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STEEL CONSTRUCTION: APPLIED METALLURGY

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STEEL CONSTRUCTION:
APPLIED METALLURGY

Lecture 2.2: Manufacturing and Forming


Processes
OBJECTIVE/SCOPE
Presentation of the most recent steelmaking and rolling technologies.
RELATED LECTURES
Lecture 2.1: Characteristics of Iron-Carbon Alloys
Lecture 2.3.1: Introduction to Engineering Properties of Steels
Lecture 2.3.2: Advanced Engineering Properties of Steels
Lecture 2.5: Selection of Steel Quality
Lecture 2.6: Weldability of Structural Steels
SUMMARY
The blast furnace process, the oxygen steelmaking process and the electric arc furnace
process are described. Ladle steelmaking and casting technologies are also introduced.
Finally, the different rolling processes and rolling conditions are presented, as well as the
usual heat treatments.

1. STEELMAKING TECHNOLOGY
1.1 Introduction
Steelmaking technology has greatly changed during the last two decades under the
pressure of increased demand, new specifications and the need to reduce energy and
material consumption. Production efficiency has been improved by increasing the melt
capacity of furnaces, implementing on-line computer control modules, and introducing
new technologies, such as the combined blowing process for LD (Linz Donawitz)
converters, the Ultra High Power (UHP) electric furnace, the ladle steelmaking processes
and continuous casting.

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Steel is produced by two process routes (Figure 1):

The Blast Furnace-Basic Oxygen Converter (BOF)


The Electrical Arc Furnace (EAF)

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In both routes the process consists of producing refined iron to which is added the required
alloying elements to produce the finished steel specification.
Their respective shares in crude steel production are 70% (BOF) and 30% (EAF). High
production rates and low impurity steel production give a dominant role to the first process
route. Low energy costs and an ample supply of recycled scrap ensure a competitive
market share for the second process route, especially when using the UHP furnace.
Before casting, the steel can be refined in the ladle by various processes according to the
specification with respect to its deoxidation state, inclusion content and level of
phosphorus, sulphur, nitrogen and hydrogen. At the same time, its content of carbon,
manganese and microalloying elements such as niobium, vanadium and titanium can be
adjusted. This process step is generally referred to as Secondary or Ladle steelmaking.
During the last step of steelmaking, the steel is cast either into slabs, blooms or billets on a
continuous casting machine or into ingots, depending on the final product. Flat products
and light shapes are normally produced from continuous cast feedstock; whereas heavy
beams and plates are more likely to follow the ingot route.

1.2 Steel Production


1.2.1 The blast-furnace-basic oxygen converter route
Sintered iron ores are reduced to raw iron in the blast-furnace. The raw iron is then
transformed into crude steel in the oxygen converter. As this operation yields energy,
additional scrap is introduced in order to control temperature.
Sinter plant
The iron feedstock of the blast furnace is the sinter, which is produced in the sinter plant.
In the sinter process, a mix of iron ore fines, lime and coke (almost pure carbon) is
charged in a 45 cm thick layer onto a moving conveyor (Dwight Lloyd process) and
partially melted to form a porous mixture of iron oxides and gangue. Coke consumption is
about 50 kg/t sinter product.
Blast furnace process (Figure 2)
The blast-furnace is a shaft type furnace operating by the counterflow technique: the
descending burden of sinter and coke, charged from the top of the furnace, is heated and
reduced by the combustion gases ascending from the tuyere zone where a hot air blast is
injected to burn C to CO. The air blast is compressed by a blower and heated in special
stoves to 1100C by combustion of the cleaned furnace exhaust gases.
The iron oxides (FeO, Fe2O3) and some of the elements present in the gangue of the sinter
are reduced by CO gases to produce hot metal.

