Ellwood Aluminum makes first cast
Work continues on $72 million project
HUBBARD TOWNSHIP — Pennsylvania-based Ellwood Group in 2018 launched Ellwood Aluminum, an ambitious $72 million undertaking to locate an aluminum cast house adjacent to its existing Ellwood Engineered Castings facility to gain a foothold in the aluminum casting industry.
Earlier this month, the company marked a significant event with the production of the first test casts — 14-inch diameter round (think telephone pole) aluminum rods just a little bit more than 26-and-a-half-feet long.
It’s now in the process of clearing other hurdles before full-scale production can start: qualifying the tooling and customer certification of the product, said Patrick Callihan, president.
Vendors also must certify their equipment to make sure it’s operating to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Qualification for tooling should take about 80 days. There are 14-, 16-, 20- and 32-inch tools plus two rectangular slab sizes. The tooling manufacturer must get three good casts with each alloy.
“For the certification process for our customers, we actually have to take samples from our casts, send them to our customers and then they dissect it,” Callihan said. “Through their quality labs they test it, they run it through the process, they do all the quality inspection of it.”
That can take three to six more months, but during qualification, the product is good and can be sent to customers.
“There are certain customers we’ll be able to supply probably in September,” Callihan said. “Then there are other customers we won’t be able to supply until January, but hopefully we’ll be in complete production mode by January, February.”
Phase one of the two-part project took an existing 30,000-square-foot building that was part of engineered castings division and made it 120,000 square feet. The company employs 19 now at startup, but plans to have about 40 working at full production, which is 150 million pounds of aluminum casts per year.
Phase two will include another expansion to the building, though slight, and double the size of the workforce and amount of aluminum casted.
“The pit that we are utilizing … the pit goes 360 inches into the ground. So we cast vertically, so we have these big logs that go down. So it would be very disruptive to put a phase two in place, putting another pit that size, so we would had to have put a second pit in place already,” Callihan said. “We’ll just plate over it and once we get approval, we’ll remove the plate and the pit is already done.”
Phase two is expected to cost $30 million to $40 million. It needs approval from Ellwood Group’s board.
CONSTRUCTION AND AUTOMATION
The viral outbreak had a slight impact on construction, pushing it back by a couple months. The primary issue was with contractors, vendors and suppliers traveling to the Hubbard Masury Road facility, Callihan said.
Contractors couldn’t get to the site to finish mechanical and electrical work and vendors, too, who needed to install and commission the equipment.
The equipment, however, is state-of-art cutting-edge to safely produce the aluminum casts. Several pieces are automated for employee well-being, and the company installed a preheating furnace to make sure the raw material is dry. Wet material, Callihan said, placed into liquid aluminum will cause a series of potentially large explosions.
Founded in 1910, the Ellwood Group operates 10 business units across Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Canada and Mexico. The company provides specially engineered metals, iron castings and other products for customers in the oil and gas, mining, power generation, defense and automotive industries.
Its facilities in Ohio are the aluminum and castings plants in Hubbard Township and Walter Metals in Stow.
Ellwood acquired the castings facility when it bought the assets of bankrupt Valley-Vulcan Mold in 1992. That plant employs about 95 people and manufactures large ingot mold for the steel industry, including Ellwood’s steel division.