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Author: Terry Fitzgerald

The steps it took to make Foothills Steel Foundry the industry leaders

Foothills History Timeline
The history of Foothills Steel Foundry

It started in 1913 when FL Irving started Riverside Iron Works to supply a Canadian Pacific railway contract. Riverside developed into a Calgary steel foundry and machine shop. In 1930 the depression had hit, things were getting tough the world over, and FL Irving sold his business to Dominion Bridge. By 1947 they had shut down the casting side of the business where a young F.L Irving had trained and worked for many long years.

FSF since 1947
Serving the Aggregate and Mining Industry since 1947
Foothills Opening in Calgary Herald
Foothills opening in 1946 in the Calgary Herald

With a bounty of skills and a solid business mind Mr. F.L Irving and son John took a huge step forward and started Foothills Steel Foundry as an incorporated company in Alberta, Canada in 1947. Little did he know that this would shape the lives of 4 generations to come.

It’s no small feat to set up a foundry operation, and like any business you start small and you add capacity and capability along the way. Foothills Steel Foundry has grown, expanded, contracted and multiplied over the years. Their growth is testament to their product’s ability to meet market demand and their ability to consistently maintain their offer without waiver or compromise on quality or technique. Today Foothills manufacture some of the best wear parts available anywhere in the world.

Foothills Steel Foundry - cnr Glenmore Trail and Fairmont Drive
Foothills Steel Foundry – cnr Glenmore Trail and Fairmont Drive

1952 saw the first big move for Foothills to a larger and more functional location in Glenmore Trail, Calgary. Their staff moved with the company and as the years rolled by, technology rolled in. By 1955 Irving Wire had been merged with Foothills Steel and by 1960 D.F Irving (2nd Generation) had bought the company from his father, FL Irving and brother John Irving.

By the mid 1970’s Irving Wire & Foothills de-merged and that is when Foothills started to increase capacity and specialise their offer.

Foothills had started to specialise in Hadfield manganese wear parts years before, but with the addition of a new arc furnace they had the ability to increase production substantially. This machine increased casting capacity to 6000kg in size and a staggering 200 tonnes of castings produced per month.

Manufacturing Hadfield manganese wear parts is still their number one specialty today. Having the expertise and capability to design wear parts to exactly match the job the part needs to do is Foothills greatest strength. With a full design and metallurgy team on staff, the Foothills team have always been able to engineer solutions to problems.

“I’ve always marveled at the older guys who can work out a solution in their heads, they take their time, go away and have a think about it and come back with an innovative answer to the problem. Today technology helps us along the way. With tools like Solidworks, we can visualize the solution faster, but it’ll never cease to amaze me what the human mind can do when it’s given the chance to think” said Harry Irving – General Manager and Grandson of founder F.L Irving.

Harry moved into the General Manager position in 1990, and at the tender age of 67 he is still excited by the industry and the changes that come with technology.

These days Foothills still manufacture as much as they ever have because of their ability to shift with the ebbs and flows of the economy. There have been many changes over the years but none like the deregulation of Power in Alberta, which forced the decrease in economical casting and so in 2002 Foothills partnered with a Chinese foundry facility to produce the raw castings. This partnership had Foothills engineering staff operating out China, sharing skills, manufacturing procedures and Quality Control processes. The partnership opened up the Asia Pacific trade and five years down the track trade was so good in this area that Foothills decided to open up an
Australian office and warehouse. A few years later in 2009, a US sales office opened up in South Carolina.

Foothills enjoyed the expansion of technology like the Faro Arm and Laser Scanners combined with the traditional, tried and tested foundry methods. By operating foundry and machine/heat treatment shops from both Canada and China they have the reach of the big guys but the attention to detail and care of the more boutique foundries. But it’s the bounty of experience and skills that make Foothills stand out above the others.

It’s been a journey of discovery for Foothills with mergers; de-mergers and capability growth that have taken a small time Foundry along the
path to become a world class leader in wear parts.

The Foothills brand is synonymous with quality. In the 68 years of trade not only have they found the absolute best formula for every type of wear part, but they have a team of educated, experienced and loyal team members that have been with the company for many years.

Looking to the future Harry Irving has his eyes set on the prize as he and his team work tirelessly on various R & D projects. “improving products, improving results and supplying superior products is always forefront of our minds at Foothills, it is what has made up get out of bed for 68 years and it’s what will spur us on for another 68”.

A truly global company, Foothills Steel Foundry is the leading manufacturer of high quality manganese wear parts, worldwide.

