07 October 2021

How it’s made: a look behind the scenes at Tata Steel chemistry

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How do you get the chemistry of Valast® 450 just right? 

When you think of steel production, it’s easy to imagine large vats of molten metal, sparks flying and heavy stands forcefully rolling a slab of material into a thin sheet. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that every one of Tata Steel’s products starts life in a laboratory.

For Valast, that laboratory was at Tata Steel’s R&D facilities in the UK, and the material scientist in charge was R&D project leader, Dr Bin Xiao, the man we can today credit with developing Valast’s steel chemistry.

Bin recalls the early days of developing Valast’s chemistry: “When we first started working on this project, we knew there was a lot of pressure to develop it quickly but also make it market leading. We put a lot of resource into developing what would be our first abrasion resistant steel strip product, and in the end it paid off – we went from receiving the first brief to having a concept decision in just three months.”

When it comes to developing a completely new product, gathering reference points is vitally important. Bin talks about how he went about developing those early concepts: “Those early stages are when your knowledge and experience as a material scientist are vital.

“Obviously, we researched existing abrasion resistant steels to set our target parameters.  I was consumed in published research papers, to better understand the complexities of the chemistry, but when it came to developing our lab samples, I already had a good idea of what we had to do.

“The problem that many abrasion resistant steels have is that the mixture is very rich, specifically with high carbon and high levels of other microalloys. This gives a high CEV/CET which is undesirable to customers. This not only makes the chemistry quite inefficient, it can also create issues with welding and toughness. 

“We wanted to create a product that had consistent hardness all the way through, so we developed a hypothesis for how we could achieve it and then went about creating different formulations to test this hypothesis.”

Next, Bin and his team used modelling software to get an idea of potential cooling rate curves for a finished product based on a variety of formulations. “While these simulations were helpful,” Bin says, “it turns out that the hardness figures it predicted were actually much lower than what we were able to achieve in the subsequent plant trials.”

With a clear direction, Bin’s team then created several lab casts with slightly varied chemistries. These were then transported to another Tata Steel facility, where the next stage of development took place – the lab trials.

Take a look at our article on Valast 450's STORM software to find out what software we are using and how this is beneficial for the customer. 

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