Prosperity Partnership in Rapid Product Development

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

Steel is a vitally important structural material, critical for infrastructure, transport, communications networks, water, energy and waste utilities. Future advances in key manufacturing sectors rely on new, innovative steel products. A successful steel industry must be able to deliver such innovation quickly to (i) satisfy customer requirements and (ii) grow its business. The conventional steelmaking innovation cycle is slow and iterative, requiring expensive trials using hundreds of tonnes of material, representing significant financial risk and limiting opportunities to investigate radically different alloys with disruptive solutions. Imagination and creativity are therefore inhibited.
The proposed solution:
This Prosperity Partnership will implement a Rapid Alloy Prototyping (RAP) process, analogous to the high-throughput methodologies used in the pharmaceutical industry. Instead of using tens of industrial scale ingots (tonnes) per alloy, large numbers (hundreds) of small laboratory scale samples (grams) of different steel alloy combinations will be tested for properties, processability and characterised using state-of-the-art imaging. In addition computer modelling will be used to design new compositions and predict through process behaviour. The efficacy of the method will be demonstrated by comparison to existing production data for established benchmark steel grades.
The RAP process will provide a rapid screening and ranking methodology for promising new alloys leading to quicker promotion from lab-scale tests (grams) to progressive upscaling tests (tens of kilograms). Alloys performing in the upscaling tests can then be promoted to full scale manufacturing (tonnes) resulting in an order of magnitude speed-up in the innovation cycle for new steel products.
Industry involvement from Tata Steel in the Partnership is essential at all decision points to ensure (i) the processability of new alloys on existing plant equipment, (ii) new alloys satisfy commercial requirements and (iii) to maintain research focus on commercially relevant alloys which will boost UK Prosperity. However, while this industrial 'reality check' is vital it does not preclude the investigation of more adventurous unorthodox alloys normally not considered. Indeed, the proposed RAP approach will widen the scope for discovery of new alloys at little or no risk to Tata Steel.
Currently 20% of primary steel comes from scrap steel which introduces impurity elements into the final product (e.g. Sn and Cu). The global trend of increasing scrap-use means there is an urgent need to prepare the UK and identify future opportunities. It is impossible for Tata Steel to carry out conventional plant trials to investigate the influence of increasing impurity elements from scrap-use, as thousands of tonnes of unsellable material would need to be cast at a high cost and possibly damage valuable assets. The RAP process will allow a comprehensive assessment of increased impurity effects on processing and properties of current and new steel products by simulating increased scrap use, as well as developing the fundamental understanding on these effects.
Benefit to the UK Economy
The ability to manufacture steel remains essential for a modern industrial economy. Tata Steel directly employs 8000 people in the UK and makes around 15,000 different steel products. In 2017 Tata sold directly to 200 customers in the UK and indirectly to over 1000 through stockists. The UK manufacturing sector employs 2.6M people and will benefit from provision of new steel grades with enhanced and tailored properties. This Prosperity Partnership is aligned to the clean growth agenda of the Industrial Strategy and the EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes, contributing to a Productive Nation. The increased ability of Tata Steel to react to global socio-economic conditions with new and innovative steel products arising from the proposed RAP process is aligned with the Resilient Nation outcome

Planned Impact

The main output of this prosperity partnership will be a validated method to rapidly transition fundamental concepts on alloy design to industrial scale, bridging the valley of death between research and wealth creation. This is a platform on which decades of academic research could be economically and rapidly commercialised; contributing to the Productive Nation prosperity outcome. The partnership is also aligned to the clean growth, future mobility and artificial intelligence & data economy grand challenges of the Industrial Strategy. Finally, the ability to react to global socio-economic conditions that the proposed rapid alloy prototyping (RAP) process provides to Tata Steel also aligns with Resilient Nation outcomes.

The partnership will deliver clear economic benefits for the UK. The rapid feedback afforded by the RAP methodology can reduce the commercial attrition rate of products launched by a factor of 10 and facilitate transformed customer integration leading to increased productivity and more responsive clarification of product viability in response to customer needs. The projected customer demand is well documented with a potential to double UK steel GVA by 2030. The proposed project will help to sustain 31,400 high skilled jobs with mean salaries 45% higher than their regional average and the development of new customer driven products creates opportunities for jobs growth to >35,000.

