The steel trade unions cautiously welcome this news and recognise the industrial logic of such a partnership.
This would create the second biggest steel business in Europe which could deliver significant benefits for the UK.
As always, the devil will be in the detail and we are seeking further assurances on jobs, investment and future production across the UK operations.
As a priority, we will be pressing Tata to demonstrate their long term commitment to steelmaking in the UK by confirming they will invest in the reline of Port Talbot’s Blast Furnace No.5.
We must also be assured that ThyssenKrupp’s pension liabilities will be ring-fenced with a cast-iron guarantee that UK steelworkers will never fund German pensions.
We are now seeking an urgent meeting with Tata to fully understand their intentions for the UK in the context of the joint venture.
We are also making arrangements to bring together senior representatives from across the UK to determine our approach to this significant new development."
First Minister Carwyn Jones and Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates, met with the Chief Executive of TATA Steel UK, Bimlendra Jha, to discuss the future of steel making in Wales.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said:
"Today's meeting with TATA senior management was constructive and we reviewed the important progress that has been made since last March in keeping steel production and steel jobs at all the TATA sites in Wales. The company recognise the significant financial support package made available by the Welsh Government is critical to ensuring the plants become more efficient and sustain employment and keeping all options on the table.
"I made it very clear to TATA that they now have an important responsibility to explain in full the amendments to the pensions scheme to everybody involved. It is then important that we let the ballot take place, without political interference, and let members vote on the changes that have been agreed.”
Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure Ken Skates said:
"We continue to work closely with TATA to ensure that Wales has a sustainable steel industry for the future. We continue to make good progress on improving the energy efficiency of the industry, its supply chain and the skills base of the sector, with significant financial support provided by the Welsh Government to help drive innovation and modernisation in the industry.
"We will continue this work in the coming weeks and months to help build a viable future for steel in Wales and maintain steel jobs and steel production at all the TATA sites across the country.”
We are interested in the next generation of bending, joining, forming (including roll forming), stamping and folding technology (and any other we haven’t heard of yet!) that will potentially transform our and our customers’ ability to change the shape of our wider range of steel products.
Tata Steel produces an exceptionally wide range of steel products; from 0.13-0.49 mm gauge 1.2m wide packaging steels, 0.37mm – 3.0mm gauge 2.03m wide cold rolled steels, 0.25-0.40mm, 1.2m wide electrical steels, through to much higher gauge, wide hot rolled strip, and in steel strengths ranging from S275 to S960. Add to this the many different coating technologies we have; hot-dip galvanised, electroplated, organically coated and the range of applications our steels go into (you name it!) then we and our customers have a real challenge in keeping abreast of the optimum technology for turning our high quality products into the complex shapes and systems required for their final application.
The key factors are speed of the transformation process and the accuracy/repeatability.
All technological approaches will be considered, including combinations of different approaches.
Theoretical ideas with no experimental support, funding requests for proof of concept
We are looking for a concise abstract/executive summary. The proposal should briefly describe the technical approach and provide information on technology performance, background and description of the responding team and their related experience.
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As car transmission systems become more complex, with higher numbers of gears, there is more of a premium on the package space required for these systems. Designers want to specify cleaner steels to create stronger parts able to handle high loads without additional weight or reduction in fatigue life, while machinists require steels with excellent machinability for ease of manufacture.
Tata Steel’s Automotive team is attending wire 2014 this week to demonstrate how a new test they have developed with the University of Sheffield will allow the steel supplier to compare different steel chemistries, and prove how they can offer the optimum balance between performance and ease of processing for forgers, machinists and OEMs.
Good machinability is an essential factor for manufacturers, because it allows production rates to increase while maintaining good chip control, surface finish and dimensional stability. Chip control refers to the form in which the excess material is generated when machining steel. Small chips are better than longer ones, as they are less likely to clog machines, avoiding costly machine stops to clear entangled swarf.
In order to properly compare the machinability of different steel chemistries in action, Tata Steel’s Swinden Technology Centre has worked with the University of Sheffield to develop a bespoke machinability test that replicates features of the hobbing process – the machining process for gear cutting which cuts the ‘teeth’ out of the forged blanks. The test allows steels with different machinability-enhancing elements to be compared, without the need to procure expensive gear hobbing tools or access to specialist hobbing machines.
Designing gear steels requires a careful balance to combine ease of machinability with high fatigue strength – the length of time a product can function for under cyclic loading before failing. Tata Steel has worked with its supply chain partners to develop a suite of clean gear steels that offer the best of both. Adding controlled quantities of key elements can enhance machinability, but has a negative impact on fatigue performance. Adding sulphur to the steel reduces the shear stress needed to create small chips. Other additions such as calcium can be used to encourage the formation of protective layers on cutting tools that reduce tool wear rates. The addition of bismuth and tellurium contributes to reduced cutting forces and lower tool wear, offering an improved surface finish and – again – smaller chips.
The new test compares machinability under interrupted cutting conditions at speeds similar to those experienced in production hobbing operations. The University of Sheffield designed cutting tools with geometries similar to those used in hobbing, and is developing a rapid data-logging system for tool force measurement.
Tata Steel’s business development manager for Speciality Steels, Andrew Woods, said: “Weight and space are at a premium on any vehicle, and the design of gear steels is a particularly complex challenge due to the duty cycle these parts endure. But by working closely with our customers, we are developing products which address the differing needs of weight saving, fatigue life, strength and machinability.
“This new test offers our customers a further means of saving time, money and effort, by allowing them to understand how any given material will act in service, something that would be difficult and costly for them to do themselves.”
Dr Tom Slatter, lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield said: “Collaborating with Tata Steel has allowed us to apply our machining science expertise in producing a test that has real industrial impact.”