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'SUPERSLAB' to meet thicker high-strength steels challenge

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08 November 2017
'SUPERSLAB' programme to meet industrial challenge for thicker high strength steels

TWI has joined forces with the Materials Processing Institute in Redcar, the University of Leicester’s Materials Engineering Group and Chinese partner Nanjing Iron and Steel Company (NICSCO) to develop new materials and processes for the production of extra thick and higher strength ‘SUPERSLAB’ steels. This industrial challenge programme, titled ‘Novel Unidirectional Casting Technology for Manufacturing Super Extra-Thick Offshore Steel Plates,’ is set to run for two years and is being funded through Innovate UK.

The aim is to develop a method to produce thicker, higher strength slabs for offshore wind, oil, renewable energy and other sectors in the UK, China and Europe. Right now, there are no suppliers in the UK or China who are addressing this need, leaving the thickest slab cast in Europe at 400mm. These new materials are required to meet the need for infrastructure development in these growing sectors to secure the energy needs of the 21st century.

The SUPERSLAB project was created as part of the Jiangsu-UK Industrial Challenge Programme, which aims to stimulate economic growth in China’s Jiangsu province and the UK through business-led innovation. Projects within this programme need to show innovation and improve prospects for business growth and productivity and be balanced between participants in China and the UK.

The project addresses the problems in meeting the need for thicker, higher strength materials. The required properties for the thickest plates involve rolling from cast slab initially at least four times thicker. Due to the nature of solidification, there is a tendency for the alloys necessary for increasing strength to segregate towards the centre line. In conventionally cast product, this may be trapped at that point. This limits development of higher strength, thicker material and constrains the casting process, limiting production rate and requiring larger, stronger casting machines for which economic justification is difficult.

The UK partners in the SUPERSLAB project will develop new steel compositions and will use unidirectional solidification as a basis for developing a new casting technology. Small tonnage demonstration trials will test the process. In parallel, Chinese partner, NISCO will develop a larger scale pilot production route. The project should not only improve quality and thickness for high strength plate, but also open up opportunities for producers and machine builders in both the UK and China to develop this growing new market.

By partnering with the Materials Processing Institute, the University of Leicester and NISCO, TWI is continuing to build connections with organisations around the UK, while also growing business links in China.

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