Spotlight: Processing payoff

Materials World magazine
3 Nov 2013

Rhiannon Garth Jones looks at recent developments in materials processing.

Improved performance and cost-cutting techniques are now more sought after than ever. From Formula One (F1) gearboxes to Russian quarrying, expert processes are delivering dividends for some companies.

Xtrac, a British engineering firm, has recently joined with Tata Steel to take up the challenge of producing high-strength steel alloys with improved fatigue life for F1 gearboxes. By transferring from an air melting to a double vacuum melting process, Xtrac has increased the purity of the steel produced, creating two new steels. The SM031 has been developed for high temperature, performance and transmission, and the XM033 for ultra-high strength applications. The optimised heat treatment process minimises the inherent brittleness of the high hardness steel produced.

Another company focusing on high-performance steel is Swedish-based Ovako, whose increased concentration on the steel-making process has led to a method with little variation in heat. The result is steel with isotropic properties, consistent characteristics and fewer inclusions. Extra strain resistance, increased fatigue and wear resistance, and a greater ability to handle transverse and longitudinal load are among the benefits. The steel produced is also lighter and more cost-effective.

Cambridge Consultants, a UK firm, has created a fully digital-controlled 10kW power supply in a form factor of 19 inches x 2 units, a quarter of the usual size, with a control strategy that enables up to 60 units to be connected in parallel to form systems of up to 600kW capacity. The smaller, single unit removes the necessity for a range of different power supplies, and uses a master and slave network of units that creates high resilience for critical loads where system downtime is particularly detrimental.

CDE Global has successfully processed claycontaminated material of more than 8% clay in Cherepovets, Russia, into sand that meets Russian standards for concrete production. The M2500 machine used by CDE first removes any material measuring more than 150mm, then, using a doubledeck rinsing screen, separates 0–3mm, 3–5mm, 5–25mm and >25mm materials into their respective stockpiles of building sand, concrete sand and aggregates. Recovered water used in the process is recycled at a complete water storage and pumping system, reducing the volume of freshwater required by up to 90%.  

Next month’s Spotlight is on analysis and microscopy.