As an extremely important sector in the iron & steel industry, Special Steels segment produces variety of steels such as Carbon Steels, Spring Steels, Free Cutting Steels, Heat Resistant Steels, Tool and Die Steels, High Speed Steels, micro alloyed steels etc. using alloy additions such as chromium, manganese, vanadium, silicon, lead etc. Typically, the producers of such grades are mini steel plants having EAF, refining facilities, concast and hi-tech rolling mills and are situated all over the country. Nevertheless, few of the integrated plants also produce special steels but are limited in number and also in quantity.
It is estimated that the special steels segment grew by around 13% annually in the last decade. ‘Steelworld’ research reveals that among various user industries, the auto and auto ancillary sector plays major role in the growth for special steels with a share of more than 50% of its total demand. All major global automakers have entered into Indian market and have set up or are in the process of setting up their production facilities here. This is not only to cater to Indian market but also to act as a manufacturing hub for global supply. Their requirement for steel is also changing in terms of quantity and quality. They require more intricate grades with stricter composition, closer tolerances and enhanced mechanical properties. A new family of steels called ‘Micro Alloyed Steels’ is being developed by many special steels producers as among many other advantages, the forgings made of these steels do not have to undergo the heat treatment cycle and acts as a money saver to that extent. It is surely a big challenge in front of special steel makers to cope up with the growing demands from the user industries. The other applications of special steels include power sector, aerospace, defense, engineering etc. where the demand seems to be rising steadily.
Presently, auto market seems to be recovering from the steep fall for the last two years or so. This has naturally triggered the demand for auto components and also the steel required for making them. It is understood those as on now, the special steel producers are operating at the level of around 70 % capacity utilization. Of course, temporary ups and downs are bound to be there in any industry but generally the direction of the curve seems to be upward !