Tata Steel plans to ramp up its New Materials Business (NMB) – which has three verticals including composites, graphene and medical material and devices – as the cyclicality hampers the steel business. N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Group, said in the latest annual report that the steelmaker has the objective to build its business in new materials, which is knowledge and intellectual property intensive and non-cyclical. "The company is exploring composites, graphene and advanced ceramics as areas of growth," he said.
The company aims to accelerate innovation in the NMB areas with technology collaborations. It also wants to grow adjacent revenue streams by commercialising the in-house intellectual property (IP) through innovative products in new markets.
Tata Steel had set up NMB division four years back to explore opportunities in materials beyond steel. The composites business of NMB focusses on three market segments – industrial, infrastructure and railways. The current product offerings in industrial segment include pressure vessels, tanks, customised chemical handling equipment. The infrastructure has products like pipes, poles, smart architecture and pultruded products. The offerings in railways segment are panels, windows, and troughs.
In FY 2021-22, the composites business developed new products such as fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) sleepers, illumination poles and silicon carbide lined FRP pipes for FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurisation) application.
One of the key initiatives of the business was to provide FRP solutions to many applications, where steel is currently being used. The life cycle cost of FRP is lower because its higher corrosion resistant.
The composites business, which grew five times in sales in FY22, has bagged new orders for Tejas and Vande Bharat coaches. The railway division is also leveraging synergies with other Tata group companies by offering integrated solutions jointly with TM Automotive Seating Systems and Tata Autocomp Systems.
The graphene business crossed ₹100 crore of revenue for the first time in FY22, registering a seven times growth over FY21.
During the last financial year, the business successfully established graphene enriched PVC and HDPE pipes in the market, branded as WONDRA. The industrial products of elastomers and polymers, enriched with graphene, are under market validation. Graphene technology in the areas of energy, lifestyle and well-being are under evaluation, said the company in the annual report.
The medical materials and devices division has piloted sprayable grade of Hydroxyapatite recently. Fish-scale derived collagen and gelatin were also manufactured and are currently being tested at accredited third-party facilities for analytical and biocompatible parameters. The business has a pipeline of materials and devices under development. During the last financial year, the division consolidated its position in the import dominated advanced ceramics material market with a dedicated bio-ceramic production facility.
Chandrasekaran said that the company started working towards building a world-class facility to produce medical materials with a focus on healthcare.