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Products and solutions, 2001-04-23, 02:00 AM

Finish First - Fabricate Later

Coated products at Thyssen Krupp Stahl AG

Thyssen Krupp Stahl AG`s (TKS) presentation at the Hanover Fair 2001 will include numerous examples of applications for coated sheet in the domestic appliance, construction and automobile industries. The strategic importance of these products for the company has increased steadily in recent years. For example, monthly production of hit-dip coated sheet at TKS has doubled in the past ten years. Production of electrolytically coated sheet materials has risen from 87,000 to 134,000 tons per month and output of organically coated sheet has grown by 24 percent. Some 75 percent of TKS`s cold-rolled steel supplies are now in coated grades, a figure which is set to rise to over 80 percent in the future.

Increasing customer demand is one growth driver in this area: steel sheet surfaces are not only required to be corrosion-resistant, easy to fabricate and environmentally compatible, the call is increasingly also for special surface structures, decorative effects, and wear and scratch resistance. In response to this trend, TKS is currently building an additional hot-dip galvanizing line in Dortmund with an annual capacity of 350,000 tons, scheduled to come on stream in fall 2001. But with a view to playing a leading world role in developing and improving coated steel products, in December last year the company opened the Dortmunder OberflächenCentrum (DOC), Europe`s biggest surface engineering and research center for flat steel.

The DOC comprises a 1,500 square meter laboratory facility and two test shops (1,000 and 2,000 square meters). The centerpiece is a new, 80-meter-long modular pilot strip plant. This line offers test facilities not found anywhere else in the world and is intended to help lay the groundwork for future generations of coated steel products. Work being carried out on the line includes a project funded by the German Education and Research Ministry entitled "New coating systems for steel strip". In collaboration with seven other partners, TKS is working on developing innovative finishing methods, such as new cleaning processes, chemical vapor deposition, plasma technology and blast hardening for use in continuous production.

In particular the pilot strip plant enables chemical vapor disposition under vacuum which makes it possible, for example, to target the concentration and distribution of corrosion protection coatings. A further area of research at the DOC will be the development of surface structures in the nano-range. The DOC is also home to an applied research project group from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft which runs its own surface technology research equipment at the center as a bridgehead to industry.

"Finish first, fabricate later" is TKS`s motto in its move from a pure-play materials supplier to a development partner for its customers. By incorporating the required surface quality and functionalities of the end product in the strip production process, the company is shortening the customer`s production chain. Customers can then carry out further steps such as cutting, forming and joining with no detriment to the surface properties and benefit from a reduction in in-house processing.

Another key aspect of TKS`s strategy in this sector is to have its own capacities for coated products in the major international markets. Examples include the Galmed hot-dip galvanizing joint venture in Spain and the GalvaSud joint venture in Brazil which operates a hot-dip coating line. The most recent example of internationalizing downstream activities (coating, processing and service) is the joint venture planned with the Chinese steel corporation ANSC Angang New Steel Co. to set up a hot-dip galvanizing facility in China. This facility will be geared primarily to supplying the expanding Chinese automotive market.

For further reference: ThyssenKrupp AG, Trade Press, Bernd Overmaat Tel: +49-211-824-36012, Fax: +49-211-824-36035 e-mail: overmaat@tk.thyssenkrupp.com

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