SBQ steelmaker Gerdau reported it has revamped its continuous billet caster at Monroe, MI, to produce 210-mm square billets, larger than the 152-mm billets it has produced since the four-strand machine started up in 2013. A spokeswoman for Gerdau noted increase in the billet dimensions was part of the original plan when the steelmaker launched a $155.6-million capital improvement program in 2011.

“With the six new rolling mill stands (that were also part of the expansion project) being commissioned, we can roll all of the bar sizes out of the 210-mm cast section,” the spokeswoman detailed.

The smaller billets will no longer be cast, but the group’s other mini-mills in Jackson, MI, and Fort Smith, AR, cast and roll round billets from 152- to 235-mm for forging and as-cast billet markets.

Gerdau projected that switching to larger billets will achieve a 90% increase in the reduction ratio of its rolled bar products, a productivity improvement that will allow the steelmaker to expand its product offering of steels for critical powertrain applications, in automotive and other vehicle markets. The switch also will improve steel cleanliness and overall product quality, Gerdau stated.

“The increasing life expectancy of an automotive part coupled with the downsizing of the actual part size require steels to exhibit the highest cleanliness levels,” stated Mark Marcucci, president of Gerdau’s North American special steel division. “This improvement positions Gerdau to thrive in a dynamic vehicular business environment that challenges us to be more competitive every day.”

In addition to the four-strand Daniel caster, Gerdau installed a twin-tank vacuum degasser and expanded its rolling capacity with six additional rolling mill stands and a new walking-beam reheat furnace. A new bar straightening and quality inspection station was installed, too.