RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY CENTER

PRODUCT TECHNOLOGY

Engineers and other professionals at U. S. Steel's Product Technology Section access a vast array of advanced, highly sophisticated testing, modeling, failure analysis and other resources to develop the next generation of steels for virtually every application. In these laboratories and facilities, the future is born.

PRODUCT TECHNOLOGY CENTER SERVICES

Mechanical Testing Facilities

Our Mechanical Testing facilities utilize automated tensile, hardness and other testing equipment for determining mechanical properties of materials to support product development and customer product application projects. Various tensile testing frames are available from 5 to 220 kip, along with stress- and strain-controlled fatigue testing.

 

We also conduct toughness testing using Charpy and Drop Weight Tear testing equipment and can perform various sheet formability tests, including development of forming limit diagrams and hole expansion testing. Our facilities have the equipment to do high-temperature tensile testing as well.


Gleeble 3500 Thermomechanical Test System

U. S. Steel's Gleeble 3500 Thermomechanical Test System couples the ability to apply complex thermal and mechanical deformation cycles simultaneously to material specimens. The thermal cycle is controlled through direct-resistance heating via a computer-controlled time-temperature cycle.

 

Concurrent to the thermal cycle, specimens can be deformed in tension or compression using a servo-hydraulic actuator that is also computer controlled. This allows the simulation of processes such as welding, continuous casting, hot rolling and continuous annealing to determine properties that include hot strength and ductility of steel specimens. Also, we can precisely measure dilation during the thermal program to determine phase transformation temperatures.


Electrical Steels Laboratory

U. S. Steel's Electrical Steels Laboratory houses various processing and testing facilities for evaluating cold-rolled magnetic lamination steels used in the manufacture of motors, transformers, ballasts and other electrical devices. Our laboratory facilities include QDA furnaces, AC and DC magnetic testers, and an interlaminar resistance tester.


Enameling Laboratory

Our Enameling Laboratory is dedicated to advances in applying and firing vitreous enamel coatings to steel surfaces. The lab can apply either one-coat and two-coat powder systems to assist in developing new Vitrenamel™ steels, to determine optimum processing for Vitrenamel™ steels, and to aid in evaluating the use of our enameling steels by U. S. Steel customers.


Simulators Laboratory

Our state-of-the-art simulation facility includes two annealing simulators, one of which is also a hotdip coating process simulator. The Iwatani-Surtec (Rhesca) Hot-Dip Process Simulator (HDPS) provides a realistic simulation of the continuous galvanizing line annealing, gas jet cooling and hot-dip coating processes on a laboratory scale. This is the industry’s first simulator to include the following features, fully integrated into the control system:
 

  • Coating wiping capability with nitrogen, air or other gases
  • Induction and infrared heating
  • Automated humidification of reducing or oxidizing annealing gas
  • Two coating pots, test panel oscillation and usage control of 5 gases

The HDPS provides the capability to develop and evaluate new products and process improvements. It can also assess metallurgical and coating properties for new steels such as automotive advanced high-strength steels up to and over 1180 MPa, highly formable steels with 50% elongation, and smooth galvanneal and galvanized for exposed panels.

 

We support new products and processes development for construction and appliances as well, including new structural steels, new coatings and improvements to GALVALUME® and galvanized. Our HDPS expertise and technology allow ongoing facility process improvements for U. S. Steel and joint-venture continuous hot-dip coating lines that produce over 4 million tons per year. The HDPS eliminates part of the expense of using production units to conduct trials and allows experiments that could not be conducted at current facilities.

 

Our ULVAC Continuous Annealing Line Simulator (CALS) shares the Simulators Laboratory infrastructure but was custom designed to process larger and stronger panels than the HDPS, which are annealed with a much larger uniformly heat treated area. This high-speed annealing simulator can achieve hotter steel temperatures and can cool panels much more rapidly.

 

Pre-programmed thermal process cycles in the CALS direct precise infrared heating in a sealed gas atmosphere followed by cooling, which may be conducted using rapid gas jet cooling (RJC) or quenched in a temperature and flow-controlled rapid water quench (WQ).

 

A new control system allows faster tuning to closely match the aim thermal cycles requested by product development engineers over the research computer network. The facility has been able to fast-track product and process developments of advanced and ultra-high strength cold-rolled steels by U. S. Steel for the PRO-TEC Coating Company Continuous Annealing Line (CAL).

