Above Picture: Antonino Cacace, Experimental Furnace, Powder Metallurgy Laboratory, 1970s
History of the Solid State Fusion Cladding Process:
The Cladinox solid-state fusion process has its roots in a university research project conducted in a hard metals powder metallurgy laboratory in South Africa some 40 years ago, sponsored by an Italian steel group which sought to expand its operations into southern Africa.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s this group established two electric arc furnace-based steel mini-mills in Africa, recycling scrap into reinforcing bar:
- Central African Steel Corporation Ltd in Zimbabwe supplied some of the high-strength reinforcing bar required by the Kariba Dam project;
- Nigersteel Ltd, the first steel mill to produce reinforcing bar in West Africa, was a joint venture with the Nigerian government.
The postgraduate thesis, undertaken by Antonino (Nino) Cacace, an engineering graduate and son of the group owner, Alfredo Cacace, had as its research objective the development of a solid state fusion process to recycle steel swarf into steel bars without melting. This was achieved and international patents were obtained in 1970 in several countries including the USA (USP 3,774,289: Cacace et al).
Nino Cacace established a pilot plant in 1985 in South Africa. In 1989, via an IPO on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, financing was raised for an industrial scale plant to be established in the UK. This plant (Camborne Industries Ltd) was established in South Wales in 1990 with Nino Cacace as founder and CEO. Sammi Steel Company Limited, one of the world’s largest stainless steel producers, became Camborne’s largest shareholder in 1991.
Ultimately, some 50 patents were granted for the manufacture of stainless clad bars and for the specialised plant and machinery required: Cacace 1992: 5,088,399, Cacace 1992: 5,124,214 and others in the USA. Corresponding patents were granted in many other countries including the UK, Japan, Italy, Germany, etc.
Sammi Steel experienced problems in the early 1990’s and the Welsh company was restructured as Stelax Industries Ltd in 1996 with Nino Cacace again as co-founder and CEO. The first stainless clad reinforcing bar order was successfully delivered in 1999 after filing patents: Cacace 2004, USP 6,706,416.
The North American market was developed from 1999 to 2002 with the successful delivery of around 750 tons to selected US and Canadian Departments of Transportation projects throughout North America and through the promulgation of an AASHTO standard for stainless clad reinforcing bar, for which Nino cooperated closely with the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO).
Given this success by Stelax, attempts to produce stainless cladded rebar via alternate technologies were then undertaken by other companies, but these did not work. As far as is known, Nino Cacace’s technology has to date been the only successful one.
The US Federal Highway Association currently recommends 2 principal materials for use in all state infrastructure projects valued at over $25 million, both approved as equivalent in corrosion resistance: stainless and stainless-clad.
With a view to expanding the operation into the USA, Nino Cacace’s stake in the South Wales plant and his patents were acquired by a group of venture capitalists in 2006 who formed Nx Infrastructure Limited. Nino Cacace remained as consultant until 2008.
Nino Cacace was appointed as a consultant to Cladinox International in 2009. Work was undertaken on the development of an alternative technology based on the use of a solid core instead of turnings, greatly expanding the field of application of solid-state fusion.
International patent applications were filed in 2010 covering the Cladinox solid-state fusion technology for producing a wide range of cladded products, including stainless-clad reinforcing bar