03 November 2021

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

Excavator bucket

From chemistry to production - part 1: Inside the lab trials

Readers of last month’s blog will have learned from Tata Steel R&D project leader, Bin Xiao, how we developed the chemistry for our first abrasion resistant steel strip product, Valast® 450.

But how did we get from creating a chemical formulation in a laboratory, to fully commercially producing 300 tonne casts of Valast 450 material at our plant in IJmuiden, The Netherlands? Well, the truth is that it was a process totalling two and a half years, the details of which we’ll go over in this and the next blog post in this series.

The first thing to note is that Bin’s team created 10 different chemistries to assess which one gave optimal results in the real world. It would be incredibly costly and time-consuming if we had created a full cast of every chemistry in IJmuiden.

That’s where lab trials allow engineers to put chemistries through a scaled-down production process and evaluate which end product yields the best results.

For the development of Valast, Bin’s team created several 25kg ingots – using the 10 chemistries they chose to evaluate further. Each of these ingots was then rolled to a 6mm or 15mm strip using the laboratory-scale hot rolling process. Rolling to these two very different thicknesses allowed the engineers to calculate the optimum thickness window for each chemistry.

The development team already knew that the cooling rate on the run out table would be crucially important to achieve the required hardness. To simulate this in the lab trials, they placed thermocouples on the surface of the rolled steel strip at two different gauges.  We heated the strips in the furnace up to 930ºC, they were then moved quickly to the run out table to simulate plant trial cooling.  The cooling rates were measured and this data was then reviewed by IJmuiden’s production engineers to evaluate which of these cooling rates was practical.

Our research and development engineers then evaluated each of the samples produced to understand which one delivered the qualities that we required for our abrasion resistant steel. This chemistry became Valast, but the development journey wasn’t over yet. Next came production trials in IJmuiden….

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

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