Quality Assurance in the Steel Industry.

Combined ZEISS Microscopy for materials inspection.

The steel industry is facing major challenges, making quality a key success factor. SPC Werkstofflabor GmbH is a service partner to the industry and relies on a combination of light, digital and scanning electron microscopy from ZEISS.

Steel must last.

The steel industry is in a difficult situation: Whether in the automotive, engineering, construction, or electronics industries – the demands on components made of steel are becoming ever higher.​

“The requirements for components made of steel are becoming increasingly stringent,” says Alexander Maier, managing director of the accredited materials laboratory SPC. “At the same time, supply is falling and prices are rising for crude steel.” Processing quality and efficiency are thus becoming all the more important. As a service partner for materials testing and failure analysis, SPC supports the industry in this regard – and has relied on microscopy solutions from ZEISS in its work for many years.

Martin Negele
Alexander Maier Managing Director of the accredited materials laboratory SPC.

Optimally matched hardware and software solutions, cloud services for sharing results and powerful automation functions mean that we reliably deliver reproducible results and do so as efficiently as possible – which is exactly what is needed in the current situation.

Lower quality of crude steel and scrap

Thomas Schaupp is laboratory manager at SPC. He, too, knows the pain of the steel industry all too well: “Up to 70 percent of crude steel came from Russia until two years ago, and it was very high quality”. He says the replacement steel from other sources is now of much poorer quality, and the same is true of scrap, which is always added proportionately to steel products. This often has serious consequences for the resulting components, as in the case of a pinion shaft that a steel producer submitted to SPC for inspection.

Lower quality of crude steel and scrap
The manufacturer of the pinion shaft requires a root cause analysis of the failure. A fast failure analysis is important so that the manufacturer is not late with delivery.
Georg Knoll
Thomas Schaupp Laboratory Manager at SPC

The manufacturer of the pinion shaft complained to our customer after a complete batch of pinion shafts cracked lengthwise in the manufacturing process. He commissioned us to investigate the cause.

Inspection with light, digital and scanning electron microscopy.

A visual inspection suggested that the crack was caused by damage to the surface of the raw part during hardening process. But analysis with the ZEISS Smartzoom 5 digital microscope suggested a different conclusion, says Thomas Schaupp: “Around the central axis, ‘scaling’, i.e. oxidation of the steel, was visible. The fracture therefore originated from the inside.”

Inspection with light and scanning electron microscopy
The analysis with the ZEISS Smartzoom 5 digital microscope shows: so-called ‘scaling’, i.e. oxidation of the steel, is visible around the central axis. This could have led to corrosion inside the component.
The sample is examined using the ZEISS Axio Imager, a high-resolution wide-field microscope for automated materials research.
The sample is examined using the ZEISS Axio Imager, a high-resolution wide-field microscope for automated materials research.

A metallographic section was to provide further information. For this purpose, the SPC employees examined the sample with the ZEISS Axio Imager high-resolution wide-field microscope. Thomas Schaupp reports: “The analysis confirmed that 'segregation' had taken place near the central axis, i.e. joint contamination; in addition, we saw inclusions of foreign material. This caused the steel to become brittle.”

To identify what materials the contamination consisted of, the staff examined a fragment from the pinion shaft with the ZEISS EVO scanning electron microscope. The result: there were inclusions of manganese and sulfur, as well as segregations of sulfur and phosphorus, in the steel of the pinion shaft near the axle. “Normally, these impurities would still be tolerable,” says Thomas Schaupp, “but a hole was drilled at precisely this point, which put particular strain on the material, and fracture occurred.”

The final step was to identify the materials that make up the contamination. For this purpose, a fragment of the pinion shaft is examined with the ZEISS EVO scanning electron microscope.
Reliable results 30% faster with ZEISS
“(...) that makes ZEISS unique: the optimally matched hardware and software, something you don’t find with any other manufacturer,” says Thomas Schaupp.

Reliable results 30% faster with ZEISS

The correlative workflow between light, digital and electron microscopy from ZEISS enabled the SPC materials laboratory to determine this result within a few days. “Our customers need reliable results, and they need them fast,” says Thomas Schaupp. “This is because defects in materials such as steel lead to high costs for our customers.”

For the laboratory manager, there is therefore no alternative to ZEISS: “Hardware and software are optimally matched. Everything works intuitively and easily, as well as quickly and efficiently thanks to the automation functions. This allows reproducible results, regardless of the user. Without ZEISS, our processes would certainly take 30 percent longer.”

Alexander Maier, Managing Director and Thomas Schaupp, Laboratory Manager at SPC.
Alexander Maier, Managing Director and Thomas Schaupp, Laboratory Manager at SPC.
The analysis shows: There were inclusions of manganese and sulphur in the steel of the pinion shaft close to the axle, as well as segregations of sulphur and phosphorus.
The analysis shows: There were inclusions of manganese and sulphur in the steel of the pinion shaft close to the axle, as well as segregations of sulphur and phosphorus.

ZEISS also offers the cloud-based ZEISS ZEN Data Storage database, which is used to share the results of material analyses with customers – another important efficiency and service factor for Thomas Schaupp. Therefore, nothing is to change in the long partnership, says Thomas Schaupp: “There are short distances to ZEISS in every respect. If we need service, it’s quick, we know each other. And ZEISS understands our needs, why should we change anything?”

Georg Knoll
Thomas Schaupp Laboratory Manager at SPC

(...) that's what makes ZEISS unique: the perfectly coordinated hardware and software, which no other manufacturer offers. Everything works intuitively and simply and, thanks to the automation functions, quickly and efficiently.

Steel must last.

Combined ZEISS Microscopy for materials inspection.

Facts

Facts and figures on increasing efficiency.

+ 30%

30% faster to reliable results: thanks to the correlative workflow between light, digital and electron microscopy from ZEISS.

unique

No other manufacturer offers optimally coordinated hardware and software.

via cloud

With the cloud-based ZEISS ZEN Data Storage database, the results of material analyses can be shared transparently and conveniently.

Downloads

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ZEISS IQS, Customer story, SPC, Mic, Metallog, EN, Flyer

ZEISS IQS, Customer story, SPC, Mic, Metallog, EN, Flyer
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