The wider impact to the society and environment are carefully considered in the scope of the partnership. Significant emphasis is placed on the sustainability aspects of the steel making process via the assessment of increased use of scrap in steel making and is of global interest in the mitigation of climate change through reduced use of primary resources and a decrease in CO2 emissions. These considerations will for the first time inform decisions on novel alloy development via an increased understanding of the role of impurity elements on product performance that will be generated as part of the partnership. The potential of the partnership to deliver macro societal benefits is illustrated by the fact that in 2017 Tata Steel sold directly to 200 customers in the UK and indirectly to over 1000 through stockists. The UK manufacturing sector employs 2.6M people and it will benefit from the provision of new steel grades with enhanced and tailored properties for various applications (infrastructure, transport, etc.) thus underpinning the UK economy. To complete this circle the partnership is committed to engage with audiences ranging from secondary school students, raising awareness of opportunities in STEM subjects, through to training of technical, management and engineering employees in the steel sector.

Finally, the partnership has skills and career progression at its heart by training doctorate students with high level technical, interpersonal and business skills that will allow them to excel in either academia or industry. It will support talent development and early career opportunities (fellowships and academic roles) for PDRAs and Tata Steel researchers through a mentor system supported by the named investigators. The partnership is ideally placed to promote equality given the excellent gender balance of the team.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 3rd Postgraduate Research Symposium on Ferrous Metallurgy, Tuesday 25th February 2020 Venue: Armourers' Hall, Armourers and Brasiers' Company, 81 Coleman Street, London, EC2R 5BJ 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A paper entitled "Using Rapid Alloy Prototyping to understand the effects of residual elements on a low alloy steel" was presented by one of our PGR students, C Norrish, to a braod audience of new researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://myemail.constantcontact.com/3rd-Postgraduate-Research-Symposium-on-Ferrous-Metallurgy.html?s...
 
Description 50 YEARS OF STEEL ALLOY DESIGN, 150th Anniversary of the Iron and Steel Institute, November 2019, Culter's Hall, Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A poster "Innovative Technique to Mimic Hot Rolling of Dual Phase Steel Cast at Various Scales by Rapid Alloy Prototyping (RAP)" was presented to raise the profile of the Prosperity project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.iom3online.org/iom/frontend/reg/tOtherPage.csp?pageID=511580&ef_sel_menu=4621&eventID=96...
 
Description Aspire2Be 19th November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was an event for girls in year 8 to get them interested and excited about STEM careers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/aspire2be?lang=en
 
Description Attendance at the ESSC & DUPLEX Conference 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Attendance at the 11th European Stainless Steel Conference Science & Market and the 8th European Duplex Stainless Steel Conference & Exhibition. This international conference, mainly attended by European delegates was attended in order to identify key industrial challenges and knowledge capture that could influence the direction of research related to the EPSRC RAP Prosperity Partnership. In addition, the conference provided opportunity to network with key European figures, companies and universities which may lead to future collaborations. Attendance at this conference was funded by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining as part of the Frank Fitzgerald travel award awarded to Dr Hollie Cockings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.stainlesssteel2019.org/
 
Description EESW Summer school 15th July 2019, STEMCymru / Engineering Education Scheme Wales Ltd 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This activity involved spending a day with sixth form students while they learn about different engineering disciplines, One of our female research students was helping out with optical microscopy and different metal microstructures.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.swansea.ac.uk/engineering/summer-schools/
 
Description Materials Research Exchange 2020, Business Design Centre, Upper Street, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact MRE 2020, organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network and Innovate UK, aimed to demonstrate how the UK is a global hub of excellence in materials research, as well as how materials is an area which will continue to propel the nation's economy to future success. The purpose of attending was to show how the Propserity project, as part of a significant group of materials-science projects at Swansea, is contributing to this national effort.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1JP3s5lsVJ_6Elf9dCD8cFgtBbV8Mrki1
 
Description National Student Conference in Metallic Materials, University of Sheffield 24-25th June 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A poster was presented by one of our PGR students to raise the profile of Prosperity.

Caroline Norrish C. Llovo-Vidal, R. Underhill, C. Pleydell-Pearce, N. P. Lavery Using Rapid Alloy Prototyping to Investigate Property Trends of DP800 steel with Residual Element Additions (POSTER) National Student Conference in Metallic Materials, University of Sheffield 24-25th June 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Swansea Science Festival 26th October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Prosperity had a joint stand with M2A/Tata comparing impact strength of chocolate bars and explaining how the same thing happens in steels and other metals as a public outreach event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.swansea.ac.uk/research/in-the-community/swansea-science-festival/
 
Description WISE role model account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This is a website for teenage girls to see women in STEM roles with the aim of improving gender balance in STEM subjects and one of our PGR students was volunteered to be a role model.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/?s=role+model