COMPUTATIONAL AND PHYSICAL MODELING

Computational Modeling Laboratory

U. S. Steel's Computational Modeling and Engineering capabilities support research activities in all ironmaking, steelmaking, casting, rolling, tubular and sheet finishing operations. Our Computational Modeling Laboratory accomplishes this with a combination of manufacturing site visits and a review of equipment and materials designs and properties, leading to models and recommendations.

 

Our Modeling Team members use several advanced graphics computer workstations to perform computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and analysis of finite element (FEA) stresses on solids. We accomplish these tasks using up-to-date software that includes Ansys Fluent, Mechanical, Ansys Design Modeler, Abaqus Explicit, Auto-CAD and CHAM Phoenics. Modeling interacts regularly with research colleagues such as those from Materials Evaluation, Failure Analysis and Refractories groups, and suppliers, comparing evaluation of full-scale components at plants with Flow Lab scale models and numerical models.


Flow Modeling Laboratory

U. S. Steel's Flow Modeling Laboratory is equipped with many large (1/2 to 2/3 scale) Plexiglas® models including a steel ladle, an RH vacuum degasser and numerous continuous caster tundish, pouring tube and mold configurations to simulate all of the various steelmaking caster designs in our plants.

 

Our laboratory also includes a blast furnace hearth model and a trough model, the latter of which is used to simulate the flow of liquid slag and iron during tapping from the blast furnace. The large models and the use of heated water in these experiments are necessary to satisfy important similarity criteria and to make accurate calculations in scaling-up to the commercial liquid steel and iron systems. We use another largescale model to examine the permeability of gas through a blast furnace burden, including coke and iron ore pellets.

 

Our Flow Modeling Laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art laser measurement and data-gathering equipment, including several personal computers and a graphics workstation. This sophisticated computer system is necessary for the development and physical verification of complicated three-dimensional mathematical models. For example, one such application could be describing the flow of steel through a caster tundish containing various dams and weirs for inclusion removal.

 

This equipment has been used to design fixtures and nozzle systems that have been used for our tundish and strand equipment. The modeling work, which is conducted with both Process Technology and Product Technology engineers, has led to a better understanding of the flow mechanics of liquid metals and improvements in productivity, yield, product quality and facility reliability.

PILOT OPERATIONS PROCESSING AND CAN-MAKING FACILITIES

Vacuum Melting, Hot Rolling and Forging Laboratory

A well-coordinated team of U. S. Steel research technicians conducts production of developmental steels at the Pilot Operations facilities on behalf of Product and Process Technology engineers. The research mini-mill includes equipment to melt, cast, forge, hot roll and cold roll experimental steels.

 

The laboratory includes a vacuum induction melting facility equipped with 500 lb and 300 lb furnaces with a new solid-state power supply and accompanying ingot casting equipment. A reversing hot-rolling mill with two accompanying reheat furnaces consists of a single two-high stand, with one-million-pound separating force.

 

Using computer-controlled pass schedules along with several sensors and an infrared scanner that monitor the steel temperature, technicians hot roll ingots, slabs and hot band products. After rolling, the steel may be cooled using a state-of-the-art, computer-controlled water spray, direct quenching and accelerated cooling facility.

 

An oven may be used to simulate the slow cooling process of a coiled hot band. Hot-rolled slabs and bars may alternatively be forged in either of two presses. These facilities are used to prepare experimental steels for new product development and to conduct thermomechanical processing studies to improve the properties of existing hot-rolled and tubular steels.

 

Steels produced by Pilot Operations were commercialized for the manufacture of lighter and stronger cars, tubular products for oil and gas well exploration and transmission, and for thin coated steels that can provide corrosion protection to building panels for over 30 years.


Cold-Rolling Laboratory

Our Cold-Rolling Laboratory includes a Bliss four-high single-stand cold reduction mill, which processes strip up to 12 inches wide at a maximum speed of 500 fpm. The mill is fully instrumented to obtain all engineering information relevant to the cold-rolling process. The unit uses several types of work rolls to refine the rolling operations in U. S. Steel, to develop practices for processing new sheet and tin-mill products, and to evaluate cold-rolling oils.

