Today’s steel mills are faced with a new challenge – supplying the need for high strength steel. High strength steel is a new generation of steel which is in great demand, particularly by manufacturers in the automotive industry. The characteristics of high strength steel make it more difficult to produce using conventional rolling processes. Before transitioning to supply the new demand for high strength steel, it is important for steel mill operators to consider its effect on power transmission equipment. It is essential for steel mills to make the upgrades necessary to supply high strength steel, so as to mitigate the risk of equipment failure.
What is High Strength Steel?
High strength steel (HSS) is a variety of alloy steel that offers superior yield and greater tensile strengths than carbon steel. Unlike most types of steel, HSS grades are made to meet mechanical requirements rather than to a specific chemical compound. HSS grades have a carbon content of 0.05–0.25% to maintain its ability to be formed and welded, along with other alloying elements. Copper, titanium, vanadium, and niobium are included to strengthen the HSS. The yield strengths can be anywhere between 250–590 megapascals (36,000–86,000 psi). The higher strength and toughness of these types of steels typically require 25 to 30% more power to form than carbon steels.
HSS Demand and Opportunity
High strength steels are in demand for the multiple advantages they offer. Vehicles, bridges, cranes, and other structures that require the ability to withstand large amounts of stress all benefit greatly from the use of HSS. High strength steel also has a good strength to weight ratio, and is typically 20 – 30% lighter than carbon steel of the same strength. Corrosion resistance is another desirable attribute of high strength steel.
Automotive manufactures are depending more and more on HSS to create lighter vehicle bodies for enhanced safety and fuel efficiency. According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, over 94 million cars were produced throughout the world in 2016. Advanced high strength steel makes up 60% of today’s vehicle structures, according to the World Steel Association. These figures demonstrate why steel mills are doing all they can to be competitive in the automotive industry, and why they are so motivated to produce high strength steel.
Making the Transition to HSS Production the Right Way
When a steel mill produces high strength steel there is a significant increase in the loads on the rolling mill equipment. These higher loads can cause premature failure on the drivetrain components, resulting in expensive maintenance and replacement costs. The hardness and tensile strength of high strength steel requires tooling materials with high strength, high wear, chipping, and cracking resistance.
In transitioning to the production of high strength steel, a steel mill should invest in a corresponding equipment upgrade that will enable the system to handle the increased loads and rolling forces. The upgrades should involve the entire power transmission drive train including motors, main mill gearing, mill pinions, and coupling assemblies.
As experienced experts in the manufacture of custom machined and heat-treated parts and component assemblies for steel mill applications, Xtek engineers understand what it takes to prepare a conventional steel mill for meeting the challenges of HSS production. As a holistic steel mill drivetrain manufacturer, we can provide comprehensive optimization to meet high strength steel production needs. Contact our team today to learn more.