Case Studies

 
These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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2008 — Economic

Two students at the Alcoa Technical Center (ATC)

ATC: an outstanding R&D experience
By Sébastien Bolduc
Master’s Student
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

 
Inaugurated by Alcoa in 1965, the Alcoa Technical Center (ATC), is where most Alcoa-financed research and development takes place.  This 2,300-acre center, which employs 600 people, is located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  As a Master’s student in engineering at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, I was given the opportunity by Alcoa to complete a three-month internship there.
 
During this time, I worked on a project directly related to my area of research that focused on assessing the impact of water temperature variation on the semi-continuous aluminum casting process.  To achieve this, I was given access to a unique piece of equipment within Alcoa, a $100,000 secondary cooling simulator.
 
Another important part of my work called for digital simulation using the Abaqus software.  In fact, I will be able to pursue this work when I return to the UQAC, which has massive calculation capabilities thanks to a platform of 132 processors that are frequently used for research on aluminum.  This experience has helped me realize that the success of this kind of project relies on the immersion of students into the industrial environment, so they can understand the major steps involved and the real issues at play within the industry – and can appreciate the resources at their disposal.
 
I would like to thank Gilles Dufour, Director of Technology and Business Development at Alco Canada; Làszló I. Kiss, Professor in the Applied Sciences Department at UQAC, and Ho Yo, Technical Advisor at the ATC, which made this project possible.
 
Summer at the ATC
By Jayson Tessier
Doctoral Student, Laval University

 
Electrolytic pots generate a massive amount of information.  These dozens of variables are observed and analyzed, for each pot, by the engineers and process technicians working in electrolysis plants.  This enables measures to be taken to ensure control over the pots and to maximize productivity.
 
However, there is so much information coming from the pots that it is sometimes difficult to adequately summarize it and take the proper action to stabilize operations.  Last summer, as part of my doctoral thesis and in collaboration with Alcoa, my family and I left Deschambault to spend three months at the Alcoa Technology Center (ATC) near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
 
There, I joined the electrolysis process improvement team.  The first mandate during my internship was to use multi-variable statistical methods to synthesize the information generated by the pots, and to conduct an initial diagnostic of the problems associated with any pots that did not meet the standard.
 
These statistical methods allow us to follow pot behavior from a multi-variable point of view, as opposed to the usual control charts, enabling us to use all the information from the pots in the most optimal way.   A diagnostic software program has now been developed and implemented in the Massena, Mount Holly and Rockdale plants in the U.S., and will soon be available to the Saõ-Luis (Brazil) and Deschambault smelters.
 
This internship was very rewarding from both a professional and personal standpoint, and I would like to thank Gilles Dufour from the Deschambault Smelter and Gary Tarcy from the ATC for this experience.