The steel industry may be a fading one, but don’t tell that to the workers at VBN Components. The Swedish company’s employees say they work in the world’s most modern steel plant, and that’s an accurate statement. VBN Components produces steel products through additive manufacturing, focusing on tools such as drills and cutters, which are manufactured at near net shape. This eliminates the need for forging and machining and reduces material consumption, as well as providing end users with more quality material options.
“The limitations of traditionally-made products result in a compromise,” said Martin Nilsson, CEO of VBN Components. “Instead of choosing the material best-suited to the product in mind, producers are instead forced to use a material that they can process. By focusing on material performance, we turn this completely around.”
VBN Components offers a family of steel materials it calls Vibenite, and the most recent addition to the family is a special one. Vibenite 290 was developed in response to customer requests, and was in development for several years before its recent release. According to VBN Components, it’s the world’s hardest steel, with a hardness of 72 HRC. Like the company’s other steel materials, it’s well-suited to tooling applications, particularly cutting tools. It’s resistant to wear and erosion, meeting needs that the engineering industry has been struggling to meet, and also reduces lead time and environmental impact.
“Many people we’ve talked to have doubted that we could achieve ‘the impossible,” said Ulrik Beste, CTO of VBN Components. “Today we’re very proud to introduce this unique metal. Its users will enjoy all its aspects of more environmentally-friendly manufacturing and be able to increase their competitiveness.”
VBN Components expects to find a large global market for the material, which far outpaces other steel materials in terms of wear resistance, the company says. VBN has been developing and producing wear-resistant steel materials for years, and the process of creating Vibenite 290 has been a step-by-step one of gradually ramping up the hardness of its 3D printable materials until the hardest steel in the world was reached.
No soft machining, like sawing, drilling or milling, is required after VBN Components 3D prints a part – just finalization such as grinding or Electric Discharge Machining (EDM). The company can produce parts of up to 200 x 200 x 380 mm, and can create geometries that aren’t possible with other manufacturing techniques. VBM Components, an alumnus of incubator Uppsala Innovation Centre, has won several awards for its work, and now holds the distinction of being the producer of the world’s hardest steel material.
Will VBN Components eventually break its own record and create a harder steel? Considering the company’s determination, that wouldn’t be a surprise, but for now it will continue to offer Vibenite 290 to customers looking for strong, wear-resistant parts.
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