For nearly three and a half years, this newsletter has informed readers of SCS technical developments, test results, product applications and, most importantly, user advantages. It's created strong interest among fabricators wanting to try SCS in their operations and many have, in fact, converted over to using SCS.

But it also created some frustration, because for much of that time there was only one SCS Production Center, located at The Material Works. TMW supplied service centers with SCS from the beginning, but this production capacity limitation and, in some cases, long haul freight charges slowed SCS market adoption.

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2007 changed that in a big way ! Five new SCS Production Centers entered operation in 2007and have driven SCS tonnage up by a factor of almost four from year-ago levels.

The chart on the left tells the story:
Total SCS tonnage processed at all Production Centers has been tracked each month since the 4th quarter of 2006. Taking the average output of those three months as the base of 1.0, the SCS Production Index (the reddish line) has added in the contribution of each new Production Center as it begins shipping SCS. In October, the Index reached 3.75

The bars in the chart show quarter-by-
     THE SCS PRODUCTION INDEX: The tonnage processed on all operating
     SCS lines is totaled each month and normalized to the average tonnage
     from the final 3 months of 2006.
      quarter production, also normalized
      to the 4Q 2006 level.  The estimate of
      total SCS output for 4Q 2007 is the
      blue index bar.
Who are the five new SCS Producers ? In the order in which they entered commercial production, they are:

Servosteel (West Midlands, UK)  –  SCS Coil Line in January
JDM Steel (Chicago)  –  SCS Coil Line in February.
Feralloy Corp (Charleston, SC) –  SCS Sheet Line in April.
Fulton Country Processing (Delta, OH)   –  SCS Coil Line in June.
Central Steel & Wire (Portage, IN) –  SCS Sheet Line in September.

Adding these 'newcomers' to the three existing SCS Sheet Lines that were already in operation at TMW, Holvoet (Belgium),and  Heidtman Steel (Butler, IN) brings the SCS 'Fleet' to five SCS Sheet and three SCS Coil Lines.

The increase in SCS production is more impressive when you consider the first-ever SCS Coil Line, located at TMW, was taken out of service at the end of April. “We needed the floor space and much of that line's coil handling equipment to use in the EPS Alpha Line (see" What is EPS ?" below)," explains TMW President Kevin Voges. "The timing of the new SCS Coil Lines in the US was crucial because they filled the void created when our Coil Line stopped production, not to mention the fact that they've brought their own new customers into the SCS fold."

The upshot of those new customers is already being felt at JDM Steel, where a facility expansion got underway only eight months after their SCS Coil Line entered operation. "We see the need for more coil storage and this addition will bump up our storage capacity by 60%," states JDM Steel President Rich Merlo. "It helps that we can supply SCS in either sheet or coil out of this facility (coils that have been run through the SCS process can be blanked on JDM's cut-to-length line).  That gives us a broader, more diverse customer base."

A more diverse customer base is fueling much of the growth for all SCS Production Centers. Specifically, OEM accounts like railcar and storage tank manufacturers have converted to SCS from HRPO HR and are now ordering in large volume.  In fact, much of the dip in SCS production in the third quarter was a "breather" after orders from multiple large accounts were processed in the April to June period.  Reorders from those accounts drove much of October's production spike. “Those spikes and valleys in SCS production will level out soon enough," Merlo explains. "What's important is that on this upward trend we don't find ourselves in another SCS capacity shortage. That would slow the rate of market adoption again."

Heidtman Steel has been proactive in preventing such a shortage, announcing its second SCS Production Center at its new sheeting facility on the Severcorr mill campus in Columbus, Mississippi. That SCS Sheet Line is expected to enter production in the second half of 2008. Prior to that, Singer Steel of Cleveland, Ohio will start up its SCS Production Center – also an SCS Sheet Line – in January 2008. And finally, a new SCS Coil Line will add capacity to serve the European market.

Eric Fritsche, VP of Processing Division at TMW, which operates the original SCS Sheet Line that started up in 2003, explains why he isn't worried about SCS capacity limitations: "Say any of these SCS lines gets close to having their capacity sold out at this time next year. What do they do? They can put another SCS Brushing Machine in series with their current one in the same line. That would be a quick capacity increase of at least 60%.  They don't need another destacker, stacker, conveyors and what have you.  Just another 15 feet of floor space - that's about it. Oh . . .  I guess they'll need a second material handler too. But believe me, no one's gonna complain about having to post that job."

Some SCS UPDATE readers are already familiar with Eco-Pickled Surface – EPS – but the technology may be new to many, so we're providing this brief explanation. (A detailed technical overview of the EPS process can be found at  this link.)

The EPS process complements SCS in that it addresses the applications where SCS is not always a good fit. Key ones are continuous galvanizing, cold reduction, drawing, hydroforming and aggressive stamping.

For example, while SCS performs so well in welding, laser/ plasma cutting, painting and tube/pipe production, it hasn't given acceptable performance in continuous, in-line galvanizing.
     This coil of EPS-processed material was run on the "Alpha" development
      line at TMW. The process was turned off and the strip advanced to show
      the contrast between the untreated portion and scale-free EPS portion.

      Cold reduction, hydroforming, and
      aggressive stamping and drawing
      work the material's surface to such

      an extent that the thin SCS scale layer
can become disrupted, compromising surface integrity and performance. It turns out the polished scale layer that gives SCS its attractive rust-resistance is a drawback in these applications.

How Does EPS Overcome This Limitation? EPS removes all the mill scale, so there's obviously no scale disruption problem.  However, EPS-processed material will rust, therefore it must be coated with oil, just like HRPO.  Absence of oil and rust-resistance are two important reasons fabricators choose SCS, so they aren't expected to switch to EPS-processed material when it becomes available.  They'll stick with SCS and continue to enjoy its many fabricating advantages.

Meanwhile, EPS' chief market role will be that of an environmentally attractive alternative to conventional acid-pickling. The EPS process eliminates the caustic chemicals, considerable energy and vast space required for acid pickling (hence the 'Eco' label). It's also expected to enjoy a big operating cost advantage over acid pickling.

There's one more important way EPS complements SCS: the coil handling equipment of an EPS Line is basically the same as an SCS Coil Line. In fact, it is expected that SCS Coil Lines will eventually be able to incorporate EPS modules, making them "dual-use" lines that can produce both SCS and EPS. That will make an unbeatable value combination for service centers and toll processors to take to their customer base.