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Coil Processing
Monday | 09 July, 2018 | 12:02 pm

Fine edges

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Artist’s rendering of a slitting and packaging configuration at Nova Steel Ltd., Stoney Creek, Ontario.

Slitting ultra-high-strength grades, reducing scrap and creating quality edges tightens Nova Steel’s link in automotive supply chain

July 2018 - In manufacturing, we have all subscribed to the mantras of efficiency, and that can mean higher speeds in processing, less waste and the ability to move a purposefully shaped material, like a steel blank, directly into a stamping machine without the need to further manipulate it. Or all of the above.

Nova Steel Inc. is ramping up two slitting lines built by Athader S.L., a division of The Bradbury Group. One line was installed in Stoney Creek, Ontario, and the second is located at the LaSalle, Quebec, service center. Both accept 40-ton master coils up to 74 inches wide. The line in Quebec can process gauges up to 0.375-inch-thick while the Ontario line slits steel up to 0.28-inch-thick.

Both lines are automated, including double eccentric slitter heads for precise slit edge tolerances and a seven-roll shape correction system with backups. The lines are capable of running high-strength steel up to 150,000ksi tensile. Among the line’s automated features are coil loading, slitter tooling changeover, over-arm separator changeover and offline coil banding capabilities. When added, these features help to reduce total line changeover time, including tooling, down to 8 to 10 minutes from the typical 45 to 60 minutes on older lines, a spokesman for Athader says.

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Slit steel enters a looping pit. This slitting line specializes in processing advanced high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels.

A privately owned company with 950 employees across 18 divisions in Canada, the United States and Mexico, Nova Steel performs manufacturing, processing and distribution functions, primarily around structural, mechanical and automotive tubing, standard pipe, service centers and distribution, heavy fabrication and weldments.

Vince Gallo, general manager at Nova Steel’s Stoney Creek operations, says that the company began processing ultra-high-strength steels (UHSS) a few years ago but on existing equipment.

“Our UHSS [processing] is 90 percent automotive,” Gallo says. “We’ve been growing that business substantially over the last four or five years. The existing equipment was less efficient, and the demand for [faster speeds] was growing as well.

“Most of the development for UHSS is to get the weight of the automobile down in light of CAFE standards. So developing thinner, higher tensile yield strength is a necessity,” he explains. Much of this material is being manufactured into seat rails, inner doors where the cross members are and other applications. All of our parts are for passenger vehicles.”

Although Ford Motor Co. has turned to military grade aluminum for many parts, especially for its pickup trucks, “General Motors is staying with high-strength steels,” particularly for safety features. Nova Steel’s primary customer is the stamper, Gallo says.

The two new Athader lines feature tooling, arbor sizes and motor sizes that are built for HSS. “We can manage the strip more effectively and efficiently rather than taking an older slitter and running it at the top of its capacity.” 

The new machines allow Nova Steel to process a higher gauge range and width. Its existing slitters did not exceed 60 inches wide. “These are our first 74-inch lines.”

Gallo says the Stoney Creek plant has been “running tests for three months and sending samples to stampers. We will boost our [HSS] slitting capacity by 25 percent once we are running full out.”

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Edge quality

“Another big thing is the edge quality. Ninety percent of stampers tell us that they must reduce scrap and increase yield. They used to have skeleton scrap on parts and then the edge didn’t matter. Now when they stamp the same part, it’s an 8-inch part out of an 8-inch strip,” Gallo says. “That’s where the market has gone. That’s why service centers must look at alternate equipment to meet the demand from the customer.”

To get to that level of precision—the slit width maximum tolerance on the Athader UHSS lines is ±0.002—requires improved tooling, an improved pass line and improved motors, according to Gallo. “The quality edge is now crucial for the automotive industry.”

Nova Steel expanded the Stoney Creek physical plant by 10 percent in order to accommodate the new slitting line. This summer the line is running one shift. “By September, we will have finished all trials and be in full production. We expect to add a second shift and maybe even a third shift.”

By installing the additional capacity, Gallo says, “We are hoping to acquire new business, and increase sales by 3 to 5 percent next year versus this year, while this also helps us on existing business.” MM

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