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The blast furnace flue dust containing about 40% Fe is recycled by the sinter process.
The high permeability of the sinter and the even distribution of the charge produced by
revolving chutes help to improve productivity of the blast furnace. Coke consumption can
be reduced to 470 kg/t of hot metal. The use of tuyere injectant such as powdered fuel
(120 kg/t) or oil (60 kg/t) further reduces the coke consumption of the furnace and so the
cost.
Below the tuyere zone, where the temperature is highest, the molten material collects on
the furnace hearth where the liquid iron (pig iron) separates from the slag by difference in
density. The slag and liquid pig iron are tapped from separate tapholes. The tapped slag is
granulated by water jets and removed for use in other products including road construction
materials, fertilizers, etc. The liquid pig iron (hot metal) is tapped into ladles or torpedo
cars (capacity: 300 - 400 t) and conveyed to the steel plant for refinement and conversion
into steel.
A typical analysis of the hot metal produced at a temperature of 1400C is:
4,7% carbon (C); 0,5% manganese (Mn); 0,4% silicon (Si); 0,1% phosphorus (P) and 0,04
% sulphur (S), the remainder being iron (Fe).

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Sulphur removal from the melt needs low oxygen activities. Desulphurization is therefore
achieved in the hot metal by injection of calcium carbide fluxes to form calcium sulphide
(CaS) or fluxes containing metallic magnesium to form MgS and CaS.
The oxygen steelmaking process (Figure 3)

The basic oxygen furnace or LD converter (originating from the Linz-Donawitz process
started in 1956) is based on oxygen injection by a lance into the melt of hot metal. Scrap
and lime are charged into the converter to cool the melt and remove phosphorus, silicon
and manganese.
The converter is lined with dolomite or magnesite refractory which best resists erosion by
slag and heat during oxygen blowing. The life of a converter lining is about 800 to 1400
heats.
The oxygen burns out the carbon as carbon monoxide CO and carbon dioxide CO2 gas
which is collected in the chimney stack and cleaned of its dust (Fe203, and lime particles,
etc.). The elements Mn, Si and P are oxidized and combine with lime (CaO) and FeO
formed by the oxidation of Fe to form a molten slag.

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As these oxidation reactions are highly exothermic, the process needs cooling in order to
control the temperature of the melt. This cooling is done by charging scrap (recycled plant
and mill scrap) and by adding iron ore during the blowing process.
The oxygen blowing takes 15 to 20 minutes, regardless of the size of the converter (70 to
400 t) because the oxygen flow rate of the lance is adjusted to the melt weight. The
charging and discharging of steel and slag, including sampling for temperature and
analysis of the melt, extends the tap to tap time of a converter to 40 - 60 minutes. The
process is characterized by high productivity and steel of low impurity content.
The steel is tapped to the ladle through a taphole by tilting the furnace. During this
operation ferro-alloys for control of the steel composition are added to the ladle. The
oxidized slag containing 12 to 16% of Fe is poured into a cast iron slag pot after the
tapping and is disposed of in a slag yard.
A major development in the oxygen lance blowing technique, known as Lance Bubbling
Equilibrium (LBE) was developed in the mid-seventies and has been widely adopted.
Neutral gas, typically argon, is injected through permeable elements in the bottom of the
converter, stirring the melt and slag. This significantly increases metallurgical efficiency
(lower Fe losses and lower P content), productivity, and the heat and mass-balance of the
process (cost reduction).
1.2.2 The electric arc furnace route (Figure 4)

