The Formidable Iron and Steel Institute of Japan

isij japan2 300x93 The Formidable Iron and Steel Institute of JapanThe Iron and Steel Institute of Japan is a society of academe that works together for the sole purpose of improving and researching the iron and steel manufacturing industry of Japan. Their roster of members includes engineers, steel and iron experts, and researchers who have been working in the industry for years. Although they have a full calendar of events and activities, they don’t engage in a lot of press releases or publications to bring attention to their work. Much of their accomplishments are never seen in the forefront of the industry or from the point of view of consumers. In fact, it isn’t easy to be accepted as a member of this group. In most cases, one has to be invited to be a member and still submit to the rigorous demands of membership application.

The Institute only invites those who are researchers, engineers, or students who excel in the study, manufacture, or use of steel and iron materials.  They should also have a keen interest in energy engineering and the current trend of being environment-conscious.

The Institute has 2 types of membership: domestic or foreign.

Domestic members can be Honorary, Patron, or Ordinary members. The Honorary Members are based on recommendations from the President for past work. The Patron Members are also recommended for membership by the president on the basis of donation to the Institute. Both types of members are not required to pay any fees or request for renewal of membership. The Ordinary Members are local Japanese who must apply and pay an entrance fee of 900 Yen. Their membership is only good for one year but is renewable upon re-application and payment of membership renewal.

The other types of Domestic Members are Senior Members, Associate Members, Student Members, and Sustaining Members.

Foreign Members are those who do not live in Japan. Once they move to Japan, they are automatically considered as potential Ordinary members and must apply as such. AS for members who leave the country, they are automatically given status of Foreign Member.

Being a member of the Institute allows one to know the latest technology, processes, research, and developments in the iron and steel industry. It is a highly technical institute that has received much respect from the Japanese steel industry.

Smelting and Refining Technology Processes of Stainless Steel

steel2 300x199 Smelting and Refining Technology Processes of Stainless SteelIn stainless steel production, there are three kinds of smelting processes. This is because the chemical composition of every stainless steel product reacts differently in terms of resistance to corrosion. Corrosion can be caused by air, water, acid, salt, team, alkali, and chemicals so knowing what is used in creating something made from stainless steel would help you determine which of the 3 kinds would work best.

Steel Smelting using electric furnace – This was once considered the most efficient way of stainless steel smelting and refining but over time with the energy costs and time it takes to complete a cycle, this process is no longer popular in many places. In addition, the quality of stainless steel products manufactured with the electric furnace is much more inferior with a short life term in refractory lining and low output.

The second process which came out around 1965 made use of a two step process. These were the Vacuum Oxygen Decarburization (VOD) and the Argon Oxygen Decarburization (AOD) refining technology. Almost 90% of all stainless steel manufacturing companies around the world use these methods, although majority prefers the AOD process.

The AOD uses a vessel that has a 3 step process in refining the stainless steel. These are Decarburization, Reduction, and Desulphurization. Decarburization simply means reducing the carbon content in the steel. Reduction is what is needed to prevent corrosion and Desulphurization is used to remove the sulfur dioxide. AOD was the brainchild of The Union Carbide Corporation in 1954.

The third kind of process is the use of the electric furnace but with advance VOD and Lance Bubbling Equilibrium or LBE. This allows for better anti-corrosion resistance and composition adjustment. However, the end result would still depend largely on the alloy elements used. LBE is a relatively new process for alloy melts. It has been described as “bottom stirring” and has been acclaimed for better results with lower slag volume and loss of metallics.

The Projected 2013 and Onwards Drivers for The Stainless Steel Industry

steel1 300x191 The Projected 2013 and Onwards Drivers for The Stainless Steel IndustryThe latest news regarding the drivers of the stainless steel industry reveals an astonishing new trend. Instead of investment goods trailblazing the industry, it is now consumer goods that has taken over. The latest studies show that 55% of the market is carried by consumer durables while 45% are sold as investment goods.

In Europe, overproduction of stainless steel was at 3 million tons three years ago. In 2011, it improved to 2.7 million tons. Last year, the unused stainless steel levels improved but only by a very small margin which would explain why steel companies in Europe have been merging or decreasing their production outputs.

Some of the recent decisions made by European steel companies are to remove night shifts and weekend overtime work, lay off workers by as much as 150 employees, and sell out to the highest bidder.

