One of the main research focal points in the voestalpine Group is the further development of innovative steel grades and material qualities, which are used primarily in automotive engineering in order to achieve a lower weight that will enable improved fuel economy on one hand and the development of alternative drive concepts on the other.
Once the ALIVE (Advanced High Volume Affordable Lightweighting for Future Electric Vehicles) project of the Green Car Initiative, which was submitted under the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union, was approved, it was possible to sign the relevant agreement in early 2013 to get the project underway. A consortium consisting of 23 partners—major automobile manufacturers, important automotive suppliers, scientific partners as well as voestalpine as the sole materials company—has set itself the goal to develop an extremely lightweight electric vehicle that is suitable to volume production that uses multi-material construction techniques.
In accordance with the specific requirements of lightweight automotive construction, our production of tailored profiles has succeeded in manufacturing special sections for the automotive engineering segment that are optimally adapted to the respective operating conditions. In this process, different steel grades and plate thicknesses are laser-welded together, dimensionally accurate recesses are pre-punched, and the components are then roll-formed. These tailored profiles enable the most advantageous material utilization while, at the same time, making a maximum weight reduction possible. They are already being used as longitudinal chassis beams on buses.
Among manufacturers of hybrid and electric vehicles, there is an increasing demand for high-strength electrical steel strip with very good magnetic properties that enable higher rotational frequencies without the centrifugal forces causing the rotor to fail. Due to new concepts in the production of engines, the resulting savings in material enable the engine to be operated more efficiently than in the past. This prevents a failure of the rotors due to the greater diameter of the rotors and high centrifugal forces not only in vehicle construction but also in the use of large generators, for example, for pumped storage hydro power plants. After undertaking small-scale test series on simulators and a subsequent large-scale test on production facilities, the first sample deliveries to customers have already been carried out.
Flexible pipes for corrosion-resistant high-pressure pipelines are being used both offshore and onshore in the oil and natural gas exploration segment as well as for the transport of water and gases.
These flexible pipes consist of several metal layers that are wound from high-quality flat and shaped wire, which can withstand high tensile and high pressure loads and must customarily also be sour gas resistant. A new generation of this wire provides a significant improvement of sour gas resistance; additionally, its cold-forming capabilities were optimized.
The Special Steel Division has developed a new material, the Böhler MC90 INTERMET, that is optimally suited for cutting materials that are difficult to process, such as titanium alloys, stainless steel, or nickel alloys. It is an ideal alternative to cemented carbides, which had been previously used. The MC90 INTERMET is manufactured in a powder-metallurgical process and its thermal properties are superior to the traditional high-speed steel grades, resulting in a far longer service life for the tool.