Sheffield Forgemasters Trials Pioneering Ingot Design

Published: 2 December 2010

Sheffield Forgemasters has concluded successful casting trials of a pioneering hollow steel ingot to help capitalise on key power generation sectors including civil nuclear.

The 160 tonne ingot was cast at the Brightside Lane foundry and aims to 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 select few companies across the globe.

Jesus said: “This process is an exciting development for Sheffield 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.

“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 has invested heavily into its research and development over the years since chief executive Graham Honeyman masterminded a management buyout of the company in 2005, but its processes now enable the company to compete at the leading edge of heavy engineering on a global level.

The process is not entirely new to Sheffield Forgemasters as hollow ingots were manufactured at Brightside Lane in the years prior to 1980 – but the technology for creating them from scratch has changed greatly, allowing for Jesus and his team to refine the process to create a much more predictable outcome.

Hollow ingots will enable Sheffield 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.

Jesus 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.”

Sheffield Forgemasters has an ongoing business strategy which includes reinvestment of all profits back into the business to maintain its high technology approach to business development.