VDM Metals: Future Perspectives of the Nickel Alloys Business
Industrial, environmental policy and social changes have always driven VDM Metals to expand and adapt its range of services. Intensive research and development activities are a crucial success factor. Today, our material experts are already working on the solutions of the future.
In its long and multifaceted history, VDM Metals has continually progressed through change and realignment. The causes for these changes have been varied, for example, changing market situations, changing material demands in different markets and the development of new materials or production capabilities. When the company was first established, it offered mainly non-ferrous metals, such as copper, brass and aluminium, in various semi-fabricated forms.
Early on, the future potential of high alloyed stainless steels became clear. In the 1970s, the company shifted its focus to developing, manufacturing and processing nickel alloys.
What does the future look like for the Nickel Alloys business?
Nickel materials are essential in numerous industries’ current and future production. Increasingly complex component and material requirements, for example corrosion or high-temperature resistance, can often only be achieved by using nickel materials. Efficiency is ensured thanks to the long life cycles of nickel alloys and by selecting the correct materials tailored to the relevant process parameters.
Research and development is one of VDM Metals’ main competencies. By developing products in-house, the company can quickly adapt to changing market needs, and above all, changing material requirements. Innovation drivers include the endeavour for more efficient industrial processes, improved environmental requirements, and entirely new production methods, such as additive manufacturing. VDM Metals is in constant contact with its customers and with recognised research institutes and colleges to stay at the forefront of the latest developments and to cultivate new applications for its materials. Monitoring the market and keeping up with the times are critical for assessing future trends.
New fields of application for tested materials and advancements
VDM Metals not only develops new materials, but also uses market-tested materials and qualifies them for new applications.
One example is VDM® Alloy 36. Developed in the 1960s, this established nickel-iron material is characterised by an especially low expansion coefficient. The material was once used as a shadow mask in television technology. Today, VDM® Alloy 36 is a component in ultra-modern OLED screens.
Changes in the production of aeroplane components, now using increasingly more components made of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer components (CFRP), have also resulted in another application for the material: As the material has an extremely low thermal expansion, it is used as a mould for the production of CFRP components.
With the advancement of a hardened variant of the material, VDM Metals has developed an important component for building modern overhead power lines: VDM® Alloy 36 Powerline. Thanks to its special properties, greater amounts of electricity can be transported through overhead power lines reinforced with VDM ® Alloy 36 Powerline, since the lines do not sag as a result of increased heat generation.
Another example of an industry-specific advancement is VDM® Alloy 825 CTP. The original VDM® Alloy 825 material, which is characterised by its resistance to corrosion, was developed further to meet the special needs of the oil and gas industry. Minor changes to the alloy composition optimised the material for use in saltwater environments.
Innovative materials for optimised processes
In the chemical industry, different corrosion phenomena result in weakened components in complex systems, functional impairments and ultimately a shorter service life. Above all, the phenomenon of metal dusting corrosion presents a challenge for many known materials. For example, gases containing hydrogen and carbon monoxide, high ambient temperatures between 400 and 800°C and high pressure can result in metal dusting in combustible atmospheres. VDM Metals has turned its attention to this form of corrosion occurring in the petrochemical industry and, through years of research and development, has developed a new material that fills precisely this gap in the material portfolio. With VDM® Alloy 699 XA, VDM Metals has developed a material that is highly resistant to metal dusting that also offers excellent workability. The material is offered by Tubacex as seamless tubes for example. The matching welding material VDM® FM 699 XA ensures good weldability. This successful material was also developed into powder material for use in additive manufacturing.
VDM Metals – new production methods
VDM Metals has always been at the forefront of production and processing methods. Relatively new production processes, such as additive manufacturing, have become integral in the area of high-alloyed materials. VDM Metals uses its experience to advance proven materials for additive manufacturing as powders or for WAAM (wire arc additive manufacturing) and to expand its portfolio.
In 2017, the company opened its own powder production site at its production plant in Unna, and is constantly researching to expand its range of powders. In close collaboration with customers, colleges and research institutions, the powder materials are researched and optimised based on the respective requirements, e.g. in terms of grain size and flow properties.
As a method, WAAM is now up to industrial standards, and VDM Metals is on board. The company uses its extensive expertise in the area of welding fillers to support its customers with the right materials in this new production area. Successfully producing complex components using the WAAM method places major requirements on the welding material in order to achieve a continuous welding process without pore formation. Thanks to its in-house development and production of welding fillers and its Welding Technology Center of Excellence, VDM Metals is well prepared for the future.
Customer service – our passion, and not just a buzzword
VDM Metals considers more than just the development of production techniques and material properties to be core competencies. In addition to developing welding fillers, our Welding Technology Center of Excellence is also responsible for imparting knowledge and carrying out training for customers in all areas related to welding, including examining problems at the customer’s premises and developing solutions, holding presentations and workshops on the topic of welding across the globe, and offering in-house training sessions. VDM Metals focuses on its customers in order to understand their problems and offer solutions or develop them together.
In 2008, VDM Metals opened in Werdohl the first of its now 5 global service centres to be able to support customers quickly for short-term requirements with small delivery quantities.
In 2019, VDM Metals became the first company in the high-alloyed nickel materials industry to offer an online shop. With this web shop, VDM Metals has expanded its service portfolio, offering customers fast and simple access to its range of stock products, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Customers can instantly check what materials are in stock in which dimensions and quantities and, thus, can be ordered at short notice. Additional services, such as pre-processing or material cutting, can also be requested on the platform.