Quarry Plant Solutions

QPS LogoQPS Engineering is a locally owned and operated business which has prospered within Queensland. They are committed to providing experienced and fully resourced maintenance personnel to quarries, as well as design and engineering, relocations and installs, construction projects, maintenance, 24 hour services, metal fabrication, upgrades, bucket repairs and abrasive blast and protective coatings for a wide spectrum of industries.

We had a client with a cracked flywheel and so instead of importing a cast iron OEM part from Ireland, we decided to have a new part reverse engineered for us by Foothills in Australia. It’s a decision we’ll never regret says Andy Hill from Quarry Plant Solutions.

Impact Crusher Flywheel
Impact Crusher Flywheel

The new flywheel is made from superior quality alloys as opposed to cast iron. Our expectation is that the part will last for the lifetime of the machine; this is a 75% improvement on the OEM part we were also considering.

When asked about the process and working with the team at Foothills, Andy said that Terry was great, he even helped us to develop a solution for a small crusher we had manufactured for a client.  Foothills created jaw plate drawings in Solidworks CAD for the replacement liners.

The flywheel that Foothills developed for us using their Faro Arm technology is stronger and more resistant to cracking and was competitive on price, but will outlast the OEM part – you cannot ask for more than that.

Even though the process was started over the Christmas period, we still managed to get the product when we needed it. Terry pulled out all the stops to make it as fast as possible – given the time of year.

We would definitely use foothills again and would definitely recommend them and already have.

Andy Hill

Quarry Plant Solutions

J.R. Crusher and Screen Services

JR Crusher & Screen Services LogoOwner and Operator of JR Crusher & Screen Services John Rauzan spoke to us about why he continues to choose Foothills Steel Foundry over any other wear part supplier in Australia.

 “It’s the relationship that Terry maintains with me, combined with a fair price and a great product that keeps me coming back”

With over 30 years of experience in the crusher maintenance field, John knows his wear parts. His opinion of the Foothills product is that they are much better than the average wear part on the market.

“They just seem to last a bit longer than the average part that you can get hold of for a comparable cost”

One of the things that John pointed out about Foothills is that they work ‘with’ him to solve on site issues that may not be about actual wear parts.

“Terry will go to great lengths to try and solve a problem on site for us, he has in the past developed custom casting solutions that were nothing to do with being a manganese wear part, but it helped us solve an issue on the job. We’ve tried doing this with other suppliers in the past with no luck, so we stick with Foothills because they come up with the solution, time & time again.”

When asked about how he finds working with the Foothills team, John said, “I like the fact that Terry is very straight forward, he listens and helps us solve problems. Terry has always been happy to deal with me and not go direct to my customers with his product, which to me, is a credit to him.”

Working with large quarries is John Rauzan’s specialty, knowing he will be on site for a only few days at a time, he needs to know that his parts will be delivered on site when he needs them without fail so he can complete his job.

“Foothills have never let me down with a delivery, they know what I need when I need it and work in really well with my clients’ maintenance schedules, it’s a great fit for us”

So to sum it up John Rauzan said “I choose Foothills because they deliver on price, on time, with product that lasts and with an open line of communication”

John Rauzan
Owner and Operator of JR Crusher & Screen Services

A full load of Foothills crusher castings


Hy-Tec Logo

Hy-Tec Northern NSW

Hy-Tec LogoWhen you’ve got tonnes of greywacke to crush, you need a crushing setup that is fit for the job. Greywacke is hard and abrasive, making it pretty tough to reduce down. Hy-Tec Quarry has all the right equipment, but the right equipment isn’t the only thing they need; they need the right liners to be able to break down the material, that’s where Foothills Steel Foundry come in.

Since 2010 HyTec have been choosing to use Foothills cone & jaw liners because they out-perform the other liners on the market.  Hy-Tec also needed a jaw plate with a solid end, opposed to a tooth or comb style plate.

“The solid end plate gives the jaw a better and longer wear life for the Greywacke material we deal with. It was fantastic that Foothills went to great lengths to re-design the heavy-duty jaw for the Extec C12 crusher we run, so we have the perfect liner for our crusher.”

Jaw Crusher Liner Heavy Duty
Extec C12 jaw with Filled-In-End for high abrasion crushing

When asked about the quality of the Foothills wear parts, Paul O’Connor, Quarry Manager stated: “We have used another 5 or 6 different wear part suppliers over the years, and Foothills are by far the best. Their wear parts are better
than the OEM parts and that’s why we will not shift now we have found Foothills.”

