OAO Severstal, Russia’s largest steelmaker, has started up a tailor-welding line for automotive panels, the first such line in that country. Severstal SMC Vsevolozhsk is a joint venture between Severstal and Mitsui, a Japanese trading firm, and consists of several strip processing operations (slitting, cutting-to-length, and blanking) in the St. Petersburg region, for automakers, construction projects, machine building, and “electrotechnical” applications in northwestern Russia and northern Europe.

Tailor welding is the process of joining panels of different alloys and/or thicknesses using laser welding (or friction-stir welding) to achieve a blank that can be stamped or deep drawn efficiently, thus to achieve desired properties in different areas of the finished part. Automotive side panels or doors with different thicknesses and/or strength profiles are typical applications for tailor welded blanks.

Severstal indicated the total investment in tailor-welding line amounts to about $39 million (RUB1.7 billion.) No equipment contractor was named for the project.

Sergey Toropov, CEO of Severstal’s Russian Steel division, stated: “The launch of the welded component production line makes Severstal the first Russian steelmaker to produce ultra-light steel auto bodies for automotive assembly in Russia. This further strengthens Severstal’s position as the number-one supplier for international automakers with their production operations located in Russia.”

The fully automated line welds blanks with a thickness of 0.5 to 3 mm, with automatic quality control for top and bottom welded joints.  The line is operating in its start-up phase now; commercial-scale production is scheduled to start early 2015.

The first deliveries of welded blanks will be front and rear door panels for the Izhevsk Automotive Plant, a Russian OEM aligned to the Nissan-Renault organization. There, they will be stamped and fabricated into finished assemblies.

In addition to the tailor-welding line, Severstal SMC Vsevolozhsk has an automotive blanking line for high-tensile steels, 0.5-3.2 mm thick and up to 1,900 mm wide. The line’s 800-metric ton press is able to produce various simple to complex profiles.

SMC also operates a slitting line to cut cold-rolled, hot-rolled pickled, and galvanized steel, 0.3 to 4.5 mm thick. The cut-to-length line processes cold-rolled, hot-rolled pickled and galvanized steel strip and plate, 100 to 750 mm thick and 150 to 2,000 mm long.

Severstal SMC Vsevolozhsk has a current processing capacity of 3,000 metric tons per month, but at full production the tailor-welded component production will push output to 5,000-6,000-metric tons per month.

Severstal’s Cherepovets steel works is due to supply over 90% of the rolled steel material to Severstal SMC Vsevolozhsk.