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Technology
In the electric arc furnace process, the cold metallic charge, mainly scrap, is melted by the
energy of electric arcs generated between the tips of graphite electrodes and the
conductive metallic charge.
The three electrodes and the furnace roof are raised and swung away from the furnace
shell to allow the charging of scrap. The electrodes maintain the arc in accordance with the
voltage and current level selected to produce the desired power input at the desired arc
length for melting and refining. As the noise generated by the arcs is high during the meltin-period, with levels up to 120 dBA, special protection is provided to the operators cabin
and the furnace has a special enclosure.
The three phase alternating current is supplied by the low voltage side (300 - 700V) of a
high power transformer. The nominal transformer rating, expressed as KVA/t, extends
from 300 to 500 KVA/t for high power furnaces and from 500 KVA/t upwards for Ultra
High Power (UHP) furnaces. These furnaces have an inner diameter of 6 to 9 metres with
a capacity of 100 to 200 tons of steel. The tap-to-tap time for these furnaces is 90 to 110
minutes.
The traditional role of the EAF process is producing alloy, tool and carbon steels, and it
has been extended by the UHP furnace to mass steel production. Thus, the concept of the
Mini-Mill was born. As the size and productivity of the furnace increased, the operation of
continuous casting for billet and bloom production became possible. Flat products
specification, however, require low residual impurity levels and even higher production
rates which cannot be satisfied by the UHP-furnace.
The share of steel production produced by electric arc furnace is about 30%, at which level
it seems to be stabilized as scrap of acceptable quality becomes more scarce. Pellets and
sponge iron of higher price have to be used for critical steel grades to control the level of
injurious elements, i.e. copper, nickel, tin, etc..
Metallurgy
The traditional high power furnace produces high quality carbon and alloy steels by the
two slag technique. After melt down of the scrap charge, a first oxidizing slag removes the
elements P and Si and reduces carbon to the required level. After deslagging, a second
basic reducing slag is formed to lower the sulphur and oxygen contents and the steel
composition is adjusted by ferro alloy additions.
The UHP furnace operates with only a lime based oxidizing slag. The melt down of the
scrap charge is accelerated by the use of oxy-fuel burners positioned to reach the cold
spots of the large hearth furnace. Oxygen lancing and carbon additions are used to make a
foaming slag which yields better energy input from the arcs and improves
dephosphorization. After this period, the melt is discharged by a taphole. Deoxidation and
refining under reducing slag takes place in the steel ladle (secondary steelmaking). The
100% scrap charge makes the process more vulnerable to injurious "tramp elements", such
as copper, nickel and tin which cannot be removed by the process, their stability being
higher than that of iron. To control these "tramp elements", it is of great importance to

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identify the sources of the incoming scrap and to make provision to keep the different
qualities separate.

1.3 Secondary or Ladle Steelmaking


1.3.1 General Aspects
Achieving the required properties of steel often requires a high degree of control over
carbon, phosphorus, sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen contents. Individually or in
combination, these elements mainly determine material properties such as formability,
strength, toughness, weldability, and corrosion behaviour.
There are limits to the metallurgical treatments that can be given to molten metal in high
performance melting units, such as converters or electric arc furnaces. The nitrogen and
phosphorus content can be reduced to low levels in the converter but very low carbon,
sulphur, oxygen and hydrogen contents (< 2 ppm) can only be obtained by subsequent
ladle treatment. To ensure appropriate conditioning of steel before the casting process, the
alloying of steel to target analysis and special refining treatments are carried out at the
ladle metallurgy stand.
The objectives of ladle steelmaking can be summarized as follows:

refining and deoxidation


removal of deoxidation products (Mn0, SiO2, Al2O3)
desulphurization to very low levels (< 0,008%)
homogenisation of steel composition
temperature adjustment for casting, if necessary by reheating (ladle furnace)
hydrogen removal to very low levels by vacuum treatment.

1.3.2 Ladle Steelmaking Process: Deoxidation and Refining (Figure 5)


The high oxygen content of the converter steel would result in large blow-hole formation
during solidification. Removal of the excess oxygen ("killing") is therefore vital before
subsequent casting of the steel. Steels treated in this way are described as killed steels. All
secondary steelmaking processes allow deoxidising agents to be added to the ladle so that
deoxidation in the converter vessel is not necessary.
Deoxidation can be performed by the following elements classified by increasing
deoxidation capacity; carbon - manganese - silicon - aluminium - titanium. The most
popular are silicon and aluminium.
After addition, time must be allowed for the reaction to occur and for homogeneity to be
achieved before determination of the final oxygen content using EMF probes (electrochemical probe for soluble oxygen content).

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As most of these deoxidation agents form insoluble oxides, which would result in
detrimental inclusions in the solid steel, they have to be removed by one of the following
processes during the subsequent refining stage:
1. Argon stirring and/or injection of reactants (CaSi, and/or lime based fluxes)
achieves:
homogeneous steel composition and temperature
removal of deoxidation products
desulphurization of aluminium-killed steel grades
sulphide inclusion shape control.
2. Ladle furnace
Stirring of the melt by argon or by an inductive stirring equipment and arc heating
of the melt (low electric power, typical 200 KVA/t) allows:

