Dec '13/Jan '14

Material impact

Conference of Metallurgists opens up to a wider audience | Metsoc

By Ryan Bergen and Herb Mathisen

Woven into the latest Materials Science and Technology (MS&T) Conference, this year’s Conference of Metallurgists contributed to a vast technical program that drew more than 3,400 attendees to the Palais des Congrès de Montréal in October. The event, which included contributions from CIM’s Metallurgy and Materials Society, the American Ceramics Society, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology, ASM International, the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) and the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International, marked the first time that MetSoc participated in the MS&T Conference, and the first time the annual forum has come to Canada.

“It was a pretty large success,” said Priti Wanjara, MetSoc’s representative on the MS&T organizing committee, who credited the new setting and multiple disciplines for bringing a different dynamic to the event. A long-time member of MetSoc and ASM International, Wanjara observed a more international crowd than past MS&T conferences, which have been held exclusively in the United States. “I think we attracted more people from industry, which I attribute to the influence of MetSoc, which has more of an industry orientation,” she said.

The technical program included many symposia that looked at advanced materials in manufacturing for extreme environments. The breadth of the material was daunting, but Judy Schneider, a TMS representative on the coordinating committee, said hosting so many discussions in one place was important to the success of the event. “Many of the materials societies present are incorporating similar advanced technologies, especially in the processing area,” she said. “While this posed a challenge to ensure we brought everyone together on similar topics, it was very rewarding to work with the individual organizers to reach this objective.”

The COM program featured 10 symposia, including a new one that delved into advances in hydroelectric turbine manufacturing and repair, along with recurring themes like last year’s successful rare earth elements sessions.

More than 120 attendees were on hand for the rare earth elements keynote session, with Alex King, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute, and Marian Campbell Jarvis, assistant deputy minister of minerals and metals with Natural Resources Canada, explaining each organization’s efforts to help North American rare earth miners move projects forward to increase domestic security of supply.

King’s presentation buoyed the hopes of rare earth miners, who have seen prices for various rare earth elements fall steadily since 2011. King said pending shortages of certain minerals has caused the American government to delay some energy efficiency initiatives. For instance, a move from T8 fluorescent tubes in lights to the twice-as-efficient T5 lamps was delayed 48 months due to shortages of europium and terbium, he explained. King also noted that of the more than 33,000 wind turbines in the United States, all but 233 were designed with gear boxes. Such turbines are more likely to fail, which causes them to stop producing clean energy while awaiting repairs. But gearless direct-drive turbines, containing up to 700 pounds of neodymium, have not taken over the market due to concerns about future neodymium supply. King and Jarvis agreed that, in the long term, the heavy rare earths market looked strong. Each of them outlined research their organizations were conducting to help make extracting, processing, separating and managing waste more efficient.

Another session focused on mining innovation and cross-pollination. Carl Weatherell, CEO of the Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), set the tone with his keynote address, stating that companies should be more willing to collaborate and worry less about intellectual property rights. He noted that mining companies were clearly becoming more willing to sign his organization’s open intellectual property agreement.

“Cross-pollination is highly useful for technological development,” said Nils Voermann, global managing director of technologies at Hatch. “It’s a source of ideas new to one industry but already proven in another.” He cited an example where Hatch successfully collaborated with Outotec to develop furnace technology, used in the cementation industry, for nickel mining purposes. He noted that while government funding can act as a catalyst to help turn an idea into reality, it “does not turn a bad technology into a good one.” Speakers expressed the need for more partnerships between academia, government and industry.

Companies providing equipment and supplies for material testing, analysis and characterization filled many of the 146 booths of the two-day trade show. The showroom also featured an eight-company career pavilion and about 150 posters related to the symposia.

Next year’s COM event will be held in Vancouver, B.C., from September 28 to October 1.

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