In Asia though, the stainless steel industries are either stable or growing. China though has an overcapacity of more than 6 million tons but they’re not worried. They believe that the buyers will go to them because of their lower prices. They also are planning more infrastructures in the country and elsewhere as their investments continue to increase. In the case of China, Vietnam, and India, their stainless steel consumer goods are produced at lower costs and can compete aggressively with the European market especially now that they have improved their technology.

In addition, it has been always the case that consumer goods are price sensitive more so given the global economy. However, there are alternatives to stainless steel consumer durables such as coated carbon, plastic, and aluminum while stainless steel investment goods are generally less volatile and unchallenged.

Consumer durables are categorized as appliances, catering equipment, lifestyle products, and tableware.  Industrial investment in stainless steel are investments in petrochemical, chemical, food processing, water treatment, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, fittings and flanges. They also include equipment for oil and gas, construction, and transportation.

Latest April 2013 Report: The Situation in the European Stainless Steel Industry Remains Lackluster

The latest report coming from different steel and research companies in Europe like Centre for European Economic Research is that the European stainless steel industry will probably not be able to bounce back yet in 2013. The demand for stainless steel in Europe remains flat in the first quarter of the year especially from end users. Infrastructure and bulk orders are also not compensating as many are holding back on new investments in construction and manufacturing. The studies show that the stimulus needed for the stainless steel market is only possible if orders come in from outside of Europe. Unfortunately, the economies of Western and Southern Europe remain critical even as Asia’s stainless steel industries are beginning to recover. There are signs that North America could be on the brink of a slow recovery and many European steel companies are hoping to gain from this latest trend.

steel 300x164 Latest April 2013 Report: The Situation in the European Stainless Steel Industry Remains LacklusterThe expectations were that companies would start placing orders for stainless steel products to re-stock their inventory. However, prices of certain elements like Nickel have spooked many to a wait-and-see situation.

Aperam, a leading European stainless steel company with production plants in France, Belgium, and Brazil reports that their last quarter 2012 sales were dismal because of the weak base prices and decreasing demand for long and flat products. They have resorted to increasing their base price by 50 Euros last January 2013 although it’s too early to tell if this strategy will work to their benefit. The company also plans to acquire new assets to consolidate its hold on the European stainless steel market

The forecast for 2013 is a 1% drop in all stainless steel products until an expected recovery happens in 2014. This is the stand of Damstahl which remains the sole pan-European, family-owned stainless steel company with offices in 6 countries. They just invested in a fully automated high rack warehouse located in Langenfeld worth 4.5 Euros. The warehouse will be operational by the end of 3rd Quarter 2013. Moreover, countries like Sweden, Germany, Slovenia, the Netherlands, and Denmark are expected to post a positive growth while Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal will continue to experience a slump.

Another industry that is expected to help stainless steel companies recover is the petro-chemical industry as projects continue to be posted.

Asia: The “New” Leader in Stainless Steel Production

 Asia: The “New” Leader in Stainless Steel ProductionAlthough Asia, especially Japan and China, have been involved in the business of stainless steel manufacturing and production, they have always had stiff competition from Europe and North America. After 2008, stainless steel production dropped on a global level as the demand decreased. The industry hasn’t fully recovered even up to 2012 especially in Europe.

According to French company, Eramet Group, developed countries faced rising debt aside from the lower demand among emerging economies especially China. China began to buy less and produce more locally even as it just recently celebrated its 60th year in stainless steel production.

The sentiment among many experts is that demand for global steel could drop even more this 2013 because Asian steel companies will be producing enough to sustain its needs. There has been an increase in the steal-making facilities around developing countries, not just in Asia but in other parts of the world. Excess capacity levels are higher than in 2012 because of this.

Japan stainless steel companies are also recovering and slowly getting back on track even with the problems they are having with their currency value. Thus, the chances of an increase in demand in global steel are unlikely to improve.

In addition, the cost of raw materials has continued to be volatile which challenges steel manufacturers with high production costs like labor and energy. Older steel companies will also be unable to sustain its cost if it does not upgrade its facilities.  A few steel companies in Europe have merged to secure jobs and stay out of the red.  One such merger was between Outokumpu and Inoxum which the European Union approved of last year.

Finally, the political stability and interference can affect how stainless steel companies outside of Asia can further bring down the performance. In Asia, the major stainless steel producing countries are Japan, China and India. The problem with China is the worsening reputation they have for undercutting their products that has resulted in added taxes for them. India and Japan are doing quite well in spite of internal difficulties mainly because the companies are supported by their respective governments and the managerial styles.

According to Ernst & Young’s 2012 report, the key elements to a sustained growth in the steel industry are operational agility, customer reach, confidence in the company, and cost competitiveness.