 

The cold reduction mill also converts hot band panels produced at our Pilot Operations’ vacuum melting and hot rolling facilities, or rolls pickled hot bands from U. S. Steel plants, into cold rolled panels that may be further processed in annealing or coating simulators. We use either the large four-high mill or a small, two-high cold mill for temper-rolling studies on smaller cold-rolled or galvanized steel specimens.


Can-Making Facilities

Our Can-Making Laboratory is used to determine optimum tooling for production of lighter, stronger, lowercost tinplate and TFS steel cans in support of U. S. Steel customers that produce food or beverage cans. Can-making equipment is available both for drawn and ironed cans and draw-redraw cans. The Modeling Group also provides support on the structural design of can beads for vacuum-packed can products.


Processing Facilities

U. S. Steel's modeling facilities include the following:
 

  • 500-lb. air- and vacuum-induction melting furnaces with a new solid-state power supply and accompanying ingot casting equipment
  • A one-million-pound separating force, two-high, single-stand, reversing hot-rolling mill with two accompanying reheat furnaces, computer-controlled pass schedules, and a state-of-the-art, computer-controlled water spray, direct quenching and accelerated cooling facility

 

We use these facilities to prepare experimental steels for new product development and to conduct thermomechanical processing studies to improve the properties of existing hot-rolled and tubular steels.


Ceramics Laboratory

Our Ceramics Laboratory functions to evaluate the properties of ceramic materials used throughout the ironmaking, steelmaking and finishing operations. This laboratory is equipped to evaluate the quality characteristics of various refractory materials, both at room temperature and at high temperatures under conditions simulating those present in the processes for which the particular refractory material is intended.

 

Experimental refractory materials as well as those sent to research for quality control evaluation are subject to a series of tests that may include porosity and density, cold crushing strength, thermal expansion, hot modulus of rupture, high temperature thermal conductivity, and slag erosion characteristics. Specialized testing such as thermal shock, ladle sand sintering, taphole clay emissions and extrusion performance, and flow testing of pouring system and gas injection refractories can also be accomplished.

 

The equipment in this laboratory consists of several high-temperature electric furnaces capable of heating refractory materials up to 3000°F, and there are loading frames and controlled atmospheres in some of the equipment. The laboratory also has a full range of diamond saws, core drills and other machining devices capable of generating the required test specimens.

 

This laboratory has been instrumental in assisting the plants with the selection of refractory products that provide U. S. Steel with the best value for the dollars spent.


Failure Analysis

U. S. Steel engineers perform failure analysis and provide recommendations to improve life and safety systems and reduce downtime of all plant equipment. Our Failure Analysis engineers are capable of reviewing and modifying design, material selection, heat treatment, corrosion, fracture, fracture mechanics, welding, and joining of all plant equipment made of both ferrous and non-ferrous alloys.

 

The group also provides roll technology assistance to the rolling mills and coating lines. The group uses the Metallography Laboratory, Mechanical Testing facilities and other laboratories at the Research and Technology Center to perform their testing. The group possesses various portable testing equipment such as the Keyence digital microscope, complete field metallography kit including rollscope, ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle testing, electrical conductivity, and Brinell and rebound-type portable hardness testers.


Metallographic Facilities

Our Metallographic facilities support plant, development and customer service projects for the entire U. S. Steel Research and Technology Center. The equipment in this facility includes:
 

  • Leo Supra 25 field emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), coupled with EDAX integrated electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) and energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) systems
  • JEOL JSM-6400 SEM coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS)
  • Bruker D8 Discover X-ray diffraction system with VANTEC 500 2-D area detector
  • Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscope
  • Renishaw 2000 Microscope laser Raman spectrometer (LRS)
  • Physical Electronics PHI-560 Auger electron spectrometer/Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (AES/ESCA)
  • LECO 750A glow discharge optical emission spectrometer (GD-OES)
  • Buehler Micromet 4 micro-indentation hardness tester
  • Metallographic light microscopes with digital cameras and image analysis software
  • Auxiliary support equipment for sample preparation of metallographic specimens

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PROCESS TECHNOLOGY

Product innovation drives the future of steel. U. S. Steel applies deep process engineering expertise and leadership to explore, test and determine how that steel will be made.

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