A new era in cathode plate manufacture for glencore technology

A new advanced robotic handling and welding system at the Townsville Copper Refinery ensures they have plenty of work on their plate!

The commercial manufacture of cathode plates began in 1982 with the first sale of the ISA PROCESS™ copper refining technology and cathode plates to White Pine Copper Refinery in Michigan, USA.

Since then, in excess of 2.2 million cathode plates have been manufactured and sold around the world to copper refining and electrowinning operations.

In recent years, Glencore Technology has developed and tested the ISAKIDD™ cathode plate that features an internal copper segment protected by a robust stainless steel sheath as part of our continuous improvement process for clients.

During this time, real-world plate testing was carried out in a number of clients' tankhouses to ensure there was a clear improvement for the business.

This testing led to the design and development of a new Cathode Plate Robotic Handling and Welding System capable of manufacturing the new ISAKIDD™ plates in bulk quantity along with the traditional ISA plate range to suit all Glencore Technology's customers' requirements.

In 2019, Glencore Technology worked with Scott Automation and Robotics for the detailed design and fabrication of the machine at their Melbourne facility.

The installation and commissioning of the robotic handling and welding system started in mid-November 2019 at the Townsville Copper Refinery. This continued through to mid- December with final commissioning in January this year.

Noel Kimlin, Senior Engineer, Glencore Technology, says the installation, commissioning and training of production personnel was a great team effort.

"We went from installation to the completion of the first plate order in a 10.5 week period, and this included the Christmas break," Noel says.

"I'm pleased to say the work was completed safely and within budget as well."

It's easy to understand why Noel is so happy, as seeing these amazing machines in action is like watching an eloquent, yet methodical ballet of productivity, with every move calculated for quality and efficiency.

"Further automating this process means we make more reliable, high quality plates while having the ability to synchronise outputs with production demand," says Noel.

The first ISAKIDD™ cathode plate order was successfully completed on 31 January this year, bound for the Tamano Refinery near Okayama in Japan.

The robotic handling and welding machine is currently manufacturing several other traditional ISA plate orders, marking the start of the new era in production at the Townsville Copper Refinery.