During our 100 years of refractory metals celebration, we are putting the spotlight on our various sites and key application areas that have helped H.C. Starck Solutions forge a trusted, global reputation. A key technology that makes H.C. Starck Solutions a global market leader in the processing of refractory and special metals is the extensive extrusion capability at our plant in Coldwater, Michigan. This article will explore the history of Coldwater’s storied extrusion press, its superb capabilities today, and its applications both as a key internal processing step as well as a service offered for tolling to our global customers.
History of Coldwater’s Extrusion Press
Loewy-Hydropress Inc. was the original manufacturer of the extrusion press that currently produces extruded refractory parts at Coldwater. Built-in 1942, this 5500 ton Loewy press was initially engineered for aluminum extrusion and was leveraged by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of the war effort. At that time, the extrusion press was located in Canton, Ohio where it was used to produce extruded parts for aircraft throughout WW2. After the war, Canton Drop Forge – then owners of the press – expanded into extrusion for the oil and gas sector.
The Loewy extrusion press was not relocated to the Coldwater facility until 1973. Significant refurbishment was required to enable the extrusion of refractory metals like molybdenum (Mo); a key driver behind the machine’s relocation. Previously, molybdenum feedstocks had to be shipped to Ohio for extrusion which could require turnaround times of up to 10 weeks. The new capabilities of the Coldwater extrusion press more than halved this manufacturing bottleneck. Today, we can produce extruded molybdenum parts with less than two week’s lead-time.
About Our Extrusion Press
The Loewy extrusion press at Coldwater exerts a force of 11 million pounds on an extrusion billet, using water pressures of 4250 pounds-per-square-inch (psi) on a five-foot diameter ram. Incoming billet sizes of 6 – 18″ in diameter and up to 40″ long are heated and then extruded into rods, tubes, shapes, or coils with diameters ranging from 0.510 – 11.75″.
Various extrusion processes can be conducted using a choice of pre-heating furnaces (combustion, electric, induction, etc.) with operating temperatures of 204 – 1482°C (400 – 2700°F). The extrusions can then be quenched via a range of techniques, including water quenching in a 4000-gallon batch tank, slowly cooled in a 160ft3 insulated bin, in-process water quenched and coiled, or simply air-cooled on cooling racks.
We have modernized the Coldwater extrusion press with the latest high speed computerized controls and precision-controlled hydraulics to ensure it is among the most versatile extrusion instruments worldwide. Current extrusion processing speeds range from 0.01 – 12″/second. This unparalleled level of control has helped numerous customers domestically and internationally, with over 10,000 completed pushes in 2019 alone and over USD$6 million in external sales. These pushes have comprised a broad range of materials and products, including:
- Molybdenum bars, rectangles, and tubes as feedstock for further processing
- Wire for superconductor magnets used in medical equipment and particle accelerators
- Deep oil wells (>20,000ft) and sour gas well tubing
- Structural shapes for military and commercial aircrafts
- Components for nuclear and defense applications
- Superalloy structural materials
- Special energy-efficient water-cooled furnace rails
- Spot welding electrodes for automotive welding robots
- Prostheses for artificial knee and hip joints
- Saltwater and hydraulic system tubing for nuclear submarines
- Back-extrusion and billet compacting
In the coming months, we will explore the history of the Coldwater plant in greater depth. Check back on our 100 Years of Refractory Metals Expertise page to read more about the history of H.C. Starck Solutions. Or, contact a member of the team today if you have any questions about our extrusion capabilities.