Ascometal is celebrating 25 years of existence of its CREAS research and development center (Centre de REcherche et de développement AScometal). This SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Business Unit institute enjoys an excellent reputation internationally since it assists clients in the Automotive, Bearing, Mechanical Engineering and Oil and Gas industries in developing new needs-based steel solutions.
The CREAS process engineers ultimately also help optimize steel works processes to enhance tool reliability and product quality. The success story is set to continue with the goal to welcome and train young engineers for future positions and new developments for Steel Industry 4.0.
Ascometal set up its own CREAS research institute in Hagondange (near Metz), eastern France 25 years ago. The ultimate goal was to create an institute to develop new solutions for steel grades and stand out from the competition. In 1999, the company decided to relocate the team and construct a new research center on the steelworks’ premises in Hagondange, where 5,000 m² of laboratories and test facilities were built.
Ascometal has consistently invested in the CREAS ever since. Today, the research and development center team comprises 30 engineers and technicians working in three areas of expertise – metallurgy, performance characteristics and machinability, and process engineering and enhancement. They work closely together with Sales and Production at Ascometal.
Well known in the engineering steel market
Considering the various successes since the beginning, Gilles Auclair, R&D Director at Ascometal summarizes: “During these 25 years of existence, families of products for special applications were designed, developed and successfully used by a sizeable number of significant customers of Ascometal. One of these success stories is a grade designed for con-rod application, called SPLITASCO®HC, a splitable special steel with high mechanical and endurance characteristics and improved machinability. A substantial volume of conrods has been designed and forged during the last 15 years all around the world using this steel grade.”
CREAS and Ascometal were also pioneers in the proposition, manufacture and distribution of bainitic steel for forged application, e.g. crankshaft, steering rack and injection rail, with the METASCO® family. The portfolio of specialties also includes the JOMASCO® family for gear and shaft components, ENDURASCO® for bearing application, VITAC® for steel easy to machine and ASCOWELL® family for Oil and Gas for drilling and Christmas tree applications.
Understanding clients’ challenges and offering solutions
The research center has modern equipment at its disposal to develop new steels (e.g. a vacuum induction melting (VIM) furnace with a capacity of 20 kg), analyze microstructures (e.g. with a scanning electron microscope including EDS and EBSD analysis system), identify mechanical and fatigue properties, test forged components, and much more. The researchers also use a special software to simulate different steps in the individual process sequences.
Gilles Auclair explains: “Optimizing our product quality is the utmost priority. This primarily involves developing new steel types together with our clients. The process engineering team also works with clients and their own plant on a daily basis to assist them with thermodynamics, sampling from molten steel, heat treatment analysis, special measurement technology for process analysis, and improvements to production or metal forming simulation.”
All these measures help enhance quality in steels and optimize process sequences on a continuous basis. One important task is to understand clients’ challenges more clearly and offer suitable solutions.
Research platform for all companies in the group
Collaboration with other SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group business units is also organized effectively. The different research teams from the six business units – Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, Finkl Steel, Steeltec, Swiss Steel, Ugitech, and Ascometal – meet a least three times a year to discuss universally pioneering projects.
For the near future CREAS should become a "talent nursery". Ascometal is planning to welcome young engineers within CREAS for specific positions, thus also training them before they join the Quality departments, the Development process departments or the technical assistant team of the business unit or perhaps on a longer term find positions within the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group.
“Near-future challenges will also primarily focus on the improvement of predictive quality in production. As it is already done on production heat treatment tools for example. It is crucial to emphasize this quality prediction philosophy with dedicated tools to manufacture materials with the right properties. In a nutshell: the development of Steel Industry 4.0” concludes Gilles Auclair.
Ascometal as a company of the SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group is one of the leading European producers of specialty engineering steel.
Ascometal steel is primarily used in the automotive industry, in bearings, in the oil, gas and mining segment as well as in manufacturing.
As a supplier to well-known car and truck manufacturers, Ascometal cooperates closely with stakeholders in the chain of production to meet the varying requirements of the automotive industry.
The company has several locations in France, including steel mills and processing plants.
The SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH Group is one of the world's leading providers of individual solutions in the special long steel products sector. The Group is one of the leading manufacturers of tool steel and non-corrosive long steel on the global market and one of the two largest companies in Europe for alloyed and high-alloyed quality and engineering steels.
With more than 10.000 employees and its own production and distribution companies in more than 30 countries on 5 continents, the company guarantees global support and supply for its customers and offers them a complete portfolio of production and sales & services around the world.
Customers benefit from the company's technological expertise, consistently high product quality around the world as well as detailed knowledge of local markets.