Melting and alloying have always been core competences at Heraeus. For melting standard and custom alloys, there are currently induction melting lines (these operate on air, protective or reaction gas, and under a vacuum), continuous casting lines and a vacuum arc furnace available, for example. One of the highlights, however, is the electron beam melting unit.
Heraeus was already using electron beam melting to produce high purity refractory metals, such as tantalum, niobium and their alloys, as early as 1950. With this method, metal is bombarded with electron beams in a high vacuum. This bombardment melts the metal and vaporizes contaminants, so that the base metal is purified during the melting process. Temperatures can reach 3,000°C, depending on the type of base material used. This process can be repeated multiple times until the desired purity is attained. Today, with one of the largest electron melting units in Europe, Heraeus produces one of the purest niobium qualities in the world, for example for super conductor applications in high energy physics.
In addition to purification melting, Heraeus also uses the electron beam unit for alloying and doping niobium and zircon, for example. Wire, pins, pipes and molded parts are made from the melting blocks.
At present, in addition to pure niobium and niobium zirconium, Heraeus also melts tantalum, tantalum-tungsten, molybdenum and hafnium. The focus here is on customer-specific product solutions. Precision parts of made of custom metals are used in light engineering and electronics.