Liberty Powder Metals will produce a range of stainless steel and nickel superalloy powders for precision components in sectors such as automotive, aerospace and engineering, the premium end of the global powder metals market already worth more than £2 billion a year.
The powder production process cuts carbon emissions by 85% compared with the traditional steel route, part of Liberty Steel’s CN30 strategy that will make the company carbon neutral by 2030.
Minute spherical powder particles are processed to the highest specifications in a vacuum induction argon gas atomiser, the only one of this kind in the UK, with a unique anti-satellite facility to increase productivity.
Liberty Powder Metals’ general manager, Simon Pike, said: “This has been a great achievement amid unprecedented challenges from the Covid pandemic. The resolve and resilience of our team and our contractors to overcome supply chain constraints has been invaluable.
“Teesside is leading the UK drive towards advanced manufacturing, creating a new generation of skilled jobs in an industry that has deep local roots. The region’s manufacturing sector has a bright future, bringing a high-tech approach to metal manufacture and supporting the UK supply chain.”
Installation and commissioning have successfully overcome significant challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the number of contractors able to work on site and impacted on the delivery of equipment.
Commissioning of the powder metals facility, known as an atomiser, includes a series of ‘acceptance melts’ which LIBERTY must perform before the plant is handed over for full operation. The atomiser allows LIBERTY to melt a range of defined chemistries and pour the liquid stream through an aperture, using inert gas to break this into fine droplets, which then solidify to create powder, secure and confined to avoid contamination from outside sources.
The powders undergo further processing including optimisation and characterisation before final tests and despatch to customers. The same post-atomisation processing activities are deployed for all metal powders in an extensive portfolio which includes aluminium, titanium and cobalt alloys.
Liberty Steel Group www.libertysteelgroup.com