Japan’s Stainless Steel Exports Shoot Up By Over 16% 1st Q 2013

 Japan’s Stainless Steel Exports Shoot Up By Over 16% 1st Q 2013For many Japanese stainless steel manufacturers, the low point of the country’s industry was in 2009 when production dropped to its lowest point. The main reasons for the decline were the global market and increasing competition. In the latest report on the stainless steel industry, Japan has managed to increase exports by as much as 16.2% as of January to March 2013.  The recovery has been slow which started in 2010n with the sharpest increase being in the Cr Series Production by Shape and the 300 Series. The Ni Series Production By Shape has been relatively flat with not as much demand.

Japan is exporting stainless steel products to many countries in Asia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway, among others. Most Asian exports are stainless steel strips, bar, flat bars, sheets, wire rods, and plates while export to non-Asian countries are mainly tubes and rounds.

Looking back at the growth strategy for the major stainless steel companies for the year starting 2011, it is noted that companies like JFE Steel and Nippon Metal Industry specifically targeted a focus on the 300 Series and the Cr Series.  NSSC began to also include duplex steel aside from increasing production in the 300 series.

In other developments related to the stainless steel industry that are expected to affect Japan’s production is the increase in manganese ore prices by Australia’s BHP Bilton; the first since July of last year. This could impact the price of manganese ferro alloys and ore. On the other hand, it will help the mining companies increase their profitability.

Any changes in global prices for stainless steel production in Japan can cause the positive growth to change instantly. One of the main concerns of Japanese businesses is the currency exchange rate of the Yen. Any increase in prices of raw materials, shipping, and other costs by its exports partners will mean added costs to the Japanese stainless steel companies.  Just recently, Japan launched an aggressive move to ease the concerns regarding their currency. Yet the US dollar continues to gain over the Japanese yen and the US treasury warning the Japanese government against devaluing their currency to remain competitive.

Approval of Use of Duplex Stainless Steel in Japan

Duplex Stainless Steel Tube EN 10216 5 EN 10297 2 1 4462 1 4410  Approval of Use of Duplex Stainless Steel in JapanThe use of Duplex stainless steel has been approved for use on Japanese tankers and vessels by the leading classification society Class NK. Class NK (Nippon Kajo Kyokai) is a well-respected organization that was founded to regulate the shipping industry in Japan. From its earlier role as a promoter of shipping activities, it is now more focused on the technical aspects of the shipping industry.

Their March announcement about approving the NSSC 2120 on chemical tankers was hailed as a milestone decision. Originally, tankers manufactured by Sasaki Shipbuilding Co., Ltd and the Hakata Shipbuilding Co., Ltd used austenitic stainless steel. With the newly approved NSSC 2120, chemical tankers have a greater resistance to corrosion from sea water and other acids.  This is because the NSSC 2120 is double the strength than the SUS304 with .2% proof stress.

According to ClassNK, this new development will be good for the industry because it is an upgrade and improvement especially since duplex stainless steel is being used by other countries.

What is Duplex Stainless Steel?

Duplex stainless steel is named as such because it has 2 phases in its structure.  Just imagine a marbled cake and that is what you find with the duplex stainless steel. The first phase is the yellow austenitic and the second is the blue ferritic phase. When the steel is melted, it turns to ferritic and as the steel cools down, 50% of the ferritic grain turns into austenitic grains creating that marbled effect.

Duplex stainless steel is a good alternative because it is twice stronger than either ferritic or solid austenitic stainless steel products. It is also ductile and a lot tougher than ferritic although it fails to achieve the same values of the austenitic grades. Its corrosion resistance is almost identical to austenitic stainless steel but at the same time has an almost identical stress corrosion resistance of the ferritic stainless steel. This means it can handle well under elevated and humid temperatures as well as when exposed to chlorides.

Finally, the cost of duplex stainless steel is lower because it contains less nickel and molybdenum.

How Different is Carbon Steel to Stainless Steel?

 How Different is Carbon Steel to Stainless Steel?Carbon steel has one distinct advantage over stainless steel and that is its high hardness. Stainless steel cannot compete with the hardness of carbon steel which is why in comparing a simple tool like a knife, the knife made from carbon steel is preferred by many. While knives made from carbon steel are easier to sharpen, they have a disadvantage of corroding faster.

Again, when choosing a tool like knives, you cannot expect a large stainless steel knife to be stronger than a carbon steel large knife. The same rule applies to other tools and equipment. In Japan, cutlery brands boast of their harder carbides and are chosen by professionals over stainless steel cutlery. Brands like Aogami and Shirogami, also known as white paper and blue paper.

