Sheffield Forgemasters has completed casting trials of a new hollow steel ingot to capitalise on power generation markets including civil nuclear.
The 160-tonne ingot was cast at the Brightside Lane foundry in Sheffield in November.
Development of the new component should enable the company to produce highly efficient cylindrical forgings by removing many of the costly time and energy-heavy processes required to create a tubular shaped forging from a solid steel ingot.
Casting the hollow ingot has taken more than 12-months of investment by the company’s research and development facility, headed by Dr Jesus Talamantes-Silva, to refine a practice which is only adopted by a select few companies worldwide.
“This process is an exciting development for Forgemasters and aims to reduce many of the costs and processes involved in manufacturing some of the critical forgings required by the power generation industry,” said Dr Talamantes-Silva.
“We are in the early stages of refining the process of casting a hollow ingot, but the results so far are extremely promising with the first ingot now cast and stripped from the mould.
“We have other stages to go through before we can say that the process has been fully trialled, including destructive testing, to examine the material properties and structural characteristics of the ingot.”
Sheffield Forgemasters (SFIL) has invested heavily in research and development over the past five years since chief executive Graham Honeyman masterminded a management buyout of the company in 2005. Its advanced casting and forging processes now enable the company to compete at the leading edge of heavy engineering on a global level.
The process is not unique to Forgemasters as hollow ingots were manufactured at Brightside Lane before 1980.
But the technology for creating them from scratch has changed greatly, allowing for Dr Talamantes-Silva and his team to refine the process to create a much more predictable outcome.
Hollow ingots will enable Forgemasters to produce cylindrical forgings, which are used for components including transition cones used in civil nuclear power steam generators and waste casks for spent nuclear fuel, utilising a maximum efficiency process with less heating cycles per component and less waste material.
Talamantes-Silva said: “Establishing the correct parameters for a casting of this kind are highly complex and require processes such as finite element analysis and casting solidification modelling to achieve tangible results.
“However, our efforts in preparatory research mean that many of the potential failings when committing to an entirely new production process are reduced and addressed before we start costly processes such as casting and pouring steel for the actual component.”
The 250-year old company’s business strategy includes reinvestment of all profits back into the business to maintain the high R&D component of the necessary to fulfil this demanding sector.
SFIL is the world’s leading supplier of castings to the offshore sector and has designed and manufactured more than 46,000 tonnes of components. The company has operated in this market for more than 20 years and SFIL castings are tried and tested in structures around the world.