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long treatment times
high ferro-alloy additions
high degree of removal of deoxidation products due to long treatment under
optimized conditions
homogeneous steel composition and temperature
desulphurization, if vigorous stirring by argon.
3. Vacuum-Treatment: RH process (Ruhrstahl-Heraeus) and tank degassing unit.
In the RH process the steel is sucked from the ladle by gas injection into one leg of the
vacuum chamber and the treated steel flows back to the ladle through the second leg. In
the tank degasser process, the steel ladle is placed in a vacuum tank and the steel melt is
vigorously stirred by argon injected through porous plugs in the bottom of the ladle.
Vacuum treatment achieves:
reduction of the hydrogen content to less than 2 ppm
considerable decarburization of steel to less than 30 ppm when oxygen is blown by a
lance (RH - OB)
alloying under vacuum
homogeneous steel composition, high degree of cleanness from deoxidation products
High temperature losses (50 - 100C) are a disadvantage, therefore high superheat of the
melt prior to this process is essential.
For most secondary steelmaking techniques it is either desirable or essential to stir the
liquid steel. Gentle stirring is sufficient for inclusion removal; non-metallic inclusions are
brought into contact with liquid slag on top of the melt where they can be fixed. For
degassing and desulphurization however, violent stirring is necessary to increase the
surface of steel exposed to vacuum (H-removal) or to mix the steel and slag for good
desulphurization efficiency.

1.4 Casting and Solidification


1.4.1 General Aspects
For solidification, steel is cast into moulds either of cast iron for the ingot casting route or
into copper moulds for the continuous casting process.
The heat of liquid steel is extracted by the cold mould surface so that crystals can form
and grow. A solid shell is formed and solidification progresses by maintaining the cooling.

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During solidification, the density of metals rises and causes shrinkage. This favours the
stripping of the cast from the mould. However, this contraction also causes internal
shrinkage which tends to leave a hollow core in the cast product. In continuous casting this
is prevented by the continuous flow of molten metal to the mould. For ingot casting an
adequate liquid metal pool has to be maintained at the head of the mould by the provision
of exothermic material (hot-top).
A second concern during the solidification process is segregation due to the fact that some
solute elements have a much lower solubility in the solid than in the liquid phase. The
segregation tendency is most pronounced for sulphur, phosphorus, oxygen and hydrogen.
As has been described, these elements can be controlled to sufficiently low levels by the
metallurgical process steps. The manganese content of steel also combines with sulphur to
form manganese sulphide inclusions which are elongated during rolling and become
detrimental to steel properties if significant stresses are applied perpendicular to the rolling
direction. For such applications, shape and content of the sulphide inclusions have to be
controlled closely during the refining stage.
1.4.2 Casting Technologies
1.4.2.1 Ingot casting (Figure 6)

The casting of ingots is a discontinuous process in which the ingot moulds are filled
individually by top pouring or in batches by a central feeder through runners in the base
plate. This up-hill teeming technique is characterized by a low rising speed of the steel in
the mould, which reduces cracks and surface defects when casting critical steel grades.
The teeming operation is done directly from the steel ladle through a sliding gate valve at
the bottom that regulates the steel flow, and a nozzle that gives a concentric steel jet.

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The ingot weights and sections are fixed by the capacity of the primary rolling mill. The
ingot size may vary from 4 to 30 t, or even higher for forging.
The ingot remains in the mould until solidification is complete. Then the mould is stripped
off by crane and left to cool in the mould yard. The ingot is charged into the soaking pit
furnace to equalize and raise the temperature for the rolling process ( 1300C).
The solidification of an ingot progresses from the bottom (cooled by the base plate and the
mould) to the top of the ingot.
In the case of a fully killed (Si + Al) steel melt, with a low free oxygen content, the
solidification shrinkage is concentrated at the upper centre of the ingot. To minimise the
development of shrinkage porosity in this region, the top of the ingot is insulated (hot top)
to provide a reservoir of liquid metal to fill up the hollow core. The hot top is subsequently
cropped. This scrap amounts to approximately 12% of the ingot weight.
By deoxidation with silicon alone, the free oxygen content of the melt can be set to a well
defined level so that towards the end of solidification it will react with the carbon of the
melt to form CO gas. The formation of these small gas bubbles, or blow holes,
compensates for the shrinkage of steel and top crop losses are small ( 2%). The blowholes are eliminated during primary rolling. Such steels are referred to as 'balanced' steels.
Ingot casting is very flexible as regards product specifications and the production of small
orders on relatively short delivery terms. It is also indispensable for the forming of heavy
shaped profiles like beams, heavy plate or heavy forging pieces.
1.4.2.2 Continuous casting (Figure 7)

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The continuous casting process has become the major casting technology for steel plants.
The reasons are:

yield improvement
energy conservation (direct production of semi-finished products)
savings in manpower.

