ITALY: German firm SMS Meer has won a contract to equip an expanded wheel plant at Lucchini Sidermeccanica's Lovere steelworks. The expansion aims to increase capacity at the site in northern Italy's Bergamo province from 140 000 to 240 000 wheels per year by the end of 2009.

ELTI will provide furnaces for reheating and heat treatment of steel on the production line, which will be connected to a precision machining shop which has been expanded and automated.

Lucchini Sidermeccanica controls its entire supply chain, producing its own steel rather than buying from third parties. The highly-automated wheel plant will operate alongside the existing steelworks, which is increasingly focusing on steels for complex and specialist applications. The research department has access to four test rigs which are able to handle individual components or complete wheelsets, and can simulate speeds up to 300 km/h.

The €80m investment is being made by the Lucchini family's Sinpar holding company, funded by a medium-term loan arranged by UniCredit Banca d'Impresa and Banca Intesa Sanpaolo.