Kennesaw, GA (October 31, 2006) - Superior Industries, one of the world's largest manufacturers of cast aluminum wheels, has contracted with CEC to integrate and automate T-6 heat treatment with the upstream casting and downstream machining process. This highly innovative new plant features CEC's CleanCast® foundry technology.
Phase I of this endeavor began in April 2005 when Superior contracted with CEC to provide and to automate three furnaces and one age oven adjacent to the casting decks. The challenge, as it is with all manufacturers of automotive components, was to reduce overall costs (combination of capital and operating costs). CEC and Superior approached this challenge by designing a fully integrated system that eliminates most of the labor and energy costs and utilizes automation for the loading of cast wheels directly from the casting machines into the solution furnaces, eliminating expensive racking entirely. Vision systems are used to identify the wheel casting and to direct that casting into the correct furnace for the designated heat treatment for that particular casting. Another unique feature of the system is the use of parallel chains to convey the castings through the furnace as opposed to the traditional racks that are commonly used in the industry. This allows Superior to quench the castings eight at a time and in the "normal to the road" position, providing exceptional distortion control in both roundness and flatness.
"CEC performed superbly on the Phase I project," said Superior Industries management. "Their performance merits recognition and award of the contract for this next phase." This project demonstrates how important and beneficial CEC's CleanCast® technology is to the highly cost effective foundries of today and for the future. Superior Industries designed, automated, and implemented Phase I in joint effort with CEC to connect the low pressure permanent mold casting machines directly with the T-6 solution heat treatment, quench, and age. The lines heat-treat 600 castings per hour, and the castings can be charged hot immediately from the casting decks. Following the T-6, the castings are sent to inspection and machining without operator involvement or racking.
One of the unique differentiators CEC offered in the proposal process was the modeling of heat-up of the castings using computational fluid dynamics to show Superior how quickly and accurately the CleanCast® system could recover the castings to set-point. This process is important because if the castings are re-heated more quickly, they require less time in solution. By proving this process in the proposal stage, Superior had the assurance to move forward with a new process without risk.
For nearly 50 years CEC has been building its reputation as a world leader in quality heat processing technology. Over the years CEC has experienced phenomenal growth with over 3,400 installations worldwide, of which 60% are from repeat customers. With a comprehensive background in innovative heat processing technologies, and 70 U.S. and foreign patents, CEC can help turn any heat processing challenge around by lowering labor costs through increased automation, efficient process control and reduced energy consumption, while maintaining consistent product quality. CEC specializes in Aluminum Heat Treatment Systems. For more information about CEC, visit www.cec-intl.com.