To tell if a tool is made of carbon steel or stainless steel is something that is not always easy. A simple sign would be the shine since stainless steel has that polished look compared to carbon steel. Try using the steel to catch your reflection and if you see yourself on the material, then it’s probably stainless steel. In fact, carbon steel is often referred to as unpolished steel. However, there are certain stainless steel tools that do not have a polished sheen because they are brushed stainless steel.

One odd way of testing the steel would be to try to create sparks. With carbon steel, you can actually ignite sparks to make a fire which is why carbon steel is used for survival knives. It’s similar to flint and it doesn’t even have to be high carbon steel.

Carbon steel also rust easily especially when exposed to saltwater environments. You cannot use it close to the ocean or on board boats. That is unless you take exceptional care of the carbon steel and protect it with leather or tannin from a tree. It will need intense maintenance like cleaning and oiling after every use.

Selecting Stainless Steel Types for Valves

newco Selecting Stainless Steel Types for Valves

The timeline in valve design shows that the choice of material is extremely significant alongside the use of technology. However, right now if stainless steel is the material of choice, there are over 400 commercially viable types of stainless steel for valves and new alloys are being introduced periodically. Which one should be used?

Some of the factors that have to be considered are: use, life cycle costs, product design, level of corrosion-resistance, and even the cost of downtime when the machine cannot be used. There are some industries where no compromise is possible like in the pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors. The stainless steel valves are precisely designed to avoid contamination and product rejects. Those that can be compromised have these factors to consider:

Corrosion Resistance – This refers to eliminating the need for over-alloying while being able to resist rust and corrosion. One has to know and understand what types of elements in the environment can cause corrosion and work that as a basis.  The general rule for selecting based on anti-corrosion elements is to start with type 304 or 304L. If higher anti-corrosion is needed, shift to Type 316 or 316L

Physical Properties – This refers to the density needed and the presence or demand for magnetic properties. For non-magnetic valves, the Type 304 should be avoided since it has some amount of ferro-magnetic properties.

Mechanical Properties – This refers mainly to the strength needed. It could also include a study on the alloy that can be used as far as hardness, resistance to impact, ductility, and stress resistance.

Fabrication – A decision must be made on whether to use cold form, welding, or machines to manufacture the valve. There is also the level of difficulty in manufacturing probably because of design or specifications

Cost – Cost should not just be design and manufacturing but also the cost installing and the life expectancy of the valve. The longer the valve will last, the higher you can charge because it won’t need to be replaced any time soon after being installed

Even before one finalizes the selection of stainless steel material, a complete and thorough analysis must be made either by an experienced design engineer or with the help of the stainless steel company’s in-house engineers.

Tasmania Stainless Steel Water Tanks Contaminated with Lead

Stainless Steel Tank with Conical Base Legs 324628 Tasmania Stainless Steel Water Tanks Contaminated with LeadA major uproar occurred in Tasmania and other parts of the world after the Department of Health and Human Services discovered that stainless steel water tanks manufactured by Kingston Sheetmetal was found to contain high levels of lead. According to the Acting Director of Public Health, Doctor Mark Veitch, water tests conducted by his office reveal that the amount of lead in the tanks contained anywhere from 16.1 to 1,370 micrograms of lead per liter which is way over the acceptable ration of 10 micrograms per liter.

The stainless steel tanks in question have been in production and in the market for the past 3 years. The Kingston stainless steel tanks were sold in many parts of Australia from 2010 to 2013.  People who drank or used water from these tanks for cooking, or brushing their teeth are now in danger of contamination and should be tested immediately. The same applies for animals that may have drunk water from these tanks. Contaminated water can only be used for bathing, watering plants, doing the laundry or cleaning. The water cannot be ingested in any way which means children should not bath in water from these tanks since they may swallow some of the water accidentally.

The government has also warned anyone from buying unmarked stainless steel water tanks. In addition, if a person has been using a water filter, it isn’t safe to assume that the lead has been removed from the water. The department says that not all water filters are capable of removing lead and advise water filter owners to contact the manufacturer about this feature.

Ideally, stainless steel should have zero lead content. Unfortunately some stainless steel companies add lead to reduce manufacturing costs and make more money. This is why there is a marketing hype about lead-free stainless steel products like faucets. When buying any stainless steel product whether for household use or in construction, it is always best to ask about the composition of the product. Any lead content could be an additional risk to take.