Wednesday, May 07, 2008

New laser technology for detecting defects in steel

RESEARCHERS AT the Corus owned Teesside Technology Centre are working on a groundbreaking technology that could revolutionise quality testing in steel manufacturing.

The pioneering laser technique, known as Laser-EMATs (Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducers), tests for defects in steel early in the manufacturing process by firing laser pulses at the steel to turn a small area of the surface into plasma. This generates an ultrasonic wave, which can be reflected by defects, such as cracks.

The work has already earned project manager and Corus physicist, Iain Baillie, an award from the Cleveland Institution of Engineers and another through the University of Teesside.

The technology will go live in a pilot scale experiment on the Centre’s continuous casting plant later this year. If proven, it will be the first to test steel for both surface and internal defects at temperatures above 800°C, the typical heat in the continuous casting process.

By allowing steelmakers to detect faults early, it should reduce scrap and minimise problems in the expensive downstream processes.

“The results on the preliminary testing we have done so far have been very pleasing, but it's a challenging environment to work in and there's still much to be done to ensure the technology will do what we need it to do,” said Mr Baillie.

It could be up to two years before it is tested on a full-scale Corus steel making plant.

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