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Special Alloys

In depicting the future scenarios of foundry and special alloys melting technologies it is unavoidable to consider that globalisation is already exerting a greater influence than other factors and that it is destined to grow in the future.

In fact the on-going displacement of technologies in more profitable production sites  is obliging  its community to further modify its own approach to the product development in order to keep itself ahead in pressuring  competition.
Anyway, as in the past at the present time the right strategy to be adopted to correctly reply  to this challenge passes through the  introduction of innovative methodologies, materials, more refined melting technologies  and stricter integration amongst them.
More plant capacity, stronger quality and lower costs, tighter environmental requirements and personnel education are expected to become  key drivers for competitivity, but they cannot do it alone.
In that respect while a lot has been done in the past to increase the quality/cost ratio so gaining competition so far, nowadays other aspects have not yet been properly taken into the right account: if foundry and special alloys melting technologies industry wishes to keep on competing effectively with such other processes as powder metallurgy , thermal materialforming, machining it will have to question itself about its strategical choices.
What technological scenario are we then facing to within this world? Casting with better, more predictable and consistent quality will force in aiming improvements on several technological subjects.
In  pursuing defects casting minimising, quicker job start-ups and least costs more efforts will surely concern, for example, fluid flow and casting simulation to optimise the design of gating and risering systems, and raise the knowledge on the refractory materials used in casting processes.
On the side of the semi-product manufacturing, as the production of special alloys and special steels represents a limited part of the total alloy/steel production, the use of special metallurgy processes (VIM + VAR/ESR or VIGA) is not comparable to the use of the conventional metallurgy processes (EAF + VOD/VID) employed for the production of special alloys and special steels.
Nevertheless important market sectors like aeronautic, aerospace, energetic, biomedical, dies/tool, automotive ones cannot renounce to special metallurgy processes to satisfy most of specifications and, above all, to guarantee reliability and homogeneity of material performances.
Although special metallurgy processes involve higher production costs and consequently prices, the economic advantage for users is confirmed by the increasing demand of products expressed by special metallurgy.
Therefore VMR (Vacuum Melting and Remelting) route is becoming today more and more common option by many alloy/steel makers for high quality products.
VMR route consists of VIM (Vacuum Induction Melting) process followed by a secondary special metallurgy process for the remelting of the VIM (but also EAF) ingot like VAR (Vacuum Arc Remelting) and ESR (Electro Slag Remelting), the latter available with different options as PESR (Pressurised ESR) and IESR (Inert ESR).
On one side the role of such secondary special metallurgy processes is destined to become more important to increase soundness and solidification structure homogeneity of ingots, on the other side to refine (VAR, IESR, VESR and ESR) or to modify (PESR) then chemical composition of ingots.
As a synthesis of this depicted scenario, it is quite safe to say that the development of new markets and applications will not only demand process innovation, but remarkable efforts on the material side, too: metallurgy, ceramurgy and materials technologies will be of primary importance in pursuing the castability of new alloys, metal matrix composite and so on.
In the next future this scientific, technological and industrial community will have to face remarkable challenges as the consequence of the on-going globalisation. They will not be only confined to the technological sphere, but it is unavoidable that technology will be the most critical factor in facing them.
In that respect, the Centro Sviluppo Materiali S.p.A., which has already gained a unique capability in this field, as consequence of the long R&D cooperation both with industry and academy, is open to reinforce the partnership with the community in order to support its business by a knowledge alway walking in advance to the market.

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