Ovako introduces new Hybrid Steel – opens up new design possibilities

Ovako is introducing its new Hybrid Steel family at Euromat 2017 this week. It is one of the most significant developments in steel metallurgy for decades, offering properties of tool steel, maraging steel and stainless steel combined with the production economy of engineering steel. Hybrid Steel opens up new possibilities to use steel components in very demanding applications.

Hybrid Steel offers exceptional performance, especially at elevated temperatures, and can be produced in high volume to meet customer demand at an attractive price. The properties of Hybrid Steel are made possible by an innovative hybrid combination of secondary hardening and precipitation hardening mechanisms. The new steel can also reduce the number of manufacturing steps required to produce a finished component.

The development of Hybrid Steel has been driven by Ovako’s ongoing program to help its customers meet the challenge of designing highly stressed components. These require high levels of mechanical and fatigue performance, especially at elevated temperatures. The normal solution is to use a highly alloyed secondary hardening steel that is strengthened by the precipitation of fine alloy carbides during the tempering process. However, these steels can be prone to ‘segregation’ with some alloying elements migrating to areas where they cause weakness. The need for careful control of segregation makes the steelmaking process, and especially the casting procedure, more complicated and often more expensive compared to normal steel making.

Recognizing the market demand for a high performance and cost-competitive engineering steel, Ovako’s research team embarked on a development program, as Patrik Ölund, Head of Ovako Group R&D, explains:

“We set ourselves the goal of developing a steel that would address the segregation issues while also being suitable for high volume production by the cost-effective electric arc furnace route. It became clear that the key to success was to adopt a hybrid approach in which the steel would utilize two different, but complementary hardening mechanisms – secondary hardening and intermetallic precipitation hardening. The result is the Hybrid Steel family that will develop over time to cover a range of grades for various applications.”

Ovako’s Hybrid Steel is relatively low in carbon and contains a number of carefully controlled alloying elements, most importantly chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, nickel and aluminum. These enable it to develop its full properties after tempering at elevated temperature (500- 600°C). The chromium and aluminum content also improves corrosion resistance very significantly.

Hybrid Steel offers superior mechanical and fatigue strength compared to conventional steels at ambient temperatures. However, it is at elevated temperatures that it really comes into its own, offering three times the yield and fatigue strength at temperatures up to 500°C.

The potential to reduce manufacturing steps

Hybrid Steel is special for much more than just its strength. Because the steel develops its hardness after tempering, production engineers now have new possibilities to machine a component in a softer condition and then harden it without any risk of distortion. This mean that a conventional process might be reduced to fewer stages for a very significant reduction in manufacturing cost and complexity.

An added advantage of Hybrid steel is that it is particularly suitable for nitriding, which can take place at the same temperature as its tempering temperature. The result is a thin nitrided surface layer that provides the strong, hard-wearing properties required by critical components such as in power transmission systems, while maintaining a high core hardness. This core hardness also means that Hybrid Steel is ideal for plasma nitriding, enabling it to challenge specialized tool steels.

Furthermore, while welding processes often result in a loss of steel properties, Hybrid Steel opens up the capability to create welded components in which a post-welding heat treatment will result in enhanced strength.

The development of Hybrid Steel has been carried out at Ovako’s production and R&D facilities in Hofors, Sweden with the support of Swerea KIMAB, the Stockholm-based materials research institute.

Leading the research was Jan-Erik Andersson, Ovako’s Senior Group Technical Specialist, who said:

“The many advantages of Hybrid Steel means that it will have a wide variety of highly stressed applications such as engine components, bearings, pivot pins, fuel injection components, mining tools and machining tools. And as the Hybrid Steel family develops these will only increase. For example, initial indications are that its improved corrosion resistance will enable it to substitute low-end stainless steels in some applications.

“Since the individual hardening concepts embodied in Hybrid Steel have been known for many years it might be hard to understand why this family of steel has not been developed previously. The answer is that it takes a high level of metallurgical expertise to execute successfully. That is where Ovako has a particular advantage since our business is founded on the manufacture of steel within very closely controlled parameters, such as our BQ- Steel/IQ-Steel clean steel brands. In fact, not only does Hybrid Steel offer special hardening properties, it is also the cleanest steel we have ever produced with a combined level of oxygen, sulphur and nitrogen of less than 20 parts per million (ppm).”

About Ovako 

Ovako develops high-tech steel solutions for, and in cooperation with, its customers in the bearing, transport and manufacturing industries. Our steel makes our customers’ end products more resilient and extends their useful life, ultimately resulting in smarter, more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly products.

Our production is based on recycled scrap and includes steel in the form of bar, tube, ring and components. Ovako is represented in more than 30 countries and has sales offices in Europe, North America and Asia. Ovako’s sales in 2016 amounted to EUR 781 million, and the company had 2,800 employees at year-end. For more information, please visit us at www.ovako.com.

Contact

Anna Dansk, Group Marketing Communications
Tel:+46 70 084 45 55