Back in 1860, a group of dedicated metallurgists founded the Technical Association for Iron Metallurgy – which became the German Iron and Steel Institute (VDEh) in 1880 and was renamed Steel Institute VDEh in 2003.
The aim of the institute is to encourage technical and scientific cooperation between engineers with a view to advancing steel technology and promoting steel as a material. In the pursuit of this goal, Steel Institute VDEh relies on a research and experience sharing approach.
Today the institute has a membership of about 7,500 individuals with college or university degrees in engineering, science or business administration, or holding senior positions in industry and commerce.
The VDEh Institute for Applied Research (BFI)
BFI specializes in application-focused research in the field of steelmaking technology and ranks among the top international research generators for the steel industry in its core competency areas: measuring technology, process engineering and process automation.
Its activities cover the entire steelmaking process chain, from the raw materials to the final product. Practice-oriented solutions developed in this way directly benefit the steelmaking industry. They also constitute a unique BFI capability in that they create a bridge between basic research and real-life industry practice: at all times, existing processes are improved and innovative methods adapted to suit complex industrial application scenarios. The main focus is on delivering plant-wide operational efficiency optimization in terms of quality, as well as resource and energy efficiency.
The Steel Center is the central meeting place of the bodies of the steel industry in Germany © Photo: Stahl-Zentrum
From basic research to application-focused solutions
A total of 13 specialized departments – structured into the divisions Energy and Environmental Technology, Process Technology, and Automation Technology – handle each issue based on their respective competencies.
For instance, BFI develops energy management solutions that ensure continuous uptime of power supply networks and increased plant performance. Furthermore, BFI works on minimizing wear of refractory metals used in blast furnaces and steel mills, as well as on the relationship between flatness and material properties in the hot and cold rolling processes.
In turn, the VDEh division BFI Betriebstechnik GmbH (BT) is a provider of measuring technology solutions for the iron and steel industry. Its most successful product has been the measuring technology for the BFI shape meter roll, which BT markets to BFI licensees. BT has delivered almost 2,000 such systems to date.
Max Planck Institute for Iron Research develops smart metal alloys
The Max Planck Institute for Iron Research (MPIE) conducts its own state-of-the art materials research in order to improve the understanding of the complex physical processes and chemical reactions of metals, alloys and other materials. For example, Prof. Jörg Neugebauer and Prof. Dierk Raabe, directors at the MPIE, received about three million euros in 2012 from the European Research Council for their project “SmartMet.”
These funds are being used to finance the new “Adaptive Structural Materials” research group, which aims to develop new intelligent metal alloys suitable for lightweight automobile construction, for turbines and for biomedical applications, among other things.
Double-skinned exhaust manifold made of stainless steel emits very little heat to the environment © Photo: Stahl-Informations-Zentrum
Standardisation across markets
Availability of steel products with defined characteristics (e.g. chemical composition, mechanical attributes and measurements) is an important condition for smooth cross-border commerce. The Iron and Steel Standards Committee (FES) has been responsible for the standardization of steel products in Germany since 1947. It provides the platform for the members of the Steel Institute VDEh to represent their interests regarding iron and steel standardization on a national level (DIN), but in particular on a European (CEN / ECISS) and international level (ISO / IEC).
FOSTA – partner for project planning and financing of research on steel application
FOSTA – the Research Association for Steel Application e.V. – was founded in 1968 by German steelmaking companies as a non-profit registered association. FOSTA’s task is to support technical application research and development on a non-profit basis. It organizes research projects to improve the use and application of steel, maintain its competitiveness and open up new areas of application.
These research projects are initiated, financed and supported in collaboration with steel producers and processors, and carried out in networks consisting of industry and research facilities.
Information and Communications
Through its umbrella brand Stahleisen Communications, the Stahleisen Publishing House creates and markets informative publications covering the entire range of steel-related topics. It has become one of the leading global specialist publishers in the steel industry, offering not just a variety of trade magazines, books and CD-ROMs, but also a sector-specific seminar programme. A daily Internet news service with steel sector reports rounds out its product selection.
Online electronic products are increasingly gaining in importance in this area: the three specialist journals stahl und eisen, MPT and stahlmarkt aren’t just available in print, but also as iPad apps or e-papers. The Stahleisen Bookshop offers books and media covering trade-specific and management topics; English-language technical literature can be ordered via the publisher’s international service.
The production unit, SteelTV, produces high-quality films about the steelmaking industry – from trade fair reports to promotional films. Clients benefit from the industry expertise and the professional production standards of the video department, regardless of whether they produce films to be distributed via the Internet, DVDs or trade fair monitors.
Professional training and seminars for visitors from across Europe
Lastly, the Steel Academy is the professional education department of the Steel Institute VDEh and the leading provider of seminars in metallurgy and materials technology. Its programme consists of the topics raw materials, recycling, iron and steel production, materials technology and materials processing. Non-technical seminars cover business administration, management topics and intercultural training.
As a subsidiary of VDEh, the Steel Academy is part of a strong network: it has cooperative relationships with member plants, universities, including universities of applied sciences, institutes, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), as well as many associations. This collaborative approach ensures that speakers and lecturers are selected primarily from partner institutions. In order to achieve a higher level of practical relevance, theorists from academia and research are always supported by lecturers with operational production experience.
Regular plant visits are an integral part of the professional training programme, further reinforcing this proximity to practical application and actual production. In this way, the knowledge gained in the presentations comes to life when illustrated using select pieces of industrial equipment.
Comparative international studies show dramatically low rates of participation in advanced professional training opportunities in Germany. Small and medium-sized companies lag particularly far behind. That makes the challenges and tasks for the Steel Academy and VDEh very clear: (advanced professional) education policy is synonymous with regional economic policy nowadays, and the steel industry is no exception. And the VDEh Steel Academy will do its part to contribute in this regard.
Find more online information:
- Stahlinstitut VDEh
- The VDEh Institute for Applied Research (BFI)
- BFI Betriebstechnik GmbH
- Research Association for Steel Application e.V. (FOSTA)
The German Steel Federation, the economic association of the steel industry in Germany. It represents the interests of almost all manufacturing industries in Germany, steel companies and associated foreign member companies in politics, business and the public.