ORLANDO, Fla. — Kloeckner Metals Corp. will install new physical vapor deposition (PVD) processing equipment at its Cincinnati facility this year in order to expand its value-add portfolio and capitalize on growing demand for more capacity and color options in surface-treated stainless steel.
The Roswell, Ga.-based company partnered with China’s Double Stone Steel Ltd. (DSS) in 2014 to produce and market PVD products via Kloeckner in North and South America, John Dobek, Kloeckner vice president of commercial for stainless steel and aluminum, exclusively told AMM on March 23 at the Metals Service Center Institute Specialty Metals conference in Orlando, Fla.
Following a planning phase with DSS, the new equipment will be installed this year and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2017, he said, although he declined to disclose the exact investment amount.
PVD is a color surface-treatment that is produced when a metallic vapor is deposited via a vacuum chamber onto a target surface or object, enhancing surface properties and aesthetics, according to Kloeckner. Kloeckner’s new equipment will enable the coloring of stainless steel and certain aluminum materials domestically, according to the company.
Until now, PVD in the United States “has never been brought to a scale that goes beyond just components” as it has only available in limited size ranges, according to Dobek, who is spearheading the PVD program at Kloeckner. Large-scale projects and sourcing for colored sheets and larger-scale profiles traditionally have had to rely on imported material, resulting in complex supply chains, longer lead times and more freight costs, he said.
PVD is already offered fairly broadly in nations such as Russia and China, Dobek noted. But now, on a global basis, PVD has been gaining significant traction in the appliance, food equipment, conveyance, transportation and electronic segments, in addition to its prominence in architectural design applications, he said.
“We know that this market is growing worldwide at a year-over-year rate of 8 to 9 percent,” Dobek said. “The projections are that this will continue to grow year over year because of the applicability across end markets.”
As a result, Kloeckner is optimistic that it will see significant growth from its PVD offerings in North America, according to Dobek. Those offerings will include stainless sheets up to 60 inches wide and 144 inches long, parts and profiles up to 144 inches long, and fabrication in similar configurations subject to weight limitations, according to the company.
“In terms of the market niche that we aspire to be in, we’re the pioneers,” Dobek said. “The technology is here, but it’s the capacities and scale that we’re going to bring to this market. We’re going to fill a gap.”
Drumming up stainless demand Enhanced PVD capabilities will help preserve demand for domestic stainless steel by maintaining consumer interest in the metal’s aesthetics and properties, Dobek said.
In the past, for example, stainless steel was only used in gourmet kitchens, but today it is more commonly used in all types of consumer kitchens. “So what’s the next step?” he asked. “We can broaden the color options.”
Notably, PVD treatments also can provide cheaper alternatives to other metal finishes, such as copper. “A lot of these colors emulate more expensive metals, but this won’t develop a patina,” Dobek said. PVD also is environmentally friendly, as it requires no dyes, pigments, acids or other similarly harmful inputs.
In addition, PVD can be applied to basically any stainless steel grade or shape within the equipment parameters—including to complex parts that have significant welding, for instance—without compromising quality. “PVD doesn’t fill gaps like paint,” Dobek said. “It’s a piece-sensitive process.”
Thus, the move will help Kloeckner differentiate itself in the stainless steel market, and will help its customers differentiate themselves, too, according to Dobek.
“This gives our customers the true ability to up-sell their products,” he said.
Kloeckner is optimistic that it will not only be able to provide simple sheet order fulfillment with these services, but also toll-processing and complete turn-key solutions. “We’re in the process of doing some (turn-key) trials now,” Dobek said, citing an example in which Kloeckner might package and ship finished products to its customers’ warehouses on their behalf, rather than back to the customers before distribution to a specific location.
“That’s even more value-add in terms of knocking down the logistics costs by being able to take a customer’s parts and fabricate, pack and ship them for them,” Dobek said.
The plan of action fits into the overall strategy of Klöckner & Co. SE, the Duisburg, Germany-based parent of Kloeckner Metals, Dobek noted. The strategy, dubbed “Klöckner & Co. 2020” aims to enhance the company’s higher value-add products, in addition to digitizing its supply chain.
“We want to invest in industries and technologies that are robust today but also present a long-term opportunity for continued growth where we’re not just catching a market at its peak, but are still able to participate in its growth phase,” Dobek said. “The ability to scale up (the PVD capability) around the country was of interest to (Kloeckner) management.”
Kloeckner’s Cincinnati plant is part of the company’s flat-rolled group, according to the company’s website. Last month, that division moved into a new facility in University Park, Ill., to tap into rising demand for its value-add product and service offerings.
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Steven Nghe is currently the Head of Marketing & Communications at Kloeckner Metals. Nghe is a marketing professional with more than 14 years of experience in various environments and industries. His goal is to tell you about the sexy side of steel. Nghe holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing from North Carolina State University. Prior to Kloeckner, Nghe worked for Delta Dental, Wells Real Estate Funds, Georgia Institute of Technology and Doosan.