launders into the twin wheel casting machine, where the cast ingot is produced, while the ingot preparation zone ensures it is perfectly prepared for rolling.

In the rolling mill, the cast ingot is hot-formed in several precisely defined stages until the desired wire rod diameter has been attained. The wire rod, which is still hot, is deoxidised and cooled in a cooling line.

Immediately thereafter, a wax coating is applied to the surface of the wire rod to preserve it. The coiler then winds the wire rod into coils with a unit weight of between 3 t and 5 t.

The environment-friendly shaft furnace is particularly efficient, owing to its special design that incorporates optimal heat use. As a result, the energy requirements and process costs of melting the charge material are substantially reduced. The vertical furnace vessel is filled with cathodes for the melting process, while a special charging system enables the cathodes to be loosely distributed.

Gas burners are fitted in rows in the lower part of the furnace, and these are used to melt the copper. The hot off-gases, which rise up during this process, are almost fully used in the upper furnace zone to heat up the charged material.

This high degree of thermal energy use ensures ‘outstanding’ cost-efficiency levels, compared with other melting processes, adds Bezuidenhout.

Other features include an automatic burner control, which allows for each burner to be regulated separately through the electronic Lambda control system.

The ‘nozzle mix principle’ applied here guarantees a high level of safety and creates uniform combustion conditions with a low, stable oxygen content in the molten copper.

The compacROD plant can be equipped with an induction furnace for melting, so that electrical energy is used if there is no natural gas or liquid petroleum gas available on site.

Further, it can produce hot-rolled electrolytic tough pitch copper wire rod with a fine-grained structure. Copper wire rod of this quality is very well suited to further processing in the drawing line. The plant can also be equipped with a refining furnace to process contaminated scrap. This enables the production of fire-refined high-conductivity copper wire rod.

“Whether in electrical engineering or electronics, in heating and air-conditioning engineering or in the motor vehicle industry, copper is an irreplaceable material, while its high electrical and thermal conductivity makes copper indispensable for many applications. The metal is long lasting, recyclable and environmentally sound,” explains Gounden.

These considerations are particularly relevant for African operations, which require compact and robust plants that are able to produce export-quality products. The compacROD plant also takes into account the skill level that is available on the continent, offering functional, reliable technology that ensures low yield losses and reduces unplanned stoppages.

As a global operation, SMS group is well positioned to provide the technology and services for this market and to prepare for increased future challenges. “We can offer the African market international benchmark-setting technology, supported by local teams, and positioning SMS group as the leading partner for tube, wire and rod plants in Africa,” concludes Bezuidenhout.