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Innovative Thinking Leads to New Process for High-Pressure Tubing

Like many of our innovations, TimkenSteel’s new process for producing high-pressure tubing was inspired by the needs of a customer.

“We went to TimkenSteel and said we would like you to re-enter the market,” said Kraig Warren, fabrication manager for A&A Machine & Fabrication, LLC, of La Marque, Texas. “Lead time with the current supply chain is unacceptable to our end users and represents an opportunity for both of us.” TimkenSteel has had customer inquiries for high-pressure tubing (HPT) ever since we exited the industry in the early 2000s due to the decommissioning of cold pilgering assets. We knew that to re-enter that market and serve those customers we needed a new process.

Over the last decade, we made a series of investments that made a new process a possibility:

  • We added turning, boring and honing capabilities for long-length tubing with the acquisition of TimkenSteel Material Services (TMS) in Houston.
  • We invested in a new in-line forge press at Faircrest Steel Plant in Canton.
  • We improved our heat-treat capacity and capability. 

“Our new assets make it possible to produce high-pressure tubing much more cost effectively and with shorter lead times than the process used in the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Chad Lacher, market manager for industrial at TimkenSteel.

“In addition to the new assets, our Technology Center was familiar with specialized pressure fatigue testing required for customer acceptance,” said Jim Carosiello, senior materials specialist at TimkenSteel. “We provided the technical oversight to have a commercial lab do the testing for A&A Machine. The favorable results have generated strong interest with potential customers.”

HPT is used in the production of low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Over the last decade, extended supply chains created long lead times for North American customers. TimkenSteel's streamlined process means shorter lead times and the ability for customers to buy smaller lot sizes.

Our process starts with Faircrest Steel Plant bottom pour and steel grade HS220-27. We forge roll the ingot and then produce a bloom at Faircrest. Then we take the bloom and reroll it to final bar size.

The bar then goes through thermal treat at Gambrinus Steel Plant. We select a specific recipe to achieve the customer’s mechanical property requirements. Then we do validation testing.

Next, we ship to TMS in Houston for finishing, boring, honing and a rough turn of the OD to produce the final dimension.

After more than a year of development with A&A, we sent out the new product for proof of concept testing.

“We took four samples and they performed perfectly – at top end of the curve of historical data,” Warren said.

TimkenSteel has entered into a supply agreement with A&A, which is handling the final processing, marketing and sales of the product. Earlier this year, the first order went to a major petrochemical producer.

“We’ve got a number of trips planned to visit customers in North America,” Warren said. “The TimkenSteel name carries a lot of weight.”