Steel Customized to Manufacturers' Needs

Feb. 26, 2020
A thermomechanical process results in an ultrafine microstructure and improved material properties, without the need for expensive alloying or complex heat treatment

Changes in automation, data management, and industrial process control are showing their real-world in effects in manufacturing. For example, innovations and improvements in metallurgy and thermal processing are delivering new choices to manufacturers, like forgers and machining and fabricating operations. An ultrafine steel microstructure and improved material properties, without the need for expensive alloying elements or complex heat treatment is what Steeltec’s claims for its Xtreme Performance (XTP®) Technology promises. It describes the resulting product as "the steel of the future".

XTP® technology is a carefully controlled thermomechanical steel-treatment process introduced in 2016. Predictions made at the start of the development indicated that XTP® treatment would significantly improve the dynamic and mechanical properties of standard steels, for applications in automotive manufacturing, mechanical engineering, and medical engineering.

By applying heat and mechanical force in a highly controlled manner, Steeltec produces steel with an homogeneous, fine-grained microstructure. The resulting multifunctional materials can have properties customized to meet a manufacturer's or fabricator's specific application requirements.

Steeltec, a Schmolz + Bickenbach Group company, uses the XTP process to modify standard steels to impart improved toughness and greater mechanical strength, two properties that typically counter each other. To date, it has tested and demonstrated the effectiveness of its XTP technology on 28 different steels in seven material groups.

The "new" steels that have undergone Steeltec’s XTP treatment exhibit significantly improved low-temperature toughness. Precipitation-hardened ferrite-pearlite steels can be used at temperatures down to -60°C, while bainite steels can cope with temperatures as low as -100°C. The low-temperature toughness of unalloyed steels can be improved by up to 30%. Steel parts formed from this material exhibit improved safety performance in low-temperature applications.

Furthermore, XTP® treatment not only improves treated-steel toughness but also enhances its mechanical strength. Compared with standard steels, XTP® steels show greater formability, while retaining the ability to undergo numerous different types of processing or machining operations.

Thanks to XTP® technology, fabricators can continue to use preferred steel grades with the knowledge that the properties have been optimized to address the needs of specific manufacturing processes or applications.

Steeltec customers also benefit from lower production costs as they no longer need to perform additional heat treatment or to invest in higher-cost, high-alloy steels. The more expensive alloy grades can be replaced by low-alloy XTP® steels with comparable performance profiles.