One of the major reasons behind the 2021 merger of Mecfor Inc. and Advanced Dynamics to form EPIQ Machinery was our future ability to provide a wider range of innovative, sturdy, and high-performance equipment.
EPIQ Machinery adopts a global solution approach that integrates fixed and mobile equipment in overall solutions/systems to reach better operational efficiencies and optimum levels of automation. This allows us to live our mission and design the best solutions to suit our clients’ needs.
We understand that our customers are facing multiple challenges simultaneously. While safety, low emissions and energy savings are at the core of decision-making processes, Primary Aluminium Smelters are investigating ways to increase capacity through amperage creep while Secondary Smelters are investigating ways to improve the management of various recycled waste. Everyone also needs to find ways to cope with a shortage of personnel and ongoing supply chain issues. Therefore, doing business with a versatile and diversified equipment supplier such as EPIQ helps provide a global vision to streamline the progress of expansion and performance improvement projects.
EPIQ Machinery cumulates years of expertise with brands that are recognized in the industry: AD, MECFOR, BROCHOT and more recently EPIQ DTA. Aluminium production is a batch process with multiple stages; at EPIQ we have the ambition to connect all stages of a smelter to maximise the process flow through fully automated Heavy Duty Global Material Handling Systems integrating both fixed and mobile equipment.
Our passion for challenges drives our team to explore alternatives in regard to layouts and available technologies in order to maximize the level of automation, that with the objective of having the best production rate at the lowest operational costs possible.
Starting point: carbon plant
At EPIQ, we have an open and collaborative approach with our customers. It always starts by listening to our customers’ needs and where they are at in their evolution. All operation assisted technologies that can relieve burden for our customers are studied and challenged as part of our R&D product improvement. We work with the customer to develop the best technical solution: our customers know their processes and we know how to tie them together for optimized efficiency. Our knowledge of equipment designing combined to industry requirements gathered over time allows us to add value to our customer’s operations.
Under the BROCHOT brand, EPIQ can deliver a complete Rodding Shop of all modern pre-bake anode technology. Combined with the advanced expertise of the AD line of products, producers have access to world leading Anode Handling and Cleaning Systems. In aluminium smelters, all of the anode production processes are connected through a highly automated system. Numbers of new Industry 4.0 technologies are ready now for integration to improve product quality, reduce energy consumption, increase operator safety and ergonomics.
For example, EPIQ designed a quality inspection station with a vision technology using 2 cameras and our own vision software based on proven artificial intelligence and learning machine algorithms. Another example demonstrating our integration capabilities is our anode management system which coordinates communications between the various carbon plant processes and manages the anode storage facilities.
Managing anode quality, integrity and output can be challenging. Trust our Anode Slot Cutting Machine (ASCM) to help reducing the number of rejected anodes and to assure a constant quality of anode density. Cleaned cuts facilitate the gas evacuation and promotes a better electrolytic process.
Once the anode is ready to leave the rodding shop, EPIQ MECFOR hauling solutions come into play. Either the client seeks for conventional haulers, electric or AGV; we can work all types of mobile hauling equipment.
We are increasingly invited upon to carry out engineering mandates during which we address an overview of the client’s process, identify bottlenecks, and consider updates by integrating new technologies, by adding new equipment in the process line or rework the layout. Each situation is unique and deserves to be analyzed properly.
When the current flows: potroom
Not only can we work in improving anode yield; but we can also work on the quality of the pot rebuilds using our world leading BROCHOT Pot Ramming Machine. Still today, the unique design favors an optimal compaction making sure that all joints are sealed properly. EPIQ ‘plug-n-play’ approach makes it quicker for the on-site installation, minimizing impact on production. You can rely on perfectly reproducible compacting pattern by setting parameters.
Once the molten aluminium is tapped out of the pots and transferred into ladles; it is time to haul it to the casthouse using MECFOR Molten Metal Haulers.
Over the years, MECFOR brand has also designed Crucible Tilting Haulers, Molten Metal Transfer by Pressurization technology and Bath Tapping Vehicles. Haulers can be narrow or wide. One tractor is coupled to specialized trailers and loaded with technologies (sensors, 360-degree camera, ID card, telemetry features, and more).