The ratio of continuous cast steel has reached 80 - 90% of total raw steel production in the
Western World. The advent and rapid growth of mini-mills could not have occurred
without continuous billet casting technology.
The essential feature of the continuous casting process is the oscillating water-cooled
copper mould. The main function of this mould is to form a solidified steel shell having
sufficient strength to prevent breakouts below the mould. This is achieved by the high heat
extraction in the mould system. The mould walls are tapered to accommodate the strand
shrinkage over the mould length of 700 mm and to maintain a high heat flux.
The oscillation creates a relative movement between strand and mould, and prevents metal
sticking to the mould surface. Stripping is facilitated by providing an adequate lubricant
(casting powders or oil) at the steel meniscus. This lubricant is also essential to maintain a
high heat extraction and prevent breakouts.
On leaving the mould, the strand is cooled by water sprays and is supported by rolls to
prevent bulging until solidification is complete. Strand sections cover the range of semifinished products, such as billets, blooms or slabs, for the hot finishing mills. Depending
on the section to be cast, a continuous caster is laid out with two (slab), four (bloom or
round caster) or six strands (for billets below 180 mm2 in size).
Modern casters are curved type machines which are cheaper and easier to accommodate in
the plant than the original vertical machines. The curved strand is straightened by rollers
after complete solidification and cut to the required length for further processing in the
rolling mills.
Continuous casting technology makes the process continuous so that a number of molten
steel batches are cast in sequence. To achieve a continuous supply of steel to the mould,
the steel in the ladle is first cast into a tundish which acts as a reservoir during ladle
changing and distributes the steel to the different moulds of the machine. Tundishes are
equipped with stoppers or sliding gates to regulate the flow rate to the casting speed of the
strand. To prevent oxidation by air exposure, the ladle and tundish streams are shrouded
by refactory tubes.

2. FORMING TECHNOLOGY AND HEAT


TREATMENTS
2.1 Introduction
There are various methods of forming steel into finished products, including hot forging,
hot and cold rolling, seamless tube making and welded tube making. The most widely
used process is hot rolling, which accounts for over 90% of all steel production.

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2.2 Hot Rolling


2.2.1 Description of the Rolling Operation
Hot rolling involves reheating of ingots, slabs, blooms or billets to the region of 1200 1300C and passing the material between two rolls (Figure 8). The piece of steel may be
passed repeatedly back and forth through the same rolls with the roll gap being reduced
progressively.

This operation is done in the hot state because the yield strength of steel decreases as
temperature rises. Large deformations can thus be obtained with modest roll forces. It is
necessary to control both the total reduction, which defines the degree to which the steel is
worked, and the reduction in each pass in order to avoid excessive deformation leading to
metal cracking or breakage.
The number of passes depends upon the input material and the size of the finished
product; it can be as high as 70 before the material becomes too cold to roll down further.
Plain barrel rolls are used for flat products such as plate, strip and sheet, while grooved
rolls are used for structural sections, rails, rounds, squares, beams, sheet piles, etc.
The basic rolling unit is called a stand and consists of the rolls and a support structure
(housing). The rolling mill comprises the stand or group of stands, complete with auxiliary

