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Lightweight steel production breakthrough


July 2017

High-strength, lightweight steels can finally be processed on an industrial scale, thanks to a breakthrough in controlling undesired brittle stages from production by WMG, University of Warwick (UK). Dr. Alireza Rahnama has developed a new processing route which allows low density, steel-based alloys to be produced with maximum strength, whilst remaining durable and flexible– something which has been largely impossible until now.

Two lightweight steels were tested - Fe-15Mn-10Al-0.8C-5Ni and Fe-15Mn-10Al-0.8C – for their potential to achieve maximum strength and ductility. During production, two brittle phases can occur in these steels: kappa-carbide (k-carbide) and B2 intermetallic which make the steels hard but limits their ductility, so that they are difficult to roll.

Through simulation and then experimentation, the WMG researchers found that at certain high annealing temperatures, these brittle phases can become much more controllable, allowing the steels to retain their ductility. Between 900°C to 1200°C, the k-carbide phase can be removed from production, and the B2 intermetallic brittle phase can become manageable – forming in a disk-like, nano-sized morphology, as opposed to a coarser product which forms at lower temperatures.

Current processes for strengthening lightweight steels make them less flexible – and therefore less marketable - but this could now be a problem of the past. The breakthrough, said the university, could lead to a revolution in safer, greener, more fuel-efficient cars. Vehicles made of stronger and lighter materials are safer for drivers, emit less CO2 and consume less fuel - and more malleable steels will allow manufacturers to form car parts into desirable, streamlined shapes.

“Alloys with higher strength and ductility could alleviate some of these concerns by reducing weight and improving energy efficiency. Lightweight steels are one of the candidates to address these concerns. Most metallurgical mechanisms for increasing strength lead to ductility loss, an effect referred to as the strength-ductility trade-off. The paper studies the kinetics and thermodynamics of microstructural evolution of lightweight steels through simulations and experiments and proposes a mechanism to achieve higher strength and larger ductility; a method that can be readily adopted by industry,” commented Dr. Rahnama.

The research, ‘Effect of Ni alloying on the microstructural evolution and mechanical properties of two duplex light-weight steels during different annealing temperatures: experiment and phase-field simulation’, is published in Acta Materialia. It is co-authored by Dr Hiren Kotadia and Professor Sridhar Seetharaman. The project is funded by the WMG centre High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.


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Industry 4.0: Manufacturers must turn ‘ambition into action’


July 2017

While most manufacturers are investing in Industry 4.0 capabilities, few have achieved the scale and integration needed to drive enterprise value, according to KPMG’s ‘Beyond the Hype: Separating Ambition from Reality in Industry 4.0’ report.

The report finds that, while many manufacturers are working towards creating the ‘factory of the future’ or digital enterprise, few have worked out how to apply those capabilities across all corners of their operations. Most are still experimenting with discrete pilots or trialling solutions.

“UK manufacturers have shown more enthusiasm than preparedness for Industry 4.0, and our latest report reflects that this is a global trend,” noted Stephen Cooper, Head of Industrial Manufacturing, KPMG UK. “In February, we released our ‘Rethink Manufacturing’ report, which showed that the majority (56%) of UK manufacturers agree that Industry 4.0 represents an unprecedented opportunity to revitalise manufacturing across the country. However, they are far less sure about how it will affect their business and whether they have a coherent strategy and the right talent and skills to capitalise on it.”

The report included a number of benchmarking exercises which found that many organisations demonstrated only a low-to-medium level of maturity in key areas such as demand-driven supply chain, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and digital twinning. However, they showed somewhat better maturity in cloud, robotics, Big Data, cybersecurity and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

Alec McCullie, Associate Director and UK Lead for Industry 4.0, KPMG added: “Gaining experience with industry 4.0 technologies is certainly important. But the real value of Industry 4.0 comes, not from the component technologies or capabilities, but rather through smarter processes that integrate automation, data, analytics, manufacturing and products in a way that delivers unique competitive advantages and unlocks new business and operating models. And this cannot be accomplished without achieving larger scale, greater integration across functions and a willingness to disrupt the status quo.”

“Success in Industry 4.0 is not about how much you invest; the winners will not be those with the deepest pockets. To win in tomorrow’s competitive and rapidly changing environment, manufacturers need to start being bolder in their vision, strategies and actions if they are to succeed.”


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Strategic investment for Norsk Titanium

Following the recent announcement by metal additive manufacturing innovator, Norsk Titanium AS, that it will deliver ‘the world’s first FAA-approved, 3D-printed, structural titanium components’ to Boeing, Norsk Titanium has closed on a significant investment from Triangle Holdings LP (“Triangle”), an aerospace investment company owned by funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group LLC (“Fortress”). Triangle has invested over US$ 1.2 billion in aircraft and aerospace related assets since its formation in 2011. Terms of the investment were not released. “This strategic investment from Triangle Holdings allows Norsk Titanium to extend its Rapid Plasma Deposition™ capability fully into the commercial aerospace sector and beyond. It also accelerates its revolutionary changes to the metal manufacturing process forever,” said Norsk Titanium Chairman of the Board, John Andersen, Jr.
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Business conditions for May 2017

According to the May 2017 Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) ‘Business Conditions Report’, metal forming companies anticipate a downturn in business conditions during the next three months. Prepared monthly, the report is an economic indicator for manufacturing, sampling 117 metal forming companies in the United States and Canada. The May report showed 33% of participants predicting an improvement in general economic activity during the next three months (down from 45% in the previous month), 55% forecasting no change (compared to 47% in April) and 12% believing that economic activity will decline (up from 8% the previous month).
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Strong demand for German machine tools

Orders received by the German machine tool industry in the first quarter of 2017 were six per cent up on the previous year. Domestic demand rose by two per cent, while overseas orders grew by eight per cent. "Orders received by the German machine tool industry have therefore been stronger than expected," said Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director, VDW (German Machine Tool Builders' Association), commenting on the result.
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Danfoss places order with AP&T

Danfoss has ordered a complete production solution from AP&T for manufacturing heat exchanger plates in Haiyan, China. The investment will enable Danfoss to increase its production to meet the quickly growing demand for heat exchangers in China.
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Liberty House takes control of Tata Speciality Steels

International industrials’ and metals’ group, Liberty House, announced on 2 May 2017 that it would be creating around 300 new steel jobs in South Yorkshire (UK) and making multi-million pound investments to secure the future of five sites across the North of England and West Midlands.
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