The new ProForge Hall at Böhler Edelstahl GmbH & Co. KG in Kapfenberg, Austria — a project estimated at $170 million — is reported to be the largest investment program to date for the specialty forging operation, which was acquired by Gebrder Böhler & Co. in 1894.

The new GFM RF100 that started operating there in September is the world’s largest rotary forging machine, with a maximum forming force of 2,000 metric tons. Two automated, high-performance manipulators handle steel bars at either side of the machine, which is capable of processing pieces up to 550 mm diameter, 15 m long, and weighing up to 8 metric tons — adding significant advantages in product dimensions for Böhler.

The company indicates the new line will significantly improve its ability to process high-quality tool steels and specialty steels, for customers in aircraft, power engineering, and chemical and oilfield markets.

“We approved the project in 2008 during an extremely difficult economic situation because we were, and still are, convinced that only investments in technology, quality, and service will secure the long-term success of our company,” CEO Dr. Wolfgang Eder explained. “Today, at the beginning of the economic recovery, we know that we took the right approach. We are now ideally prepared to meet our clients’ new requirements and handle their orders.”

The project also included a series of improvements to the Kapfenberg plant and its finishing capacity, in order to handle the increase in requirements for metal and bar sizes. Two new furnace lines were installed for the different process parameters needed for various alloys. The bars are heated to forging temperature in a rotary-hearth furnace, or in two bogie-hearth furnaces, or in four small batch furnaces. All cutting, marking, and cooling equipment has been fully automated.

In the plant’s Hall 2, a new straightening press, bar-peeling machine, and grinding machine were installed, and an inner- and outer-surface inspection system was installed in a parallel hall. A new, automated high-rack warehouse for finished parts was added, too.

For finishing forged components, Kapfenberg’s mechanical workshop was updated with a new heavy-duty lathe and a vertical turret lathe.

“Böhler Edelstahl is not only sending an important signal to the global market by opening the ProForge hall. The comprehensive investments undertaken to improve quality and quantity also represent a strong commitment to the Kapfenberg site and its staff,” according to Böhler Uddeholm AG chairman Dr. Claus Raidl.

Still to come, the Kapfenberg plant will be the site of further investments totaling about $28 million, including a new roll forming line among other projects.