The final product at Spectro Alloys aluminum recycling facility in east Rosemount is a long, slender sliver bar that emerges from its forms at about 375 degrees.
About 20,000 ingots are made each day at Spectro, where they need time to cool before shipping to aluminum purchasers.
That cooling process is a loud, hot job, which involves using large 10 horsepower fans blowing on pallets of stacked bars in an open warehouse. The bars emit heat for long time, which limits the plant’s production efficiency, as they sit in the same place to cool a couple of hours.
About two years ago, when plant leadership considered new ideas for changing the cooling process, it sought input from several of its 130 employees, whose collaboration on the problem resulted in the construction of a 70,000-square-foot warehouse that will house heat-resistant, semi-trailers loaded with the bars where they will sit to cool before being shipped.
“We are always investing in new technology to make us more efficient,” said Eagan resident Luke Palen, president of the company.
The new warehouse is another in a string of improvements, that include an X-ray metal sorting system built in 2015 and updating its baghouse operation in 2021.
The cooling warehouse will be the only facility of its kind, Palen said, as it will capture the heat generated by the bars to provide heat to the building in every season except the summer when it will be vented out of the building.
“They are excited they get to use it,” Palen said. “These innovative ideas came from the guys who are out there doing it. They have done the job in the past, so they know best how to make it better.”
Palen said the change will result in having the cooling and shipping process all under one roof. It will reduce the utilization of a warehouse that is about two miles away from the main location.
It will streamline and create a better workflow on the site, and reduce truck traffic.
But probably the biggest improvement will be to the work environment, eliminating the sound from the oversize fans and reducing the temperature in the workplace.
Before investing in the new warehouse, the idea went through extensive testing and research.
The new warehouse roof is designed to accommodate 1,000 solar panels, which would generate an estimated 770,000-kilowatts/hour.
Palen said the company is always looking to reduce its environmental footprint, and the solar array is an extension of that.
Though the operation has emissions and excess materials that are landfilled, the company’s recycling of vehicles, road signs, and other scrap metals results in major savings in the aluminum supply chain.
To create new aluminum typically involves obtaining raw materials from Australia, manufacturing in China and shipping to the U.S.
Aluminum recycling at Spectro generates more than 90% in CO2 and energy savings compared to creating new aluminum.
Companies that use Spectro Alloys aluminum result in an energy savings equivalent to providing power to all the homes in Minneapolis or taking 80,000 vehicles off the road.
For 48 years, Spectro Alloys has been servicing large, medium and small foundries and die casters who use the company’s aluminum alloys. The alloys are used to make new products for the automotive, power sports, home, turf and snow maintenance and other industries.
Palen said constant improvements in scrap segregation, sorting, shredding and drying, to continuous casting have made the company leaders in the aluminum recycling process.
A story in a future newspaper edition will explore the role of Spectro Alloys in the region. More information is at spectroalloys.com.
Tad Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.