Tata Steel to Build New Vacuum Induction Melting Furnace in UK
The cutting-edge VIM furnace will allow Tata Steel’s Speciality Steels business, which already supplies steel to aircraft engine and airframe makers, to further develop relationships with its customers and expand its product portfolio.
For Tata Steel it is an important step towards consolidating its position as a leading supplier of high-purity steels to the global aerospace market.
The company’s Speciality Steels business will work with German metallurgical technology company SMS Mevac, a major supplier of vacuum steelmaking equipment, to build a VIM facility at Stocksbridge.
Henrik Adam, chief commercial officer, Tata Steel, said, “The addition of a VIM furnace to our asset base for aerospace steel production is an exciting prospect. It means we will be able to make more ultra-pure steel for fail-safe, safety-critical applications such as aircraft engines.
“This initiative enhances our role as a partner for key customers who require highly specialized products. Our ability to support them is an important aspect of our role in the aerospace steels supply chain.”
The £15 million furnace is expected to be commissioned early in 2015.
Henrik Adam added, “This investment is a clear demonstration of the contribution foundation industries like steel make towards rebalancing the British economy. We are supporting high-skilled manufacturing jobs and developing innovative new products and services for customers around the world.”
Mark Broxholme, managing director of Speciality Steels, said, "While the business currently supplies small quantities of VIM-derived steel using ingots sourced from third parties, having our own manufacturing capability will greatly increase our scope for VIM sales.
“This is a clear signal to our customers that we are fully committed to the aerospace market for the long term.
“This is also great news for the team here at Speciality Steels, which has put enormous effort into bringing this facility to South Yorkshire.”
The VIM production route involves melting high-purity steel and alloys in a crucible furnace, and then casting the purified liquid steel into ingot molds all within a low pressure vacuum chamber. As the entire melting and casting operation is conducted in an oxygen-free atmosphere, the resulting steel is very clean and has very low gas content.
Alloying additions, also carried out under vacuum, allow for precise control of the steel’s chemical composition.
The ingots produced will be refined further by processing through a vacuum arc remelting (VAR) unit before being rolled or forged into products such as engine and landing gear components for the aerospace market.
Michael Thiehofe, managing director at SMS Mevac, said, “SMS Mevac is happy to be working with Tata Steel on the execution of the concept for the VIM X-eed ® unit for the Stocksbridge Works.
“I am very much looking forward to seeing the plant in full operation in 2015, satisfying the requirements of this demanding, high-end market.”
Speciality Steels VIM project manager Stephen Carey said, “We have been working closely with SMS Mevac for the past 12 months on the design and layout of the furnace. This preparatory work will greatly accelerate the program to commissioning, meaning that customers will see products from the new furnace at the earliest opportunity.”