Big wheels keep on turning - thanks to Tata Steel
Understanding customers' needs has led to Tata Steel developing and launching a new grade of steel designed to improve the manufacture of tractor wheels and other large off-road vehicles.
Using lessons learned from the development of safety-critical steel for the rail and oil industries, Tata Steel was able to apply a similar solution to the steel needed for wheel rim manufacturers.
The new steel grade, called DD13WR, allows manufacturers to form, flash weld and cold roll the steel with less chance of splitting and rim failure.
Phil Clements, Sales Director of the Lifting and Excavating sector for Tata Steel said: "By working closely with customers we have been able to establish how we can help improve their products and reduce their manufacturing costs.
"This new steel grade is another example of how these relationships enable us to develop products which our customers need."
Typically, the wheel rim manufacturing process includes a number of steps which puts high stresses on the steel during production. The failure of welds and splitting result in an increased need for manual inspection and either significant reworking to remove the defect or scrapping of the whole wheel.
Scientists at Tata Steel realised defects seen during tractor wheel manufacture were similar to those seen by the company in both rail flash-butt welds and tube HFI (High Frequency Induction) fusion welding. Tata Steel was able to use its experience and expertise in these other product areas and apply what it had learnt.
Samples of weld failures were received from numerous tractor wheel manufacturing sites across Europe and analysed at Tata Steel's R&D centre in the UK. The solution was to create a new grade which features a cleaner, more tightly controlled chemistry. The focus of the product development was on improving welding performance through optimising the chemistry, including reducing the sulphur levels to improve the formability after welding, significantly reducing splitting failures and rejections.
The new steel grade has now been proven through a series of customer production-line trials conducted on numerous different lines which have had positive results.
The new grade will be made at Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant in South Wales and supplied in either coil form or processed plate via Tata Steel's distribution facilities in the UK and mainland Europe.