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Plasma Nitriding and Nitrocarburising for high wear resistance and high corrosion stability Stainless Steel

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PlaSSteel (Plasma Nitriding and Nitrocarburising for high wear resistance and high corrosion stability Stainless Steel)

Período documentado: 2017-06-01 hasta 2017-11-30

IONITECH Ltd is a private company established in 2003 and has pioneered the manufacture and sales on the world market of the biggest range of plasma nitriding and plasma nitrocarburising installations as well as degreasing installations.
Energy is a key resource for our society today and will be crucial for our sustainability in the future. A considerable amount of energy is consumed to overcome friction. At the same time, there are major economic losses due to necessary replacement of worn out products and components. Studies carried out in several industrial countries indicate that 1.0 to 1.4 % of the gross national product can be saved by introducing better tribological practices. Parts produced from stainless steel, due to its main feature of corrosion resistance, are nowadays widely used in numerous industries, such as chemical, gas, food, pharmaceuticals, biomedical pulp and paper, nuclear power plants and other. However, most of these applications are suffering from relatively low hardness and poor tribological properties which represent their main weakness. These poor tribological properties are causing numerous issues, such as reduction of plant efficiency; shorter lifespan of operating parts since they have to be replaced with new ones earlier, increased electrical consumption and other issues related to cost increase.

The dominant applications of wearable stainless steel components are industrial pumps. They are easily succumbing to corrosion and wear due to relatively low hardness, low stability and poor tribological (elastic and plastic deformation, the residual stress of coatings, abrasion and haze or gloss loss) properties. In the food and beverage processing industry it is common for stainless steel to be used from containers, vats, extruders, cutting & grinding parts and piping systems to machinery parts, valves, fittings and other food contact equipment. Stainless steel is accepted worldwide as a superior material for food processing equipment, offering the highest level of compliance with stringent, health, hygiene and safety requirements. Majority of those stainless steel parts are exposed to harsh tribological wear and have to be replaced with new parts shortly.

Nowadays, many different stainless steel treatment methods such as galvanising, carburising and nitriding have been tried out in order to reduce corrosion impact but none of these has been able to achieve surface hardness and corrosion resistance at a satisfactory level. The greatest challenge for surface engineering is how to achieve harder surface of stainless steel parts without the expense of decreasing corrosion resistance. Currently, a large amount of money is being continuously spent on new stainless steel parts which have to replace the worn out ones, thus reducing the efficiency and productivity.
In order to cope with these challenges, IONITECH has developed PlaSSteel technology and chamber for treating stainless steel parts. This project has received support and funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 774285). As one of the most important tasks of this Phase 1 project, IONITECH has completed a thorough feasibility study which has fulfilled the following objectives:
1. To assess the project and identify all possibilities of technical and commercial risks that have a hindrance to the successful exploitation of PlaSSteel.
2. To conduct an in-depth study of the surface engineering service provider and machine manufacturing market with a specific target on pump manufacturers in order to establish the growth trends, dynamics, as well as customer needs.
3. To further evaluate the functionality of PlaSSteel technology and its fitness for the purpose.
4. To seek and conduct a technological watch and explore ways to protect PlaSSteel solution. IP protection and commercialisation strategy will also be developed.
5. To conduct a Draft Innovation rollout strategy with an assessment of next developing stage and manufacturing readiness level.
6. To develop an elaborated business plan providing more detailed market research and to set a comprehensive approach for commercialization (in the period following the feasibility study completion).

Promising results of the feasibility study, as well as Positive experience with Phase 1 (financial stimulus and professional guidance), have encouraged IONITECH to apply for EU funding in the next Phase 2.
Through Project (Phase 1) implementation, and mostly through work performed in the preparation of the Feasibility study, the company has enhanced and deepened its market knowledge and confirmed the assumptions about the need of the new technological solution to stainless steel heat treatment. Nowadays there is an emerging need for such heat treatment which enables a longer life-cycle for stainless steel components, decreases their operating cost and increases the overall machinery efficiency.

The Feasibility Study and all the work performed up till now have most firmly convinced the Company in PlaSSteel product’s marketability. This belief has additionally been strengthened by affirmative evaluation of proof of concept from the customers’ side. From the IPR perspective, there are no legal obstacles which can jeopardize the product launch. Moreover, IONITECH company is highly conscious regarding the protection of knowledge gained as a result of this project. Furthermore, market research has proven one of IONITECH’s comparative advantages i.e. major EU industrial market proximity (for pump - central Europe). IONITECH’s R&D department plans to perform further technology validation and testing in Phase 2 as a part of full project implementation.
The PlaSSteel project directly supports EU call for development: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs. When PlaSSteel enters the market it will address issues in two following EU/global challenges:
• The secure, clean and efficient energy
• The Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.
The first challenge will contribute to the lower energy consumption due to preserved pump high efficiencies within their lifespan. Thus the project is addressing the challenge of satisfying energy efficiency in industrial sector while at the same time contributing to combat the climate change issues. The second challenge addresses response to the quest to meet the needs of a growing global population within the sustainable limits of the planet's natural resources and ecosystems; it is related to the wearing issues due to a significant increase in exploitation periods of pumps. In addition, the project is directly addressing a sustainable supply and use of raw materials challenge.
Project implementation will result in new technology and chamber developed for stainless steel heat treatment enabling the user's benefits in the form of:
• Lower operating cost of pump
• Decreased pump electric energy use
• Increased exploitation period
• Reduced downtime costs due to improved pump reliability
• Reduced maintenance costs due to higher part durability

Continuous research teamed with over 15 years of experience and product development of plasma nitriding technologies and chambers allows IONITECH to offer PlaSSteel as of 1st class technology. PlaSSteel project fully fits in line with IONITECH's management strategy towards new market-driven products to ensure the future company development into one of the EU’s major suppliers of installations with technology treatments recipe.