The infinite malleability of gray metal: casthouse
Aluminium is omnipresent in our life. Its uses have multiplied in several new high-tech sectors. Some require speciality alloyed aluminium prepared in the foundry sector.
Whether you are looking for a dedicated rail bound charging machine or Smart Casthouse solution, EPIQ can help make furnace charging, tending and cleaning operations more efficient.
We offer Operator’s assistance technology and Furnace Protection System (FPS); all to bring greater efficiency and better control over operations.
At EPIQ Machinery, we are improving our Smart Casthouse solution by introducing a new vehicle called EPIQ MECFOR Furnace Vehicle (MFV) and by increasing embedded technologies onto our equipment. Our Smart Casthouse solution helps facilities understand the equipment usage, schedule maintenance time, tool usage and consumption rates, and added personnel safety in and out of the equipment.
In the coming months, EPIQ is to jointly to present with Dynamic Concept an innovative, energy-efficient robot to automate furnace skimming, stirring and cleaning with programmed and flexible operation. Through its geometry and its ability to produce different patterns, the Automated Robotic Furnace Tending (ARFT) will improve the quality of furnace tending. It will cover the entire surface without omitting an area in less time. In addition, precise force control will help to prevent refractory breakage. Battery-powered, ARFT will offer great adaptability to any environment and will have flexibility, thanks to the integration of an artificial vision system. These are just a few of the benefits our customers are seeing, and this helps generate more profitability to the end user.
All shapes and sizes: Ingots, slabs, sows, billets: finished product sector
Between the BROCHOT and AD brands, EPIQ Machinery can work from casting lines up to finished goods handling. As a FANUC robot integrator, EPIQ can add more automation in the process, especially for the casting line.
EPIQ AD has state-of-the-art billet homogenization system integrating volumetric inspection station, inline centerline crack inspection, billet sawing, laser marking and stacking robot.
What else to expect
MECFOR, the mobile equipment line of products has evolved over the past few years. Our cast house solution has become much more attractive to clients thanks to the series of smart tools that ‘talk’ to the vehicle and that enables the equipment to adjust its speed, movement, limits height and acceleration depending on the type of tool (e.g.: stirring blade versus charging box) and on the vehicle position (in front of the furnace or driving around the plant). The vehicle ‘thinks’ for the operator and allows for a safer and better operation.
Electrification and robotization; new technologies that will help aluminium producers reduce their carbon footprint is another area where we are investing time and effort. EPIQ Machinery is actively working on its fully electric line of vehicles and looking into broadening its Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) offer.
On the other hand, material handling is sometimes an afterthought, especially after expansions or increase in demand. With the AD brand, EPIQ Machinery is helping our customers increase casthouse automation in existing plants and is active in assisting our customers design and build the casthouse of the future for greenfield smelters and re-melters. EPIQ Machinery works with customers in a collaborative effort to assure today’s demands and needs are met and that designs and processes are upgradeable for future requirements.
Moving Forward, our main objective is our customers’ satisfaction both in terms of health and safety and in terms of performance of our equipment. With our Mobile Solutions and our ability to better automate handling equipment, we are confident that we offer a right balance between efficiency, costs, and technology.
EPIQ is structured to be able to take on large scale turn-key projects while at the same time has the flexibility and agility to design and implement made to order (custom) solutions for specific customer needs. EPIQ blurs the lines between being a technology company and a heavy machinery manufacturer, by continuously supplying new and innovative technologies.
These integrations and innovations open new opportunities for reduced environmental impacts, increased efficiency and productivity and improved operator safety for the aluminium smelter of the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yannick Beaulé, Chief Revenue Officer
Since the merge between Advanced Dynamics and MECFOR back in August 2021, Yannick Beaulé fills the Chief of Revenue Officer (CRO) position at EPIQ Machinery. Everyday, he works to define the growth plan and oversees its implementation through out all commercial spheres of the company. He participates in mergers and acquisitions as well as partnerships. Among other things, he is responsible for creating, together with the Sales, Aftermarket and Spare parts teams, an efficient and dynamic network of partners, agents, and distributors. His passion for challenge translates into a close to EPIQ’s client’s approach for each step of the client’s journey.