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Face-to-Face

November 2012 32
Dr. G. Balachandran did his post-graduation from IIT
Kanpur and doctorate from IIT Bombay. He was groomed
as a scientist at the Defence Metallurgical Research
Laboratory (DMRL), Hyderabad by some of the eminent
scientists in India. At DMRL, he gained expertise in
special melting techniques such as vacuum induction
melting, vacuum arc melting and electroslag remelting
and was heading the Special Melting Group. He is the
Chief Technical Officer at Kalyani Carpenter Special
Steels Ltd for the past three years concentrating on
research and new product developments.
alyani group is a leading industrial group in India, with its flagship company
KBharat Forge Ltd. Pune, which has one of the largest open and close die
forging unit in the World. The Kalyani Group owns two major steel making units,
namely, Kalyani Steels Ltd., Hospet and Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels Ltd.,
Pune. Kalyani Steels Ltd was founded in 1973 and has corporate headquarters at
Pune. In the year 1999, with a joint venture between Kalyani Group and the world
renowned Carpenter Technology Corporation, Pennsylvania, USA, the Pune unit
of Kalyani Steels Ltd. acquired a distinct identity in the name of Kalyani Carpenter
Special Steels Ltd. (KCSSL). The joint venture enabled enhancement of process
capabilities and product quality in range of special steel grades. The company
since its inception had specialised in automotive grade forging steels that includes
a variety of cost effective carbon steel, microalloyed steel and low alloy heat
treated steels. Presently, with the experienced gained over the years, more
specialised requirements of automotive steel grades are being made to qualify
stringent requirements of leading auto-component forging manufacturers in
India and abroad.
The technological challenge
is over capacity in the
commodity grades with
reduced demand for steel
products,
says Dr G Balachandran ,
Chief Technical Officer -
Kalyani Carpenter Special
Steels Ltd. in an exclusive
interview with Steelworld.
Excerpts:
How in your opinion is the present
situation in the country in relation to
Special steels industry from technological
perspective ?
- The growth in special steel
segment has been mainly due to mini
steel mills in the private sector
industries. With several mini-steel mills
in place, there is an urge for every
producer to enter into special steel
segment. The problem faced by any new
entrant is mainly deployment of correct
technology to make quality products to
meet t he emergi ng hi gh end
requi rement s. Product qual i t y
assurance in terms of material reliability
is very crucial to succeed. Consumers
who opt for special steels are more
quality conscious besides economics. In
order to ensure the material reliability,
the end user companies assess the
specification requirements with the
process capabilities a company has.
Qualification for supply to well
established automakers, aerospace,
marine engineering application, nuclear
industries, by getting relevant approvals
for advanced product s bui l ds
competence. This has enabled Indian
private sector industries to compete
with some of the best in the world. To
meet such requirements, the private
sector is able to bring in necessary
know how and technology.
Clean steel is an integral aspect of
special steel industry. Modern
secondary steel making and vacuum
processing technologies have been
brought in to ensure clean steels. In the
area of casting, plants have gone ahead
developing large scale ingot casting and
also large cross section continuous
casting bloom.
One major area that needs
development in the country is in the area
of tool and die steels, the requirements
for which is met mainly by imports. The
technology involved in melting,
deformation processing for large scale
production is an area neglected. A range
of steels in the powder metallurgy
segment is being totally imported. Apart
from all this, lack of proper technology
leads to severe rejections at every
stage of processing. The steels so
produced have to compete in terms of
price and quality with reputed imported
players.
Realising the need for high quality
clean steels in defence, nuclear,
aerospace and power sector, industries
have invested in new technologies.
Electroslag remelting or vacuum arc
The Raw Material Cost is Volatile
Especially in Special Steel Industry
- Dr. G. Balachandran
Chief Technical Officer - Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels Ltd.
Face-to-Face
November 2012 34
remelting process gives cleaner and
denser steel s wi th control l ed
solidification grain structures that give
superior mechanical properties. The
critical flaw size for crack initiation is
reduced when we opt for such special
remelting processes. The products from
this unit services requirements of
nuclear power, aero-space, defence
and thermal power plant requirements.
The growth in this sort of special
melting processes such as vacuum
induction melting, vacuum arc melting is
almost non-existing in private sector.
The private sector has to look at this as
potential opportunity and it should be
equally be assisted by the Government.
Products made by these processes are
predominantly imported. Advanced
product and manufacturing require
these processes. There are many
private sector players abroad in Europe
and USA who have mastered these
processes and products. Unless such
processes are installed, and globally
competitive products are produced,
India cannot aspire to be a world leader.
What are the areas in which there is need
to develop a better technology ?
- The emergence of requirement for
indigenous development of steels in
nuclear and thermal power sector, calls
for steels with special high temperature
properties. This calls for time intensive
l ong term creep testi ng. The
development of the pressurised heavy
water reactor program, fast breeder
reactor program, aerospace programs
etc, has given a boost to special steel
segment t hat requi re vacuum
processed steels and remelted products
in sheet bar and pipe forms. These
materials have to be clean steels with
specific range of mechanical properties.
In oil and gas sector, the steels have to
serve under severe conditions where
stress corrosion crack resistance is an
important property. The need for steel
development and special testing
procedures are needed. Even the cost
sensitive automotive industry is willing
to pay the premium price if steels with
extremely low oxygen can be supplied
to meet fatigue requirements in critical
components.
There are requirements of advanced
stainless steels that are austenitic,
martensitic and precipitation hardenable
type that by specification call for VIM-
VAR-ESR processing. By specification,
these processes are required for certain
steel grades. The technology for these
materials is virtually non- existent with
Indian private sector unlike their
counterparts abroad. There is only one
PSU which is capable for producing
t hese gr ades. The emer gi ng
requirements in the nuclear power
sector and power sector calls for
ESR/VAR processed pipes and tubes.
