Wednesday, October 23, 2013

News: Tata Steel investing a further £15m in South Yorkshire

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Tata Steel has announced that it will build a Vacuum Induction Melting (VIM) furnace at its Stocksbridge site in South Yorkshire.

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.


The VIM production route involves melting high-purity recycled steel and alloys in a crucible furnace, extracting trace elements via a degassing process in a low-pressure vacuum, and casting the purified liquid steel into ingot moulds. The entire melting and casting operation is conducted in an oxygen-free atmosphere, resulting in clean steel with very low gas content.

Alloying additions, also carried out under vacuum, allow for very precise control of the steel's chemical composition. The ingots produced would be refined further by vacuum arc remelting before being rolled or forged into products for the aerospace market.

VIM-derived steels are typically consumed in aircraft engine transmissions and bearings as well as aircraft structural and undercarriage components and the investment will enable the Indian-owned steelmaker to tap into new market opportunities and develop innovative new products for the aerospace and oil & gas industries.

Henrik Adam, chief commercial officer at 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 specialised products. Our ability to support them is an important aspect of our role in the aerospace steels supply chain.

"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, added: "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."
Investment in 2005 saw the Rotherham site at Aldwarke become the focus for steel making, casting and rolling of specialist steels. The steel is manufactured from recycled material at the Rotherham site before undergoing further refining at the Stocksbridge plant or the Thrybergh Bar Mill to improve the quality.

In 2012, a £6.5m investment in aerospace steel production, including two new Vacuum Arc Remelting (VAR) furnaces at Stocksbridge, boosted output of these steels by 30% and safeguarded the South Yorkshire jobs.

A £1.3m development was recently confirmed that will meet the exacting needs of Tata's American customers.

Last year, Tata announced a collaboration with German technology company SMS Mevac, which has designed the new £15m facility. The VIM furnace (cgi above) is expected to be commissioned early in 2015.

Tata Steel Speciality Steel website

Images: SMS Mevac / Tata Steel

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