Local officials celebrated the new $60 million heat treat line at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, praising it for the ability to cut steel plate production time and ensure local jobs for the long term.
“They’ve chosen us when they could invest anywhere in the world,” state Rep. Ed Soliday said during a ceremony kicking off the new line.
The line was made during a nine-month period starting in July. Some parts, such as the furnaces, were kept and were renovated while ArcelorMittal brought in new parts. The new leveler machine makes sure the steel is flat and a new mist cooling machine helps cool the steel, which can reach 1,200 degrees. John Mengel, chief operating officer for ArcelorMittal USA Plate, said the mist cooling was crucial in cutting the time it takes to make the steel and improve shipping time for clients.
Before, the steel plates went through the heat treat line in batches, with the company piling the sheets in between each step. This process took two weeks, and it meant the first plates through the line often were not the first ones done because they would be at the bottom of the piles in between steps. The new line can finish the process in about 1-1/2 hours for a half-inch thick plate, he said.
“All the other nonsense is done,” he said.
The plates first enter a furnace where they bake before going into a quencher and a tempering furnace. They’re then cooled off in the mist cooling before being blasted to give them a smooth surface. Metal that had not been blasted appears to be old and rusty, a result of the heat and quenching, Mengel said.
Then, the plates are sent through the leveler, which Mengel called a highlight of the new heat treat line, then painted.
ArcelorMittal takes about two days to test the strength of each plate, but Mengel said it still takes far less time for the process than before. The company also has a better idea of when a product will be ready to ship to the customer.
ArcelorMittal USA President and CEO Michael Rippey said the new line is an investment in Northwest Indiana and shows that the company is committed to the region and keeping jobs here.
“This is tangible evidence of the rebirth of manufacturing in the United States,” he said.