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facilities for control and regulation, such as roll drive motors, roller tables for entering and
removing the metal, shears, scarfers, etc.
The simplest type of mill consists of a two-high stand. Generally, the two rolls can turn in
both directions, which permits reversible operation such that the hot metal is passed
repeatedly through the mill in opposite directions achieving progressive reduction in
thickness.
When large reductions are required, four-high stands are used to achieve the required high
roll forces. The cylindrical work rolls, through which the hot metal passes, are of
relatively small diameter and are supported above and below by a second set of larger
diameter backing rolls that transmit the force to the work rolls. A four-high stand may also
be reversible.
The reduction in thickness of the hot material results in both length increase and sideways
spread. The spreading, which depends mainly upon the amount of reduction, temperature,
and roll diameter, must be controlled to give the correct dimensions and cross-section.
Universal Mills have a set of vertical rolls at the delivery side of the horizontal rolls. In
parallel face beam mills, they serve to provide a good dimensional finish to the final
product and, in flat product mills, to edge the plates, improving finish and mechanical
characteristics.
In addition to its function of shaping the steel into the required size, hot rolling improves
the mechanical properties. Correct control of the cast steel chemical composition, final
rolling temperature and amount of material reduction is necessary to give products the
required physical properties. For certain steel qualities (e.g. high strength with good
impact properties at low temperatures) "controlled rolling" or the QST process of
quenching and self-tempering of the material during rolling is employed. This process
involves either delaying or cooling until a specified lower temperature is reached before
the final passes through the mill.
The main product routes for structural steel grades are summarized in Figure 9.

2.2.2 Primary Rolling


The first hot-rolling operation is to convert ingots into the basic shapes shown in Figure
10. This is generally carried out on a large single-stand, two-high reversing mill, known as
a primary or roughing mill. In between the steelmaking plant and the primary mill there is
a bay for stripping moulds from the ingots and a battery of soaking pits. Each pit may hold
up to 150 tons of ingots and serves to bring the ingots up to a uniform temperature for
rolling and to act as a reservoir to accommodate fluctuations in the flow of ingots. Normal
practice is to charge ingots into the soaking pits immediately after stripping from the
moulds whilst they are still hot. Soaking pit temperatures are generally controlled at
1300C.

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Primary mills are equipped with manipulators for positioning and turning the ingots to
enable work to be done on each face as rolling proceeds. Roll grooves (Figure 11) are
arranged to enable a variety of basic shapes to be made. Leaving the primary mill, the ends
of the bar must be removed (cropping), as they have an irregular shape and this zone
concentrates segregation, piping and other defects. The amount to be cropped varies
depending on the type of steel (rimmed, killed, etc), the type of casting (direct, bottom
casting, hot topping, etc.) and above all on the quality of the finished product.

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The bar or beam blank, after cropping, is fed in some cases is directly for rolling into
another mill to produce billets or finished sections such as rails or structural sections.
More usually the bar is sheared to a set length and passed into stock to be inspected and
conditioned, prior to reheating and rolling into finished products at other mills.
Primary mill outputs typically range from 500.000 tonnes to 5 million tonnes per year.
2.2.3 Finish Rolling
The finish rolling of products for construction work divides broadly into four groups:
plates, structural sections, merchant bar and strip. Structural sections comprise standard
shapes, e.g. beams, channels, angles, bulb flats, and special sections. As a general rule,
large sections are rolled directly from ingots, intermediate-size ones from reheated
blooms, and small sections from reheated billets. In all cases the process begins with
roughing down, in which the initial square or rectangular cross-section is gradually shaped
in successive roll passes into an outline of the required product. This process is followed
by finish rolling in successive passes to give the final standard shape and dimensions after
cooling. Finishing mill rolling temperatures are usually in the region of 900 - 1000C. An
example of the pass sequence for angle rolling is given in Figure 12. The rather more
specialized method for universal beams and columns is shown in Figure 13. Subject to
mill size and type, section mill outputs are typically from 200.000 to 1 million tons per
year.

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Merchant bar is a traditional term for small cross-sections such as rounds, squares,
hexagons, flats, etc. which are rolled from reheated billets from continuous in-line mills
with as many as 23 rolling stands. Feedstock is generally 100 mm square billet and pass
sequences are of a square, diamond, or oval type, culminating at the last mill stand with
the finished cross-section.
The production of hot-rolled strip is, in many aspects, an extension of plate rolling, with
thicknesses in the range of 2-16 mm and widths up to 2 m. Modern mills are fully
instrumented and computer-controlled to give a high standard of dimensional accuracy
and finished properties.

