Forging heavy duty solutions
Erik van den Broek
Van Voorden Castings
Whether dredging the seabed or clearing a construction site, there’s a fair chance your Damen Dredging Equipment contains alloy components from Van Voorden Castings. The modern Dutch industrial foundry has supplied high performance, wear-resistant castings for Damen for more than 40 years. Erik van den Broek, who heads the product category Dredging & Mining, explains why the company is renowned in the dredging sector.
How has Van Voorden Castings developed over the decades?
We started off making mostly ship propellers over a century ago. But over recent decades, dredging components have become a big part of our portfolio, such as high-alloyed dredge pump casings, impellers, double walled pipeline systems, anything with high wear-resistance properties. A few years ago we became part of the Andus Group, which is a large industrial holding with 15 operating companies in manufacturing, contracting and service and maintenance. That gives us a strong backing for further expansion – for example, in August we opened a new hall for storage of our clients’ wooden casting patterns.
Has the current dredging market impacted Van Voorden Castings?
We work a lot with the big dredging contractors, and of course the last couple of years haven’t been easy for the industry. But this year has started off well and we’re seeing more investment again. There are a lot of fast developments in the market – new technical challenges that our clients need to solve.
Can you give some examples, and what is the foundry’s role in developing innovations?
Dredging equipment has to work in increasingly demanding conditions. And that means larger, truly heavy duty dredge pumps, with castings up to 30 tonnes, for highly abrasive mixtures. Our focus is on matching those product applications with the right alloy properties to make our clients’ solutions technically feasible. We have our own lab and metallurgist and with that we have more and more contact with our clients during product development. For example, with Damen Dredging Equipment we’ve had an intense collaboration on a new half axial pump, which is something quite special. Together with the molding department and Damen engineers, we carefully developed very precise patterns from the 3D models to ensure the highest quality pump casing, impeller, suction mouth and wear plates.
How do clients decide the right alloy for the job?
If you look at alloyed castings made around the world, the fact is that there are big differences in quality and wear resistance, but the specifications depend on what the end client ultimately needs. We have a lot of experience and we can advise on the right alloy composition for the job. It depends on the whole mechanical configuration, flow rates, those sorts of factors. In any case, for every casting we test the melts and keep adjusting the composition until it’s perfect.
Are you seeing more pressure on price from global competition?
All our production is here in the Netherlands and we don’t compete on price with China, that’s clear. But we can compete on quality and response time. That’s why our clients choose a foundry in the Netherlands. We’re close to the world’s biggest dredging contractors and OEMs and we can think with the client, to find solutions together. Those are really the three main factors for our clients. Our short response time, cooperation as a partner, and the level of quality.
So is the outlook positive for Van Voorden Castings?
The equipment that we cast alloys for ends up at work all over the world, so we’ve followed the growth of the global dredging industry closely. In the short-term, while the global market is still picking up, the big dredging companies are mainly using their existing stock of spare parts and equipment first. So looking at our order book, you can see that the main growth comes from OEMs like Damen, with new products and innovations. The demand for high quality wear-abrasive equipment is there, and it’s growing and that has a positive impact on us.