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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S005218/1
Title: Prosperity Partnership in Rapid Product Development
Principal Investigator: Lavery, Professor NP
Other Investigators:
Shollock, Professor B Worsley, Professor D Auinger, Dr M
Sackett, Dr E Penney, Professor D Davis, Professor C
Li, Professor Z Harrison, Dr W Cockings, Dr H L
Pleydell-Pearce, Professor C Sullivan, Professor JH
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Tata Steel Limited
Department: College of Engineering
Organisation: Swansea University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2018 Ends: 30 April 2024 Value (£): 2,531,458
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Jul 2018 Prosperity Partnerships Interview Panel Announced
14 Jun 2018 Prosperity Partnerships Prioritisation Panel 2 - June 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Steel is a vitally important structural material, critical for infrastructure, transport, communications networks, water, energy and waste utilities. Future advances in key manufacturing sectors rely on new, innovative steel products. A successful steel industry must be able to deliver such innovation quickly to (i) satisfy customer requirements and (ii) grow its business. The conventional steelmaking innovation cycle is slow and iterative, requiring expensive trials using hundreds of tonnes of material, representing significant financial risk and limiting opportunities to investigate radically different alloys with disruptive solutions. Imagination and creativity are therefore inhibited.

The proposed solution:

This Prosperity Partnership will implement a Rapid Alloy Prototyping (RAP) process, analogous to the high-throughput methodologies used in the pharmaceutical industry. Instead of using tens of industrial scale ingots (tonnes) per alloy, large numbers (hundreds) of small laboratory scale samples (grams) of different steel alloy combinations will be tested for properties, processability and characterised using state-of-the-art imaging. In addition computer modelling will be used to design new compositions and predict through process behaviour. The efficacy of the method will be demonstrated by comparison to existing production data for established benchmark steel grades.

The RAP process will provide a rapid screening and ranking methodology for promising new alloys leading to quicker promotion from lab-scale tests (grams) to progressive upscaling tests (tens of kilograms). Alloys performing in the upscaling tests can then be promoted to full scale manufacturing (tonnes) resulting in an order of magnitude speed-up in the innovation cycle for new steel products.

Industry involvement from Tata Steel in the Partnership is essential at all decision points to ensure (i) the processability of new alloys on existing plant equipment, (ii) new alloys satisfy commercial requirements and (iii) to maintain research focus on commercially relevant alloys which will boost UK Prosperity. However, while this industrial 'reality check' is vital it does not preclude the investigation of more adventurous unorthodox alloys normally not considered. Indeed, the proposed RAP approach will widen the scope for discovery of new alloys at little or no risk to Tata Steel.

Currently 20% of primary steel comes from scrap steel which introduces impurity elements into the final product (e.g. Sn and Cu). The global trend of increasing scrap-use means there is an urgent need to prepare the UK and identify future opportunities. It is impossible for Tata Steel to carry out conventional plant trials to investigate the influence of increasing impurity elements from scrap-use, as thousands of tonnes of unsellable material would need to be cast at a high cost and possibly damage valuable assets. The RAP process will allow a comprehensive assessment of increased impurity effects on processing and properties of current and new steel products by simulating increased scrap use, as well as developing the fundamental understanding on these effects.

Benefit to the UK Economy

The ability to manufacture steel remains essential for a modern industrial economy. Tata Steel directly employs 8000 people in the UK and makes around 15,000 different steel products. In 2017 Tata sold directly to 200 customers in the UK and indirectly to over 1000 through stockists. The UK manufacturing sector employs 2.6M people and will benefit from provision of new steel grades with enhanced and tailored properties. This Prosperity Partnership is aligned to the clean growth agenda of the Industrial Strategy and the EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes, contributing to a Productive Nation. The increased ability of Tata Steel to react to global socio-economic conditions with new and innovative steel products arising from the proposed RAP process is aligned with the Resilient Nation outcome
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.swan.ac.uk