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2.2.4 Hot Rolling Processes
These processes can be divided into two basic groups, traditional hot rolling and
controlled rolling. In traditional hot rolling, the object is to produce the required shape
with the minimum number of roll passes. In controlled rolling, the objective is to increase
the strength and toughness of the steel by careful control of temperature and deformation
during rolling.
Hot rolling
In traditional hot rolling, temperatures are kept to a maximum so as to reduce the hot
strength of the steel and allow large reductions in each roll pass. Because of the high
temperature, rapid recrystallization and grain growth occurs between consecutive passes
and consequently no grain refinement is achieved. Today, this process is only used for
primary reduction and for low-quality steels where there are no specific requirements for
strength and resistance against brittle fracture.
Controlled rolling
In the 1960's and 1970's, new application fields, such as nuclear power stations and
offshore platforms, demanded structural steel components having improved properties and
higher reliability than had been previously available. For North Sea offshore structures,
erected in hostile environments including deep waters, severe storms and low service
temperatures, not only was strength important, but so was resistance to brittle fracture.
Attention was also focused on fabrication properties; easy weldability of steel components
under difficult conditions had to be guaranteed. At that time, it became clear that the
traditional hot rolling process was unlikely to achieve these requirements and so new
production technologies, such as controlled rolling, appeared.
Controlled rolling is a generic term for rolling procedures in which the temperature and
deformation during rolling are controlled to achieve desired material properties.
Controlled rolling includes:

Normalizing rolling (N).


Thermomechanical controlled rolling (TMCR). This procedure includes the
following processes which employ increased cooling rates, with or without
tempering:

Accelerated cooling
Quenching and Self-Tempering
Normalizing Rolling
Normalizing rolling is a thermomechanical treatment during which the final deformation
is carried out in the normalizing temperature range (950C). The austenite phase
completely recrystallises between passes but, because of the reduced temperature, does not

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experience grain growth. Consequently, after the final pass, air cooling produces a
material condition equivalent to that obtained after normalizing. The abbreviated
designation of this delivery condition is N.
Normalizing rolling can be performed on nearly all mills because the final rolling takes
place at relatively high temperatures ( 950C) such that the power and load capacity of
the rolling mill is not exceeded.
Thermomechanical Controlled Rolling
Thermomechanical Controlled Rolling (TMCR) is a thermomechanical treatment in which
the final deformation is carried out in a temperature range where austenite does not
recrystallise significantly. On subsequent cooling, the deformed austenite grain structure
leads to a final fine grain ferrite-pearlite microstructure. Usually, the final forming takes
place at temperatures just above that at which austenite begins to transform into ferrite.
Thermomechanical controlled rolling leads to a material condition which cannot be
achieved by heat treatment alone. The resulting grain refined steel shows very desirable
toughness properties down to low temperatures for a medium range of product thicknesses
and yield strengths.
For several years there has been an increased demand for rolled steel products with yield
strengths up to 500 N/mm2 and in large thicknesses, combined with improved fabrication
properties. As TMCR cannot be exploited any further because the mechanical power of
the rolling mills is limited, new production technologies have had to be introduced.
Accelerated Cooling
Accelerated (water) cooling is performed after the final deformation in order to improve
mechanical properties by refining the microstructure. This process has a positive influence
on strength as well as on toughness properties and allows the alloy content to be lowered
compared to TMCR alone. The microstructure of accelerated cooled steels consists mainly
of fine-grained ferrite + pearlite and ferrite + bainite, showing low ductile to brittle
transition temperatures, i.e. good toughness.
Quenching and Self-tempering
In the Quenching and Self-Tempering (QST) process, intense waterspray cooling is
applied to the surface of the product after the last rolling pass, so that the skin is quenched.
Cooling is interrupted before the core is affected by quenching and the outer layers are
then tempered by the heat flow from the core to the surface during a temperature
equalization phase. The QST process has resulted in the creation of a new generation of
steel products with high yield strengths up to 500 N/mm2 and excellent low temperature
toughness properties, which are weldable without preheating. Such steels offer important
advantages in terms of weight savings and fabrication costs compared to conventionally
produced grades.