Using this process, apart from special
steels there is a good requirement of Ni
base alloys. These are mainly met by
imports.
Vacuum melted and remelted steels
have premium applications and small
volumes can yield better value and may
cater to niche segments in India and
abroad. Unless India competes with rest
of the world on these product segments
our capability cannot be termed
advanced.
In addition to special melting, we
need better technologies for large scale
ingot forging. Large scale rotors require
special forging techniques to achieve
good ingot quality. The capability is
limited in the country at present. These
products also requires ingot making
capabilities where clean steel with
minimal macro-segregation could be
produced.
Special steel segment also look at
heat treatment technology as an
important value addition process. There
is a need to develop technology for
varying alloy steel compositions, sizes
and shapes that meet critical
requirements. Most advanced users
who require special steels have very
s p e c i a l i s e d h e a t t r e a t me n t
requirements. The attainment of
properties at critical locations is crucial.
The awareness on higher alloy steel
heat treatments have not been well
understood. The rel evance of
hardenability for choice of the steel for
the product, hardening, tempering,
austempering, mar tempering etc. is not
well understood.
Development of steel components
for biomedical component is an
interesting area of work. In terms of
electric steels the country has not
witnessed a greater growth and the
relevant technologies does not seem to
be fully mastered. Electrical properties
are governed by the texture of the
material and the relevant technology is
still not well proliferated.
India is a leader in using nitrogen
substituted stainless steels for savings
of Nickel. The predominant use of
stainless steels is austenitic grades for
domestic kitchen wares. The number of
grades that can be made with new range
of nitrogen alloyed steels are immense
especially in austenitic, martensitic and
duplex grades of stainless steels.
Face-to-Face
November 2012 36
Alternate grades of duplex stainless
steels, based on Fe-Cr-Mn-N instead
of traditional Fe-Cr-Ni-N is an
interesting area of work. The
deformation required for high interstitial
element containing steels are complex.
High nitrogen alloyed steel requires
special deformation condition for which
limited capability exists in the country.
What are the technological challenges
before global iron & steel sector ?
- The technological challenge is
over capacity in the commodity grades
with reduced demand for steel products.
According to one estimate the global
demand for steel fell sharply in the first
quarter of 2012 to 0.6% from 9% in the
third quarter of 2011. Asian demand fell
from 10.7% to 2% in the same period.
Industrial activity has slowed down and
it is expected that the recovery will be
gradual. This is forcing the industry to
operate with under-utilised capacity,
which adds to the cost of production.
The raw material cost is volatile
especially to special steel industry. The
oil and power cost is high. The steel
industries are now on the era of cost
cutting in terms of raw materials,
improving process efficiency towards
cost reduction, man power optimisation,
efficient logistic and supply chain
management etc. The more successful
industries are focusing to consolidate on
certain profitable segments. There is
global slowdown that is affecting the
high growth BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India,
China] countries. This lean period is
being looked up as opportunity for
upgr a di ng a nd new pr oduc t
developments. This period is when
capacities are available for new
processes and product development.
Planned capital equipments and capacity
expansion programs in steel industry
suffer due to the adverse economic
conditions. There is optimism that the
situation may improve from 2013
second quarter onwards.
What are the new initiatives taken by
Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels Ltd
(KCSSL) ?
- Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels
Ltd., is a renowned supplier of
microalloyed and alloy steel for grades
for automotive closed die forging
industry. The company has now
diversified into other segments
discussed earlier. Special steels are
required in both vacuum degassed
condition and or ESR processed. The
segments that under focus are defence,
nuclear, aerospace, thermal power plant
materials, oil & gas sector, marine
sector, chemical industries and general
engineering segment.
Steel for hi gh temperature
application requires time intensive
creep resistant properties to be
developed. The company has a focus on
this. Several grade are required under
ESR processed condition. They include
special stainless steels such as
austenitic grades, precipitation
hardenable grades, martenitic grades
etc. There are ultra high strength low
alloy steel required for special and
general engineering applications. In the
oil and gas segment stress corrosion
crack resistant deep drill components
are required and materials are being
developed for the same. In automotive
segment where the product from
company is exported to leading auto
manufacturers, a special thrust is being
given on development of high fatigue
resistant steels, advanced high strength
steels that give superior properties,
unique light weight high aluminium
steels etc. Even in microalloyed steels
there are work initiated to develop new
V and Nb microalloyed steel grades that
gives higher strength retaining
toughness.
In the area of tool and die steels, for
forging and general engineering
industry, a systematic program has been
initiated. While few grades of Hot work
die steels were well established few
other grades have been developed.
There are also cold work die steels in
development stage. Subsequently high
speed steels would be also developed.
To realise the emerging customer needs
at KCSSL, we have initiated a robust
R&D program.
Emphasis has been given on
controlling input raw material quality,
reduction in raw material consumption,
Improvement of process efficiency in
terms of energy reduction and yield
improvement, reduction in internal
rejections etc. Up-gradation of
processes requires, investment and the
techno-managerial team justifies and
demonstrates the same in terms of
implementing small projects. Efforts on
decreasing wastage by efficient
handling of processes and raw material
leads to better results, ensuring quality
products at affordable costs.
Kalyani Carpenter Special Steels Ltd
is uniquely placed due to the technical
inputs and guidance we receive from our
Joint Venture partner Carpenter
Technology Corporation, USA, who
guide us on certain products. In addition,
we get excellent technical support from
M/s Bharat Forge Ltd., which is also a
Kalyani Group company and is a major
consumer of steel produced by us. The
steels made by KCSSL are being
exported as products through Bharat
Forge Ltd.