Tata Steel has today announced a new collaboration with technology company SMS Mevac, which will design a new facility for the production of high-purity Vacuum Induction Melted (VIM) steels for the aerospace industry at the Speciality Steels business in Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire.
The agreement represents an important step for Tata Steel towards consolidating its position as a leading supplier of high-purity steels to the global aerospace market.
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 (VAR) 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 where high-purity steel with characteristics such as enhanced fatigue life, improved corrosion resistance and higher strength levels are critical.
Richard Bell, Commercial Director Speciality Steels, said: “We have been supplying VIM steels for many years using ingot sourced from select third parties. However, our aerospace customers have been eager to see Tata Steel make a solid commitment to them by expanding its capability and integrating VIM into its existing UK asset structure. We are delighted to be taking this step and we look forward to working closely with key aerospace supply chains on VIM-derived products.”
The Managing Director of SMS Mevac, Michael Thiehofe, commented: “SMS Mevac is honoured to be the chosen supplier for the engineering and, in case of further execution, the supply of a VIM unit for Tata Steel in Stocksbridge. Our process experts, having more than 20 years of operational know-how in the field of tertiary metallurgy, will closely cooperate with Tata Steel’s experts to design a plant which will satisfy the requirements of this demanding, high-end market.”
VIM Project Manager Stephen Carey said: “The agreement with SMS Mevac means we will get a head start on the design stage of the project, which could shorten the overall timeframe of the development by around six months.”
The agreement with SMS Mevac is the latest in a string of investments by Speciality Steels in South Yorkshire totalling over £23m in the last few years in support of both plant energy efficiency and improved processing capability. The most recent of these was the commissioning of two additional VAR furnaces in early 2012 to support the sales of aerospace steels.
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About Tata Steel in Europe
The European operations of Tata Steel comprise Europe's second largest steel producer. With the main steelmaking operations in the UK and Netherlands, they supply steel and related services to the construction, automotive, packaging, lifting & excavating, energy & power, aerospace and other demanding markets worldwide. The combined Tata Steel Group is one of the world’s largest steel producers, with an aggregate crude steel capacity of more than 28 million tonnes and approximately 81,000 employees across five continents.
About SMS Mevac GmbH
SMS Mevac provides equipment, process know-how and additional services required for the production of high-quality steel grades worldwide. The range of metallurgical equipment covers vacuum-type and atmospheric-type treatment processes for hot metal pre-treatment, and secondary and tertiary metallurgy.
SMS Mevac GmbH is a company of the SMS group, which, under the roof of SMS Holding GmbH, consists of a group of companies internationally active in plant construction and mechanical engineering for the steel and non-ferrous metals industry. With some 11,000 employees, the group generates sales of over €3 billion.