Special steels and high-tech industrial components have something in common: they both have to be of high quality and they both have to deliver long-term high performance. In view of rising market costs, steel processing companies and component manufacturers increasingly need reliable and cost-efficient fabrication processes.
Companies that want to remain competitive are having to examine the types of steel that they have been using up to now and find ways of optimising their production processes. Steeltec’s Material Selection Guide entitled ‘High-performance steel solutions for demanding engineering applications’ explains how component manufacturers can effectively guard against potential risks and highlights the benefits that the right choice of material has on the customer’s production processes and the particular component application.
Finding the ideal steel solution for a specific technological application requires a detailed understanding of steel as an engineering material and how its properties can be tailored to meet performance requirements. The business philosophy at Steeltec is expressed by its motto ‘Contributing ideas’, which encapsulates the company’s approach as an expert development partner for tailored special steel solutions.
Steeltec takes a fully integrated approach to optimising production processes for its customers in the automotive, hydraulic and mechanical engineering sectors. The key to process optimisation is the close collaboration between Steeltec and its customers, which aims to develop steels that meet an individual customer’s specific performance needs.
‘The goal is to identify and prevent potential fabrication errors before large-volume production of high-precision components begins. We provide users with specific recommendations on how they can select the right steel to enhance their market competitiveness,’ explains Guido Olschewski, Head of Quality and Product Development at Steeltec. The factors that need to be taken into account to achieve cost-efficient fabrication and the best possible component quality are set out in the Steeltec’s new Material Selection Guide.
Identifying the ideal material properties for a specific application
The requirements that steel needs to meet depend very strongly on the how and where the material is to be used. Failure to take account of the stresses to which the steel will be subjected during the processing and machining stages and during the service life of the component can lead to high levels of tool wear, extended machine downtimes and increased process costs.
In the worst case scenario, component failure may be the result, not to mention loss of end-user confidence. Steeltec’s Material Selection Guide entitled ‘High-performance steel solutions for demanding engineering applications’ explains how component manufacturers can effectively guard against such risks and highlights the benefits that the right choice of material has on the customer’s production processes. The Material Selection Guide lays out the five steps that component manufacturers need to take to find the right high-performance steel solution for their engineering applications.
Step 1: Keep the entire value creation chain in your sights
When you begin to think about selecting the right material for the job, it is essential to focus first on the application end of the process chain. For example, what properties does the steel have to exhibit so that it can withstand sustained loading? It is also important to examine all of the processing stages that the material undergoes on its way from bar steel to engineered component.
This means understanding in detail how material properties influence the manufacturing process and how they translate into the operational performance of the end product. Ultimately, these are the parameters that determine machining and processing costs and the service life of the component being made.
Steeltec is able to adjust these parameters to produce the right steel solution for a customer because it makes use of its extensive in-house property database that is based on years of experience gathered from working with industrial clients.
Step 2: Design for quality, prevent risks
‘In the second step, we recommend performing a detailed analysis of the entire process chain and the individual process stages, as it provides the basis for achieving an optimised cost-benefit ratio for the end user,’ explains Guido Olschewski.
Using reliability and quality assurance techniques, the steel’s properties and the customer’s processing and machining operations are carefully matched to produce an optimised combination. The development, production and sales teams all work hand in hand to achieve the best possible result for a customer’s specific application requirements.
‘To enable our customers to achieve the optimum result, we explain to them the technical adjustments that they can make to their manufacturing operations, adds Olschewski. The end result is shorter production roll-out times and lower component production costs.
Careful selection of the alloying elements used and their quantities and the precise control of the required level of purity in the steel melt are crucial factors in creating customised special steels. This is achieved through the use of modern steel mill technologies combined with an expert understanding of the steel production process. ‘We use computational models to determine the technical parameters for the steel production process.
This approach results in significantly shorter development times,’ explains Guido Olschewski. For technically complex component manufacturing processes or for high-precision components that will be subjected to extreme loads, Steeltec’s ETG® and HSX® families of high-strength and higher strength special bright steels are ideal materials. These special steels already exhibit high strength and high toughness when delivered to customers.
The penultimate step involves subjecting the material to quality assurance testing. Steeltec uses a variety of test methods to validate its high-performance steel solutions. Which tests are performed depends on the specific demands that the customer places on the material. Tests used to validate the properties of the special steels that Steeltec produces include tensile testing, hardness measurements, eddy current and ultrasound testing and optical techniques.
With its ability to deliver premium steel solutions and its commitment to preventive quality assurance, Steeltec is developing special high-strength steels that are a cost-effective alternative to conventional quenched and tempered steels
An innovative, custom-designed material enables customers to boost their long-term market competitiveness. ‘Companies that decide to work with Steeltec are opening the door to premium quality, efficient production and the lowest possible component costs. By working together, we help our customers achieve sustainable business competitiveness,’ says Guido Olschewski.
A development partnership with Steeltec lets customers develop innovative, advanced engineering components while at the same time reducing production costs. An excellent example of this type of collaborative material and component design process is the development partnership between Steeltec and Metabo. Metabo is one of the leading manufacturers of professional electric power tools. The company was looking to improve the Metabo Long-life motor for its compact 1700-watt angle grinder. ‘The challenge was to the boost the efficiency of the motor without increasing the size of the tool.
A key part of the solution was finding the right material for the armature shaft, which is at the heart of the tool’s drive system. Our ETG® 100 steel enabled the torque generated by the motor to be increased by fifty percent,’ explains Olschewski. Steeltec also supplied the ETG® 100 to Metabo with a customer-specific diameter to minimise the amount of material that needed to be removed during machining.
As a result, Metabo was able to reduce the number of processing stages, lower production costs and improve the quality of the component, while maintaining a high level of process reliability.
With a workforce of around 550 in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Turkey, Steeltec is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of special bright steels. The product portfolio covers high-strength and higher strength special steels, high-quality bright steels, special quenched and tempered steels, free-cutting steels, case-hardening steels and engineering steels.
Working closely with its customers and external research institutions, Steeltec is focused on developing and delivering the best high-performance steel solutions to its customers. The basis for the company’s success lies in the continuous development of materials, processes, test methods and technologies. With its ability to deliver premium steel solutions and its commitment to preventive quality assurance, Steeltec is helping its customers achieve more cost-effective production of innovative, high-performance and durable products as well as shortening product development times.
To deliver the greatest possible value to customers, Steeltec’s technical sales team are in continuous contact with their colleagues in the quality management and development units. Steeltec permanently monitors the trends and needs of international technology providers, so that it is in the best possible position to deliver innovative material and process solutions.
By using the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group's global distribution network, which covers 30 countries in five continents, Steeltec can guarantee delivery reliability to its customers in the automotive, hydraulic and mechanical engineering industries.
The SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group is one of the foremost providers of customised solutions in the field of special-steel long products. S+B is one of the leading producers of tool steel and stainless long products in the global marketplace and is one of the top two companies in Europe for alloyed and high-alloy engineering steel.
With around 9000 employees and its own manufacturing and distribution centres in more than 30 countries on five continents, SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH is able to guarantee the provision of products and support services to its global customer base, offering a comprehensive portfolio covering production and pre- and after-sales services.
SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH customers benefit from the company’s technological expertise, its consistently high global product quality and the company’s detailed understanding of local markets.