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Ceramic option built to last

THE simple idea to put ceramic into a box bend and spool carrying highly caustic slurry at an Alcoa World Alumina refinery has dramatically extended the working life of both components.

Box bends normally last for 21 days and spools not much longer.

The box bend installed at the refinery lasted for 270 days. The spool was installed on April 28 last year and is still in operation.

Rojan Advanced Ceramics and Key Group Engineering designed and manufactured the box bend and spool for the refinery.

While the idea of inserting ceramic into a steel tube seems easy, the actual engineering of the components is very difficult.

Key Group business development manager Rob Toohey said it was not sufficient to simply slide the ceramic insert into the tube.

“You have to build the box bend and spool around the ceramic and bond the ceramic to the metal,” he said.

“We spent $50,000 developing it.”

Rojan Advanced Ceramics managing director Rodney Stead said he believed ceramic-lined products were the way of the future.

“We proposed how the ceramic would be made to suit the application,” he said.

“Our whole business is structured around high performance materials. We wanted to know how we could improve the materials we were currently using”

Mr Toohey said his company had combined with Rojan, which is about 500 metres away from Key Group’s Henderson premises, because he “believed in doing business with his neighbours”.

The box bend project was a finalist in this year’s Engineering Excellence Awards but was beaten in its category – Products, Manufacturing and Control Systems – by joint winners McGarf for its laser alignment system and Bulkwest for its circular storage system.

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