The Petersburg-based NPO Laboratory of Special Steels and Alloys has chosen SMS group's vertical semi-continuous caster (VERSCON) technology to produce special alloys and stainless steel to service the automotive, aerospace, agricultural and engineering industries.

According to SMS group, the one-strand VERSCON vertical semi-continuous caster for NPO will produce round and square sections ranging from 350mm to 550mm in lengths of up to eight metres. The caster has an annual production of 31kt and will be designed to match the melt shop capacities, including an electric arc furnace, a ladle furnace and a VOD degassed. A tundish heating system from IAS GmbH, part of SMS group, will form part of the equipment and will enable low superheating in the roundish for a stable casting process, it is claimed. An SMS Concast-patented hot-top heating system will compensate top-shrinking cavities for maximum yield.

“VERSCON combines the advantages of ingot casting and continuous casting at an affordable CAPEX. Further benefits over ingot casting include a cleaner work environment and lower operational costs. Thanks to the high bloom quality, the blooms can be transferred directly to the forging or tertiary metallurgy facilities without any additional conditioning."

A. Potanin, CEO of NPO.

According to NPO's CEO, A Potanin, the resulting high bloom quality means that they can be transferred directly to the forging or tertiary metallurgy facilities without any additional conditioning. He said the technology enables NPO to produce highly demanding steel grades in top quality and with maximum yield.

SMS group claims that with ingot casting there are no restrictions in terms of steel grades, meaning that bloom sizes and weights can be chosen more flexibly. For smaller productions, however, VERSON semi-continuous casting technology (for volumes less than 200kt/yr) is a viable alternative to ingot casting.

"The driving idea behind the VERSCON design concept is to cast one or two ladles on one or more vertical strands into long blooms."

SMS group.

The VERSCON process consists of two steps: First, a long bloom is cast by means of a conventional mould and oscillation table. When the strand has reached its final length, the casting process stops and the strand is held in position until final solidification is achieved, which can take several hours depending upon the section size. The bloom is then removed from the machine and cut to length; tertiary cooling facilities complete the process.

Commissioning is scheduled for H2 2021.