Our last article discussed how the addition of scrap into the aluminum production line is a major challenge for manufacturers. When the exact chemical composition of scrap, including the existence of contaminants or hazardous elements, is unknown, quality, safety, and regulatory compliance are at risk. To ensure product integrity, check points are needed to determine the quality of the material being introduced. Those check points should include handheld XRF analysis.
XRF is a nondestructive testing technique that can analyze a metal sample in seconds with little to no need for sample preparation. Handheld XRF analyzers are portable, require no vacuum, and can perform an analysis of material composition in seconds.
Handheld XRF brings immense value to scrap metal recyclers because they can positively identify numerous aluminum alloy grades, rapidly analyze their chemical composition at material transfer points, and guarantee the quality of their product to their customers. Secondary aluminum smelters and foundry operators in turn are able to quickly determine and fine-tune the composition of the feed material, which gives them a tremendous advantage from a safety, regulatory, and cost-savings perspective.
XRF can also help scrap yards maximize profitability. Aluminum prices may vary significantly, even within the same series. Small variations in composition can result in significantly different and unique mechanical properties. For example, aerospace alloy grades, such as 2014, 2024, 7055, and 7449, have been designed for specific functions that are not interchangeable. Luckily, handheld XRF analyzers can easily separate these grades, allowing scrap yards to command a premium when batches are sold locally, rather than selling the “mixed” load at lower prices to overseas markets.
In another example, alloys 6061 and 6063 are some of the most popular aluminum alloys used in a wide variety of applications, including the construction and automotive industries. Considering the price differential of these alloys, one can easily see the profit potential in properly segregating these alloys when processing several thousand pounds of mixed material.
Handheld XRF also can be used to recover the value “locked up” in scrap. Knowing the type and quantity of trace elements in scrap reduces the need to source expensive additives. For example, alloys 2014 and 2024 are similar, with varying contents of magnesium (Mg). The variation can be as low as 0.4% or as high as 1.6%, depending on individual lots. These two alloys can be separated using handheld XRF technology. The difference in value between these two alloys, from an Mg-sourcing perspective, can translate into a nearly $900,000 annual savings, based on a daily turnover of 200,000 pounds and a Mg pricing of $1.50 per pound.
Read more about the growing importance of scrap in the production of aluminum in this Aluminum Industry application summary.