Rapid Product Development through Process Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: WMG

Abstract

Steel is the most used material in the world by value, one of the most recyclable materials and the only metal produced and consumed in volume in the UK. It is a foundation industry underpinning the economy, e.g. Tata Steel provides the most material for Nissan Leaf's lightweight body and in construction the UK is set to lead the growth rate at 2.8% (cf. EU average of 1.8%). However, the UK steel industry currently faces high energy and raw materials costs with some inefficient processes that are unable to produce advanced products. A strong research base is essential to support the UK steel industry, users of steel and steel-hybrid materials and to develop the skilled workforce needed to drive innovation. There is strong industrial need from the UK transportation and yellow goods industry for material innovation leading to lightweighting, superior performance and establishment of a UK supply chain for auto-bodies, transmissions, battery casings etc; and from the UK construction sector where half of construction demand will be in the residential sector by 2030. There is massive potential for novel steel-based solutions such as hybrid materials, which require detailed understanding and control of the steel surface properties during processing.
To reduce lead-times for alloy innovation, and to ensure new alloys can be processed, rapid alloy design and high-throughput processing is required. Whilst combinatorial approaches for identifying an alloy for desired properties are available, the ability to rapidly simulate all the transient process steps critical for actual alloy manufacturing and its integration into structures and devices does not exist. Therefore a suite of new equipment is proposed that will identify and accelerate inventions for synthesizing alloys encompassing rapid processing, characterisation and modelling. The equipment will comprise a high throughput 3D ingot printer, drop furnace to assess liquid-environment reactions for solidification optimization, surface/bulk deformation rig to assess solid-environment reactions for hot process optimization, high throughput rolling to produce appropriate microstructures for subsequent testing, PVD deposition to enable co-development of compatible coatings and electro-thermal-mechanical testing for coating, welding and forming assessment. We will access existing characterisation (SEM and Raman/AFM) facilities off line to enable detailed assessment of bulk and surface structure of down selected systems. Alongside this will be modelling software for bridging the gaps from laboratory high-throughput experiments to manufacturing processes. The equipment requested was identified following extensive engagement and discussions with industrial partners, particularly Tata Steel who have made very significant commitments, and the Tata Steel network of supported UK academics.
The facility will be managed by a dedicated test facilities engineer with a booking system for access for individual equipment items and as a through process assessment tool for new alloy systems. A Steering Group and Industrial Advisory Group will meet regularly to ensure that high quality scientific projects are prioritized, industrial use is encouraged and fair access is maintained. WMG has extensive experience of providing equipment support and user training and have strong links with industry through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, co-location of the Tata Steel UK R&D centre and the new National Automotive Innovation Centre. Ongoing EPSRC projects have been identified that will immediately benefit from the facility with new research areas being developed in collaboration with industry and other academics.
We feel that the development of this facility will be a critical element in developing an environment where the essential technologies needed for transforming the UK steel industry can be invented and implemented utilizing energy and raw material flexible processes and develop high value products

Planned Impact

The UK and international academic community, steel industry and the supply chain, wider companies, policy makers and the public will benefit from research undertaken at this unique facility. The facility will support a UK research community of academics, researchers and doctoral students focused on the innovative development and use of alloys. Companies encompassing steel supply and end users (JLR, GE Power etc.) will benefit from access to this unique facility, with associated multi-disciplinary expertise which will deliver impacts across a range of major steel application sectors including automotive, construction, aerospace, energy and power, engineering and lifting and excavating. Thus, the primary impact for this facility and the research it will enable are fundamental science, particularly related to the processability of new alloys and direct exchange of knowledge with industry partners allowing for much faster exploitation of developed new alloys.
Light Weighting of Steel Products - Benefits to UK's Automotive Industry: The automotive sector in the UK comprises over 3000 separate companies employing over 180,000 people. The UK has the sector's 4th highest output in Europe and the 12th highest globally. The use of new Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) in automotive parts is vital to the competitive advantage of UK car manufacturers since the definition of broadly similar legislation across the world to meet the requirements of the Kyoto protocol and beyond. Many of the new AHSSs being developed have very high alloy contents and are virtually un-processable using current technology. Therefore significant benefit will be achieved through the coupled development of new alloys and processing routes facilitated by this suite of equipment.
Hybrid Steel Structures - Benefits to the UK's Construction industry: The UK is set to lead the growth rate at 2.8% (cf. European average of 1.8%) with half of construction demand in the residential sector by 2030. Here, there is massive potential for novel steel-based solutions such as hybrid materials, which require detailed understanding and control of the steel surface properties during processing.
Broad impact will be achieved through widespread dissemination of project outcomes through strong relationships with a range of organisations including the Advanced Propulsion Centre (hub based on the Warwick campus) and the Knowledge Transfer Networks in Materials, Built Environment, Energy, Sustainability & Resource Efficiency and Transport. The national High Value Manufacturing Reach programme will enable impact in SMEs.
Educational Impact - The facility will support a UK research community of academics, researchers and doctoral students focussed on the innovative development and use of alloys. The facility will showcase emerging technologies and systems to the public e.g. through the Big Bang and Royal Institution Masterclasses and to pupils at the two WMG Academies for Young Engineers (business-focussed, business-led University Technical College, for students aged 14-19 years) through demonstrators, 'hands on access' labs and mentoring.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title ETMT 
Description High temperature fatugue and tensile machine. Atmospheric chamber to allow coatings to assessed. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Rapid assessment of coating adherence and its relation to alloy composition 
 
Title Molten droplet furnace 
Description Designed to allow rapid assessment of droplet interaction with mould powder in an inert chamber 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Designed to allow rapid assessment of droplet interaction with mould powder in an inert chamber 
 
Description Discuss with Tata over PhD student 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discuss over potential outcome of the work carried out. Looking into PhD topics etc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017