Research, development and innovation
At Aurubis, the Research, Development and Innovation division is primarily focused on the processing of raw materials and on metal production. Primary and secondary raw materials, which are becoming increasingly complex in composition, make it unavoidable for us to further develop the existing methods. This also requires the design of new processes and procedures. In our manufacturing, the product range is currently being further optimized. The Research, Development and Innovation division, with its 67 employees, supported the projects in the individual sectors with its work in 2016/17.
A central strategic project in the fiscal year was Future Complex Metallurgy (FCM). Its goal is to increase the throughput for complex input materials by means of innovative processes. Furthermore, it should enable the processing of complex primary and secondary raw materials, which previously were not employable at Aurubis. We have therefore developed a metallurgical process which, among other things, improves the recovery of copper and precious metals from intermediate products.
A further key area of activity with long-term orientation was the optimization of existing core processes in the primary copper production sector. This relates to the improvement of process stability and process control, and the optimization of the metal yield. We have combined metallurgical expertise, modern characterization, modeling and simulation methods, as well as online analytics for this purpose. The aim was to drive forward the automatization of the procedures and to further increase process efficiency.
The mathematical modeling of complex material flows was also an important component of our work. Such modeling is aimed at optimizing operational production planning with regard to commercial and technical aspects. The corresponding planning tools have in the meantime been implemented in the areas of procurement and production planning. In the next step we will work on refining and adjusting material flows at the operational level.
The recovery of precious metals from raw materials is a significant performance factor for Aurubis. The production processes present here are therefore subject to constant review and were the object of investigations regarding improvement measures.
Experiments were conducted in order to further reduce metal content in iron silicate. This serves to improve closed-loop circulation of recyclable materials and to increase profitability.
In the area of electrometallurgy, we have worked on optimizing our electrolytic processes. Further increases in current density and by-metal output will be achieved by examining of the anodes.
The developmental activities in the Flat Rolled Products division were primarily dominated by electromobility. In particular, product developments were boosted in the areas of power electronics and connectors, which are based on low-alloy, highly conductive copper alloys and oxygen-free copper.
A further research focus in the connector area was new coating systems for automotive applications.
The development of our lead-free alloy family “Blue Brass” for machining applications continued to progress favorably. In the areas of both wire and strip, further individual solutions for various product segments were developed and brought to the market.
The Aurubis Group’s R&D expenditures in fiscal year 2016/17 amounted to € 11 million, compared to € 13 million in reporting year 2015/16.