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Influence of rolling conditions on mechanical properties of the steel
The dominant mechanical properties of steel are tensile properties, i.e. yield strength,
tensile strength and elongation, and toughness or resistance against brittle fracture. Both
properties can be influenced to a large degree by the applied rolling conditions which
determine the final grain size and structure (ferrite/pearlite or tempered
martensite/bainite).
The main parameters which influence the microstructure and properties are as follows:

the finish rolling temperature, combined with the deformation rate per pass,
influences the grain size of the finished product: fine grain results if this
temperature is situated in the non-recrystallising region (TMCR process) and
coarse grain if the rolling temperature is above that region (Hot rolling)
the cooling rate of the finished product immediately after the last rolling pass
decides its structure and grain size. Three different types of cooling can be
distinguished:

slow (air) cooling at a rate of less than 1C/s has little influence on mechanical
properties: grain size and structure are determined by the preceding rolling
accelerated (water) cooling at a rate higher than 1C/s but not high enough to quench the
product to form martensite. This process produces a further refinement of the grain size of
the ferrite/pearlite structure, substantially improving toughness and increasing tensile
properties
quenching and self-tempering (QST), which produces tempered martensite in the surface
layers and a fine-grained bainite/ferrite/pearlite structure in the core area. This process
increases tensile strength by 120 to 150 N/mm2 relative to the untreated state and
substantially improves toughness.
Depending on the rolling process, the chemical composition of the steel has to be adjusted
to obtain the different steel grades. Figure 14 shows, in terms of carbon equivalent, the
alloy content of the steel necessary to reach yield strengths of 255 to 500 N/mm 2 for
product thicknesses up to 140 mm. The traditional hot rolling process demands not only
the highest alloy contents but it is also not able to cover the whole range of product
thicknesses. A lower alloy content and practically the whole range of product thicknesses
can be obtained by combining TMCR rolling and accelerated cooling.The lowest alloy
content, as well as the full range of modern structural steel products, can be obtained by a
combination of TMCR rolling and quenching and self-tempering (QST). By this process
route it is not only possible to produce high strength steels in a most economic way but
these steels also have excellent weldability due to their low alloy content.

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Concerning toughness or resistance to brittle fracture, the poorest characteristics are


obtained by traditional hot rolling, which produces steels with ductile to brittle transition
temperatures limited to 0C and higher. Such material characteristics are inadequate for
many applications in modern steel construction, especially in cases of larger product
thicknesses and higher yield strengths. By combining TMCR rolling with accelerated
cooling or with quenching and self-tempering, it is now possible to fulfil these demands.
With the accelerated cooling route, and especially the TMCR/QST route, steel can be
produced with yield strengths up to 500 N/mm2 and transition temperatures lower than 60C. These characteristics are sufficient to cover the most stringent specifications arising
from high technology areas such as the offshore industry or high-rise building
construction.

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3. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

Steel production involves the refining of molten iron, the removal of impurities
and the addition of alloying elements.
The process may take place in an oxygen converter, yielding low impurity steel
from molten iron (derived mainly from iron ore) at high rates of productivity.
Alternatively, electric arc furnaces may be used to process scrap steel.
Further refinement of the steel to achieve the required composition is carried out in
the secondary or ladle steelmaking unit by the addition of appropriate elements and
removal of unwanted products.
Molten steel is solidified using either continuous casting into semi-finished
products or by casting ingots.
Structural steel products are most commonly manufactured by hot rolling squeezing the steel between rollers to achieve the required cross-section shape.
Cold rolling produces a wide range of thin steel products, often with surface
coatings, that have good surface quality and forming qualities.
Special techniques are required for the manufacture of structural hollow sections.
By controlling the temperature regime during rolling, improved steel
characteristics can be obtained.

4. ADDITIONAL READING
1. The Making, Shaping and Treating of Steel Edited by Harold E McGannon USS
(United States Steel) 10th Edition Published 1985.
2. Brockenbrough, R. L., Metallurgy Chapter 1.1 Constructional Steel Design, an
International Guide, 1992.
3. Alexander, W., Metals in the Service of Man, Penguin Books, London, 1989.
4. Tamura, I, Theromechanical Processing of High Strength Low Alloy Steels,
Butterworths, 1988.