LIFE 4GreenSteel is an EU/industry funded project which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of replacing traditional energy-intensive and material-consuming machining of wrought metals with a new and innovative High-Density Powder Metallurgy (HDPM) technology. In particular, the project is reported to be focusing on the manufacture of high-performance steel gears for the automotive market, utilising the recognised green credentials of the Powder Metallurgy process.
The high mechanical and dimensional requirements could, it is stated, be theoretically met by means of an innovative Die Wall Lubrication (DWL) compaction stage, in combination with high-temperature vacuum sintering and thermochemical treatment. The DWL compaction process is currently used only in a limited number of applications and has not yet been exploited at an industrial level due to the difficulties of planning, managing and monitoring the production process.
The project, coordinated by Italy’s TFM Automotive & Industry S.p.A, with partners including press manufacturer Sacmi, R&D company K4Sint, and the University of Trento, is expected to show a reduction in the use of raw materials by some 47% and energy savings of 50%, compared to the traditional machining process. Targets include the development of an effective pressing system to produce sintered steel parts that have a density greater than 7.3 g/cm3 and high dimensional stability. It will tailor the high-temperature vacuum sintering stage and develop a reliable case-hardened profile of PM steel by means of the thermochemical treatment Low-Pressure Carburising (LPC).
In addition, the partners will use a chemical composition for steel that avoided harmful alloying elements, such as nickel, or alloying elements that make the recycling process difficult and ineffective, such as copper. It is stated the process will reduce by more than 70% the lubricant premixed with metal powder, so eliminating the burning stage, increasing energy efficiency and solving related emission problems.
LIFE is a financial division of the European Union that supports environmental safeguarding, nature conservation and climate change action projects. Since its founding in 1992, it has funded over 4,500 projects.