Knowing their customers maintenance schedules is big part of being able to efficiently supply to demand, it’s something that makes Foothills stand out.

“We only have one tertiary cone at Hy-Tec, and so we change out our liner every 4 weeks or so, Foothills know our schedule and always have stock ready for us. Recently we changed things at Hy-Tec and we added an extra Cedarapids MVP380 cone crusher, Foothills didn’t immediately have stock of the cone liner we needed but Terry worked it so that we had what we needed as fast as possible, and that is all we can ask, and now they are a stock item for us. Its that kind of service that keeps us coming back”

“Terry and his team always do the right thing by us and I like that. We like to be loyal with our suppliers and because he’s always going above and beyond to try and help us out, we’ll always choose Foothills.”

“I can’t say any more except that the product is excellent, the sales process is good, and Terry is good at communicating and maintaining our relationship – we are happy and I’d happily recommend Foothills to people in our Industry.”

Quarry Manager

Hy-Tec Yarrabee Rd Quarry
Hy-Tec Yarrabee Rd Quarry

Alex Fraser – Queensland Recycling

Alex Fraser LogoAlex Fraser provides recycled road base and aggregates for civil construction and infrastructure projects. Since 1985 they have been operating five state-of-the art production facilities, which have recycled over 35 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste into usable quality construction products.

With the volumes they handle, the wear on the equipment is significant. In 2008, Queensland Recycling decided to give Foothills Steel Foundry a shot at being their supplier for the jaw and cone liners for their facilities, and they have never looked back.

“We decided that we’d give Foothills a go and they have never let us down, they get us the gear on time so we don’t have downtime, and Terry makes a point of visiting us to check in that all is ok, its that relationship that keeps us coming back to Foothills.”

With a regular six monthly wear part replacement schedule in place Alex Fraser QLD Recycling need to ensure they get the best quality parts delivered on time and cost effectively.

“Its important to us to get high quality parts, so we stick to our maintenance schedule, the Foothills parts we get are just as good as the original parts, they last just as long and the price is competitive. Our maintenance expert John Rauzan is an advocate of Foothills too and so with his added recommendation, we are sticking with the wear part supplier that delivers – Foothills”.

Offering a custom casting and reverse engineering service, Foothills have impressed the team at Alex Fraser QLD Recycling with their ability to solve a problem that was affecting their productivity.

“Terry even works with us to develop parts that solve our crushing and screening productivity problems, he and the foundry are happy to R & D a problem to manufacture a solution, its just something they do, and it’s a big help”

It’s no small feat to say that there have never been any problems with the product or the supply of parts from Foothills.  “There was only ever an external issue with a transport supplier, but Terry soon fixed it and we were back on track. This kind of service is what we need at Alex Fraser QLD Recycling and why we will always choose Foothills Steel Foundry.”

When asked if he would recommend Foothills to his network, Chris said “absolutely” in a way that made me believe him!  They have no intention of moving suppliers and are very happy with the products and the service received from Foothills.

Site Manager at Alex Fraser
Queensland Recycling

Alex Fraser Queensland Recycling Nudgee Site
Alex Fraser – Queensland Recycling Nudgee Site

Canadian jaw supplier gets its teeth into the Australian market

Foothills Steel Foundry is a family-owned and -run company based in Calgary, Canada. Foothills has decades of experience, specialising in the manufacture of wear-resistant manganese and alloy steels, and an extensive catalogue of jaw, gyratory and cone crusher wear parts.

Triple Crown jaw Lippmann 36x10Being the manufacturer, Foothills has a unique opportunity to work with crushing outfits to tailor wear parts requirements to machines and crushing environments and offer their own ‘triple crown’ design on most jaws. The triple crown tooth has three distinct crushing faces, providing improved performance throughout the life of the jaw. Foothills also offers a filled-in end on most jaws allowing more wear to occur before replacement; extending jaw life significantly – especially in recycling or other high-abrasion environments – and provides all jaws in standard and high-range manganese.

Further good news for Australian operators is that  Foothills Steel Foundry has now expanded operations into Australia, opening its first sales office and warehouse in Queensland in August 2008.

Harry Irving, Foothills President, said “The recent awarding of crusher wear parts supply contracts from large North American cement manufacturers and an increase in manufacturing capacity has meant that we are in a position to expand into the international market place.”

“The mining and construction growth that Australia has seen over the past few years made it an obvious choice for an overseas location.”

The Canadian parent  company has been manufacturing crusher wear parts for over sixty years. In this time they have been the wear part and cast mainframe original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for Nordberg/Metso, Lippmann, JCI and ElJay crushers.

