Around four years after the official groundbreaking ceremony in 2018, construction of the new special steel plant at the voestalpine site in Kapfenberg is now complete. The plant will gradually start operating this summer, with intermittent parallel operations using the existing electric steel mill beginning in the fall. The state-of-the-art facility, which will produce 205,000 tons of special steel for the international aerospace, oil & natural gas, automotive and toolmaking industries annually, represents a technological milestone in terms of digitalization and sustainability for the High Performance Metals Division of the voestalpine Group.
The newly constructed special steel plant, which will replace the existing voestalpine Böhler Edelstahl GmbH & Co KG plant in Kapfenberg, is designed to produce premium quality pre-materials for the production of aircraft components, tools for the automotive industry, equipment for oil & natural gas extraction, and the 3D printing of highly complex metal parts. The first facilities are already undergoing cold testing.
The project progressed despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, although delays in the delivery of key equipment caused by suppliers led to project completion being pushed back by over a year. At the same time, as already communicated, voestalpine calculates that due to the difficult framework conditions, costs will rise by around 10% to 20% over the initial planned investment of EUR 350 million.
The state-of-the-art plant is setting international standards for digitalized production processes. Around 8,000 process data will be simultaneously recorded, implemented, and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Due to the high degree of digitalization, excellently trained specialists are needed to control the machinery and analyze the data. Our employees gain the necessary qualifications in robotics, sensor technology, and data analysis at our own Digitalization Competence Center. In all, the new special steel plant will secure around 3,000 jobs at the Styrian voestalpine sites in Kapfenberg and Mürzzuschlag.
There is also a focus on environmentally friendly and resource-efficient steel production. “The new special steel plant will set new global benchmarks in sustainability and energy efficiency. This makes this investment an integral part of our overall sustainability strategy,” stresses Franz Rotter. At the heart of the plant is the electric arc furnace which will be operated using only electricity generated from renewables. Using closed cooling circuits allows the necessary volume of cooling water to be reduced by up to 90%. In addition, an efficient recovery system ensures that the heat generated during the process is used within the plant, as well as being fed into the public district heating network.
Source and Photo: Voestalpine