Researchers from the Materials Processing Institute have linked up with production teams from one of the world’s largest stainless steel manufacturers to offer technical support and advice.
Outokumpu is recognised as a global leader in stainless steel, with production facilities in China, Finland, Sweden and Mexico as well as the USA and UK and more than 12,000 workers employed by Outokumpu across 30 countries.
The firm, which was created more than 100 years ago, is now working alongside the Teesside-based Institute on research and development projects which result in stainless steel being put into supply chains for the likes of nuclear, marine and offshore markets.
Andrew Smith, principal researcher at the Materials Processing Institute, said: “Outokumpu was formerly part of British Steel and then Corus, but when they moved away to operate independently we initially worked alongside them on various projects.
“It was essentially technical support on stainless steel making, covering everything from liquid to hot rolling.
“That working relationship was struck up again in May this year when our Chief Executive Officer Chris McDonald met up with representatives from Outokumpu and became aware of various projects they were doing which we could assist them with.”
MPI’s link up with Outokumpu operates in the form of a support contract, but there are hopes that if the Finnish firm gains external funding for other research and development projects then the partnership could be strengthened.
Andrew, who travels to Outokumpu’s UK base in Sheffield on a weekly basis, added: “A key part of the service at MPI, something which we pride ourselves on, is bringing our technical expertise into industrial processing having built up a high standard of experience in more than 70 years of being in operation.
“We can offer process enhancement and consultancy support in addition to the technical areas, and we are continuing to strengthen our own knowledge so this is a mutually beneficial partnership.
“In this instance we are offering advice on specialist grades of steel, which are eventually used in sectors including nuclear, offshore and marine.
“Outokumpu are making grades that are completely different to anyone else through continuous casting. They are high quality, low volume materials and as well as working at their site we also regularly bring samples back to carry out our own investigations on at MPI.
“We are hopeful of extending our working relationship with Outokumpu in the future, particularly if they look to gain Government funding from schemes like Innovate UK for further research and development projects.”
John Beeley, general manager for Outokumpu Stainless Long Products, added: “Under various company names, MPI and Outokumpu Stainless SMACC (Stainless Melting and Continuous Casting) have a working relationship going back to the days of the state-owned British Steel Corporation.
“Back then came exciting innovations in continuous casting which are now taken for granted such as Mould Thermal Monitoring and Strand Soft Reduction. Our relationship has recently been renewed with a contract for Andrew Smith of MPI to work one day per week in our Sheffield Melting Shop.
“This not only allows focused improvement projects to be progressed quickly but also fosters those vital coffee-time technical discussions with our own metallurgical team.
“It’s well known that these are a fertile ground for new ideas and even new products and technical solutions. Andrew is backed up by the comprehensive technical, modelling and pilot plant facilities available back at MPI’s Teesside base.”