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2007 — Economic
STAS-Alcoa: partners in innovation
With technological advances becoming more complex and far-reaching, companies do not always have the financial resources or the expertise needed to go it alone in the area of research and development. Partnerships are, therefore, the order of the day and that is why Alcoa has developed an association with Société des technologies de l’alumimium Saguenay, STAS, that has been recognized by the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).
As part of this agreement, STAS is responsible for developing technologies that must respond specifically to the needs of its user client, namely Alcoa. For our part, we enable real testing of the technologies of interest to us, in addition to participating in the development of STAS concepts and the fine tuning of the chosen solutions. We also contribute to the development of this dynamic Québec-based SME by granting it marketing rights on its innovations.
This partnership has generated very tangible results. A patented automated anode positioning system is what garnered NRC-IRAP recognition. In fact, STAS received an award for this product. In an aluminum smelter like Deschambault, we change over 150,000 anodes every year. Precise positioning not only has a direct impact on productivity but it has also improved health and safety conditions for operators since they no longer have to undertake this operation from underneath a bridge crane. This new technology, currently implemented at Deschambault, is now being deployed to other Alcoa plants.
Other technologies awaiting patent have emerged from this prolific partnership. A fluoride emissions containment system used in Deschambault provides measurable environmental benefits. This technology will also be used at our new plant in Fjardaál, Iceland, which started up this year. We have also developed digital analysis systems for anode stubs and rods, as well as to assess anode butt quality.
The STAS partnership, which began in 2001, represents an R&D commitment of $1 million annually. It is one of our soundest investments in the future thanks to the current and future benefits reaped by Alcoa, both in Québec and around the world.