Japanese steelmaker Kobe Steel is planning to invest approximately 1.8 billion yen to increase the production capacity of its steel powder plant in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan.
According to the company, the production capacity of steel powder products will increase to 110kt/yr (metric tons) from the current 96kt (metric tons) per year. Mass production is scheduled to begin in the April–June quarter of 2021.
Kobe Steel’s steel powder products are mainly used in powder metallurgy to make automotive sintered parts such as engine and transmission components. In the steel powder field, Kobe Steel estimates that it has nearly a 50% share of the domestic market, making it the top producer in Japan.
The company's SEGLESS KP and KS series of products are claimed to have high compressibility and machinability, which contribute to high strength, and, along with its SEGLESS graphite segregation-free steel powders are regarded as products 'of high acclaim'.
With car production forecast to increase over the medium-to-long-term, Kobe believes that demand for steel powders is anticipated to grow in the future, leading to the company's decision to increase the production capacity of its steel powder plant. Kobe Steel plans install another reduction furnace to enable higher treatment temperatures than its current furnaces. It will also install another SEGLESS mixer to increase production capacity of the product.
Of the total production capacity of 110kt/yr (metric tons) SEGLESS will comprise 60kt/yr (metric tons), an increase from the current 40kt/yr (metric tons).
Through this investment, Kobe Steel claims it will be able to provide a continuing stable supply of steel powders to customers and better respond to their diverse needs using equipment that can produce high-performance steel powder products.
Kobe Steel entered the steel powder business in 1968 and was the first to introduce an atomisation process in Japan in which high-pressure water is sprayed onto molten metal, turning it into a powder. The process enables the company to produce 'outstanding steel powders of high purity, high compressibility and high density', it is claimed. In addition to steel powder for powder metallurgy, other major products include ECOMEL, a steel powder that remediates contaminated soil and ground water to prevent the spread of toxic substances such as heavy metals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Also available is MAGMEL, a magnetic steel powder for use in motors and reactors as well as other powders for use in hand warmers and deoxidants.