Who Can You Partner with to Develop a Cost-effective Alloy?

It’s a common business problem: The path to making your product runs into a huge roadblock — it costs too much. For one customer the solution took a long, winding road that eventually led back to him.

This customer came to us two years ago with a two-fold problem. First, he was unhappy with the alloys that had been melted in air by another company. Second, he needed to find a company who could give him a quick turnaround of a number of different compositions so that he could pin down the exact alloy he wanted.

He thought vacuum melting would yield a better product than air melting and asked us to test this. He was right. The vacuum melted alloys were preferable; the alloys had fewer inclusions and there was improved homogeneity in the alloys. Plus, vacuum melting resulted in better control of the composition of the alloys. Through a series of trials in our 300 Lb. VIMfurnace, he settled on a particular alloy composition.

Thanks to our fast response, the customer now had an alloy that will work. It would seem that his problem is solved, but not quite.

His goal is to scale up production to produce tons of the alloy using vacuum melting. Unfortunately, vacuum melting is more expensive than air melting. So unless we can reduce costs – without sacrificing the quality of the product – his project will not be viable. Using a lower grade of iron proved to be a more economical way to produce an alloy of the same quality, but even with these cost savings it is still too expensive to produce on a large scale.

This might seem like a dead-end but it’s not.

The customer realized he could save even more money by melting the alloy himself in his own vacuum induction melting furnace— that is, in a vacuum induction furnace he currently does not have.

That’s when he asked me to be a consultant as he builds his new VIM system, and I am glad to assist as I have built VIM furnaces for my own and for other companies.

I do not think this customer would be taking this next, very big step, if he did not have a positive experience with Sophisticated Alloys.

We were able to act as a lab — a place where he could quickly experiment with different alloys — and as a springboard to the next leg of his journey. Some not so common features of our “lab” are the metallurgical and design expertise that is available as well as the encouragement we provide for those who want to do big things.

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