The virtual factory: the technology that will increase steel innovation

The virtual factory: the technology that will increase steel innovation

A new virtual factory has been funded to increase steel innovation. The virtual factory will speed up developing and testing steel alloys by up to a hundred times.

The new virtual factory will increase steel innovation by allowing new products to be commercialised more quickly. The virtual factory is under development by Swansea University, who have partnered with Tata Steel and WMG, at the University of Warwick. They have been awarded £7m funding (~€7.8m) for the development.

Why is steel innovation needed?

New steels are needed for more fuel efficient cars, plastic free packaging, energy positive buildings and many other applications. This will allow users of steel to drive innovation with market need.

Martin Brunnock, the UK Technical Director of Tata Steel: “Steel is playing an essential role in helping to solve major societal challenges such as the transition to sustainable energy and mobility, and it’s vital we can keep pace through the faster development of innovative steel products.”

The benefits of the virtual factory

The virtual factory will increase steel innovation in a number of ways. These include:

  • The ablity to test 100 samples in the time it currently takes to test one;
  • Testing samples which are only a few grams. Current testing requires up to 900 tonnes of material. 98% of the current samples have to be remade into new steel products which costs the business; and
  • New steel products can be commercialised more efficiently and customers will have access to new steel innovation more quicker

Professor Steve Brown from Swansea University College of Engineering said: “Innovation is at the heart of the 21st century steel industry. This project is a huge boost for innovation as it massively speeds up the development of new alloys. It means steel producers can deliver new and better products to their customers far more quickly. We have world-class facilities and research expertise here at Swansea, and strong links with Tata Steel and WMG at the University of Warwick. So I am confident this partnership will help ensure our steel industry remains at the cutting edge of innovation.”

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