The current voestalpine image campaign once again demonstrates the invaluable significance of the Research & Development field to the entire Group. The most dedicated and best-educated employees confront complex specifications placed on materials, products, and processes, and they work on developing the best—and typically cross-divisional—solutions for the customers.
In the automotive segment, focus is placed on the development of multiphase steels—the AHSS HD (Advanced High Strength Steels High Ductility) steels. These steels make it possible to achieve forming properties that are up to 60% better when compared to previous comparable products; in the cold forming process, they facilitate a substantial upward “spike in strength.” These higher-strength AHSS HD steels are primarily applied to the strength-related areas of doors and hatches as well as the visible exterior skin components, such as sidewalls.
In the current research project to increase steam power plants’ level of efficiency, eight companies from three divisions of the voestalpine Group are developing improved materials and components, which are designed for use in state-of-the-art plants with dramatically higher loads. In addition to the high-temperature steels and nickel-based alloys that are designed for use at temperatures exceeding 700 °C, they are also optimizing components—such as turbine housings, generator shafts, pipe conduits, and turbine shafts—that will accommodate these most rigorous demands. Currently, 600 MW generator shafts and low pressure shafts are being manufactured for the first time.
As part of a CleanSky project, the collaboration between two companies in the Special Steel Division and an airplane engine manufacturer succeeded in applying the findings from computer-based forging and heat-treatment simulations to the actual design and optimization of engine disks from nickel-based alloys within a practical setting. The distribution of mechanical properties in the forging component is modeled in advance and then made available to the customer so that the forging geometry and the process control can be optimized to such a degree that turbine disks with customized distribution of mechanical properties can be forged and shipped—in a manner consistent with lightweight construction.
Furthermore, the development of DOBAIN®, the fissure-proof type of bainitic rail steel, is proceeding highly favorably: it is currently being tested throughout Europe in various test railway segments, upon customer request. A likewise newly developed type of rail steel for the tram segment, with superior welding and wear-resistance properties, has already been placed in the market successfully.
Intensive research activities in the Tubular business segment, involving the material development for a new generation of high-tensile, sour-gas-resistant steels for oilfield pipes, have yielded the first customer orders, which have also been successfully filled in the meantime. The Connection Testing Center in Kindberg (Austria) was commissioned in October 2013. Here, the thread development of gas-tight pipe threaded connections are designed to the highest specifications and in the process, its use under combined loads is simulated.
The new development of a strip-powder combination for electro-slag welding has made it possible for the Welding business segment to achieve, for the first time, an overlay welding to protect system components from chemical and thermal stresses by using only one layer (previously, two layers were needed).