“The experience gained in conjunction with crusher manufacturers has enhanced our entire product catalogue.  We can now offer custom teeth and crushing profiles as well as the original manufacturer design,” said Sales Manager, Matt Irving.

“Being the manufacturer and not just a reseller gives Foothills the unique ability to work with crusher operators to customise the wear parts to their requirements.”

For the last few North American crushing seasons, Foothills Steel Foundry has worked in association with LoneTrack Equipment Ltd to redesign and extend the life of their jaw plates.

LoneTrack is based in British Columbia, Canada, producing aggregate from recycled concrete, asphalt and round river rock using Extec C12 and C12+ jaw crushers.

Don Rand, Operations Manager of LoneTrack, says “The results of the design and testing process with Foothills have produced up to a 50% increase in wear life.”

“The standard Extec jaws are quite flat, with shallow teeth. The extra material alone in the Foothills jaw is a major contributor to the better performance and decreased throwaway.”

Foothills have added more curve to the Extec C12 jaw. The curve raises the initial impact zone closer to the centre of the manganese liners, instead of wearing the ends of the jaws like the classic OEM tooth design. This allows more material throughput before the customer loses adjustment on their nip angle, reducing the overall cost per tonne.

“We have also added a deeper, more aggressive tooth style in the jaws,” said Matt Irving. “The C12 jaws come with Foothills’ own triple-crown design tooth, with three distinct crushing faces. To help with abrasion loss commonly found in asphalt recycling, Foothills have also added smooth, filled in ends to both ends of the stationary jaw. With the right combination of curve, tooth depth, and a high-range grade of manganese, we have developed what we believe to be a more versatile, increased wear life liner for the Extec line of machinery. So far, customer trials support our own confidence in these innovations.”

The full Foothills product range is now available in Australia.

Harder, Tougher, Longer Jaw Liners

Working in conjunction with one of our dealers, Foothills Steel Foundry successfully made significant improvements to a clients’ Komatsu BR380 jaw crusher, which was processing oversize rock from an underground gold mine.

Komatsu BR380 HD Jaw - Solidworks Design
Komatsu BR380 HD Jaw – Solidworks Design

The wear life of their original jaw liners was only in the 90-110hr range, with the top of the fixed jaw showing heavy wear from oversize rock rolling, not fracturing and moving through the crusher.

The fast wear of the OEM style, standard manganese jaws was creating a real risk of the crushing contract not being profitable.

So, faced with a real wear issue, the client asked Foothills Steel Foundry to assist with their problem, not really knowing what the solution would entail.

Understanding the problem was key for Foothills, what was wearing, where and why?

The initial fracture of the large, hard rock being fed was difficult to achieve, causing some of the oversize rocks to roll at the top of the crushing chamber.  When the rock was reduced and passing through the crusher, the high silica content was preventing a work hardened surface from forming on the jaw plates.

The high compressive strength of the rock was hardening the jaws on impact, but the high silica content was removing it almost immediately through abrasion as the reduced material moved through the crushing chamber.

Foothills used their experience in other high wear environments to work on redesigning the Komatsu BR380 jaws and trialed their new version out on the oversize gold product, the results were outstanding with a significant improvement recorded.

The technical differences included changes to material, jaw and crushing chamber shape, and tooth profile.

Making the tooth larger, with a more pronounced point helped concentrate the crushing force with a point load on the rock and help get the initial fracture.

Cente cutaway of Foothills Heavy Duty Komatsu BR380 Jaw
Cente cutaway of Foothills Heavy Duty Komatsu BR380 Jaw

By increasing the curve on the fixed jaw allowed some of the larger rock to enter the crushing chamber a bit further, stopping the rolling effect and getting the initial facture easier.  The curve changed initial the nip angle initially and allowed crushing in the middle of the chamber.  This stopped the crusher only wearing out the ends of the jaws by allowing the middle of the jaws do some of the crushing.

More material was added between the tooth valleys and lightening pockets,  allowing the jaw to be pushed past the point that no teeth are left, if needed.

Foothills upgraded the material to ultra heavy duty 24% manganese. This material has much more abrasion resistance and holds the work hardened surface longer against the abrasivce effects of the high silica content rock.

The combination of all the changes meant that at 60 hours the jaws were only 20% worn.  This meant longer service time before the jaws needed turning, and an average service life of 300+ hrs, an increase of over 300% compared to the OEM style jaws.

