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.”