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National Bronze Expanding, Preparing for New Markets

March 6, 2008
Ohio foundry aims to produce new aerospace alloys
National Bronze & Metals has undertaken a $20-million expansion project at its foundry in Lorain, OH, as part of an effort to expand into new product markets. Houston-based National Bronze produces brass, bronze, and continuous-cast copper alloys, which are distributed to oil and gas, aerospace, resistance welding, and various other manufacturing segments. The Ohio foundry was established in 1998, and in addition to casting a range of bronze alloys is one of the highest-volume foundries for continuous cast alloys in the U.S. Its current capabilities include continuous casting of solid and hollow bars up to 16 in. diameter, and wear plates up to 18 in. wide. The plant also has a niche market fulfilling orders for specifically designed shapes, and it houses National Brass’s Midwest distribution center. It ships products throughout the Midwest and Northern U.S., and Canada, including some JIT arrangements. In the future, National Bronze plans to produce various heat-treated aerospace alloys, and it is developing alloys that will reduce lead content in plumbing brass and other applications, in compliance with federal regulations taking effect in 2010. According to Joao Saraive, general manager of the Lorain foundry, “The expansion will enhance our capability to objectively expand into areas previously not explored. We currently produce products ranging from ‘hot sinks’ for AMD microprocessors to the more commonly known bearing bronzes.” In preparation for entering new markets, National Bronze has secured one alloy patent and expects to secure another “very imminently,” according to senior vice president Norman Lazarus. “We have a technically qualified staff with diverse expertise to continually develop new complete alloys, and we pride ourselves on the current ones we manufacture,” he adds. At the site in Lorain, preliminary demolition has begun of buildings that do not feature in the expanded foundry. The construction period is planned to take 16 months, and commissioning of the redesigned plant is scheduled for May 2009. The current foundry will be phased out, and the current space will be used for other applications after the new plant is fully operational. Presently, the plant operates several coreless induction-melting furnaces, and vertical and horizontal continuous casting for 0.375 in. to 16 in. solids and hollow bars. Its finishing capabilities include straightener presses, engine lathes, automatic saws (capable of tolerances of 0.005 in.), abrasive saws, and plate saws. In the rebuilt plant, National Bronze will have coreless induction and channel melting capability. It plans to integrate new vertical and horizontal continuous casting technology in the new plant, which Lazarus says “will be incomparable to any bronze producer in the U.S., if not the world.” Other new equipment to be acquired includes a channel furnace, holding furnaces, withdrawal drives, a baghouse, cooling towers, compressors, CNCs, a boring mill, heat-treating equipment, overhead cranes, forklifts, and side loaders. The expansion also will include a fully integrated laboratory with complete in-house metallographic capabilities, and equipment for an expanded warehouse.