(QPINOX) DEVELOPMENT OF NEW MARTENSITIC STAINLESS STEELS FOR AUTOMOTIVE LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURAL APPLICATIONS

Funding: European Union, Research Fund for Coal and Steel (Grant Agreement: 847195)
Partners: RINA CONSULTING – Centro Sviluppo Materiali SPA (Project Coordinator), IMDEA Materials Institute, Technische Universiteit Delft, ACERINOX EUROPA SA
Project period: 2019 – 2022
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ilchat Sabirov (ilchat.sabirov@imdea.org); Dr. Jon Molina (jon.molina@imdea.org)

This project aims to generate a new class of affordable martensitic stainless steels for the automotive sector. The QPINOX project has two main objectives. First, to develop new martensitic stainless steel grades containing retained austenite, using a combination of novel heat treatments (quenching and partitioning – QP) and steel chemistry optimisation, to give unique combinations of strength (>1200 MPa UTS) and ductility (total elongation more than 15%), suitable for lightweight automotive applications. The second main objective is to facilitate the industrial implementation (manufacture and use) of these new grades.

The first objective will be achieved by alloy and heat treatment design, first using models, and second via experiments, gradually scaling up from small heats with dilatometer heat treatment on small samples, to large heats followed by Gleeble heat treatment on larger hot rolled strips, and finally to lab pilot scale fully processed sheet production. 

The second objective will be met by detailed experimental studies on critical automotive properties i.e. weldability, formability, fatigue, and corrosion. In addition, life cycle cost studies, component forming simulations, assessment of industrial processing windows, will be carried out with appropriate benchmarking to other steels, in order to assist in the industrial implementation of the developed steels. The project results are expected to benefit European stainless steel producers through the realisation of new and affordable martensitic stainless steel grades suitable for breakthrough into the lightweight automotive sector. In addition, the new grades are expected to offer attractive properties for other typical martensitic stainless steel applications such as those requiring improved corrosion and strength combinations.

The main contribution of IMDEA Materials in the QPINOX project will be the development of the optimal heat treatments via physical simulation in GLEEBLE, analysis of microstructure, mechanical properties, fatigue properties and establishment of microstructure – property relationship in the developed steel grades.

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