Foothills Heavy Duty BR380 Jaws after 111 hours, the original jaws were worn through at this stage
Foothills Heavy Duty BR380 Jaws after 111 hours, the original jaws were worn through at this stage

By redesigning the jaw plates the processing of the oversize rock from the underground gold mine now has increased efficiency and reduced operational cost from an increase in lifespan of the jaw.  This means fewer change outs and associated costs with the maintenance and downtime during a change out period.

With an increase of nearly 300% in production lifespan whilst still achieving reduction targets, Foothills have created an aggressive competitor product in the market.

Foothills Steel have managed to not only increase performance, but decrease downtime as a result of a jaw plate and crushing chamber redesign.

With an ability to reverse engineer or design a new solution for any wear part or crushing problem, Foothills really are a leading supplier of wear parts and custom casting solutions in Australia today.


Manganese – Is More Better?

Crusher wear parts are predominantly sold by their metal specification, but what does this mean?

These are wear parts, so let’s start there, what  is wear?  Wear can be defined as a progressive loss of material from a surface.  In rock crushing, wear comes mostly from impact and abrasion.  Impact wear is the repetitive exposure to dynamic contact from a solid body and abrasion wear is due to hard particles that are forced against and move along the solid surface.

Foothills Steel Triple Crown Manganese Jaw Teeth
Foothills Steel Triple Crown Manganese Jaw Teeth

The manganese alloy steel used for jaw and cone crusher liners was first developed in the late 1800’s by Sir Robert Hadfied.  Hadfield’s alloy (sometimes referred to as Hadfield manganese) exhibits both high hardness and toughness, properties that were not found in carbon steels at the time.

Hardness, Toughness and Wear

Hardness is the ability of the liner to with stand indent under pressure and impact.  Toughness is ability to absorb energy.  In basic terms, this means that a crusher liner has to be able to handle the impact from the crusher hitting and compressing the rock for fracture, as well as the abrasion from the rock moving along the crushing surface as it progresses through the crusher.

Hadfield manganese, with both high hardness and toughness, will also work harden under impact.  Work hardening happens when the liners are subjected to impact stress (such as in a crusher).  The slight surface deformations harden the liner significantly, creating a skin that can be more than 100% harder than the hardness of the liner supplied from the foundry.

King Hardness Testing on a Bowl Liner
King Hardness Testing on a Bowl Liner

The hardness of manganese alloy can be tested using the Brinell method (BHN).  This test places a 10mm tungsten carbide ball is placed on the surface of the casting and a 3000kg pressure is applied.  The ball creates an indent on the surface of the casting and the diameter of this indentation is used to determine the hardness

Toughness, or ductility, is the other property of manganese that works for crushing.  Toughness is the ability of the liner to bend and move to resist breakage.  This property means that a good manganese liner will warp or distort (at the microscopic level) and flow instead of cracking and breaking  when under high strain.  This can be seen on the discharge side of work bowl liners.  In some cases, you can see the flowed manganese curling around off the bottom lip.

These properties make the manganese alloy extremely resilient, and the liners can take a lot strain before they become worn out.  Any cracking or holes that appear in liners prematurely can usually be attributed to manufacturing errors.

Manganese wear parts are sold in 3 common grades, 14% (Hadfield manganese), 18% and 21+% grades.  14% manganese has been used in crushing around the world for over 100 years and is a very reliable material for crusher liners.  14% manganese is supplied from the foundry with a hardness of approx 200 Brinel (HB), and when crushing rock with a high compressive strength (hard rock), will work harden to 450-500HB.

18% and 21+% manganese liners can offer slightly more abrasion resistance than 14% in brand new liners and they are supplied from the foundry around 220-250HB.  Work hardening can increase this to a hardness in the range of 450-500HB, the same as 14% manganese.  The higher manganese content becomes more important when crushing rock with low compressive strength (softer rock) or when there is a high proportion of silica or other abrasive materials.  These types of materials abrade away the surface of the liners before they can produce the work hardened skin.  Trials have shown that in very high silica content material, pushing the manganese content even higher (24%) can extend wear life significantly.  Conversely, other trials have shown that using these higher manganese alloys in hard rock applications has no significant advantage over 14% manganese, as both alloys work harden to the same level.

The majority of manganese crusher liners hardness properties come from the ability of the alloy to work harden, not from the % of manganese in the alloy.  If the product being crushed has a high compressive strength, as it does in most hard rock quarries, the manganese will work harden well above the liners supplied hardness.  14% manganese has the added benefit of being cheaper to produce.  This means that it can reduce cost per ton even further for a hard rock quarry.