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  • Customer-driven innovation

ArcelorMittal and La Piña develop new quenchable boron steel grade with improved wear-resistance

Since its formation in 1949, La Piña has been a leading manufacturer of wear parts for the agricultural sector. Today the company is a global supplier of agricultural products such as discs and plough shares. In 2018, a La Piña customer requested discs which had even better resistance to abrasive wear than existing boron steel solutions on the market. La Piña immediately turned to ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products. With the support of ArcelorMittal Global R&D, the two companies have developed a new quenchable boron steel which offers significantly better resistance to wear, and which can be produced using manufacturing processes that are clean and friendly to the environment.

La Piña exports wear parts for green goods around the globe

Until the development of ArcelorMittal’s new grade, the hardness of the best quenchable boron steel used by La Piña was 51 to 53 on the Hardness Rockwell C (HRC) scale. La Piña’s customer asked for the hardness to be increased to between 55 and 57 HRC to enhance the durability of its agricultural discs. La Piña contacted ArcelorMittal’s mill in Sestao (Spain) for a solution.

New steel designed and prototyped in weeks

Thanks to the close collaboration between ArcelorMittal’s Customer Technical Team, the mill, and ArcelorMittal Global R&D in Gent (Belgium), a suitable solution for La Piña’s customer was developed quickly. The Gent team used their own predictive software to design a new quenchable boron grade with the right chemistry for ArcelorMittal’s Durabor® range. ArcelorMittal Sestao produced coils of the newly designed steel within weeks and sent them to La Piña for evaluation.

The basic shape of the plough disc is laser cut from a coil of ArcelorMittal boron steel

La Piña used the steel to manufacture agricultural discs. Disc specimens were sent to both the customer and ArcelorMittal Global R&D for testing. “Our customer was highly satisfied with the results and began a two-year field test,” says Alejandro Amà, export director at La Piña. “Due to the pandemic, the results have been delayed, but initial feedback has been extremely positive.”

ArcelorMittal Global R&D performed large-scale comparative tests of the new Durabor® grade in the laboratory using a synthetic soil with high sand content. “The test conditions emulate the real environment where the discs will be used,” notes José Manuel Tella, ArcelorMittal’s client technical support representative for the Iberia region. “In parallel, we tested discs made from the new quenchable boron grade and discs made from the grade already used by La Piña.”

The two sets of discs have been submitted to a wear test which is equivalent to a disc working for 240 kilometres in a real environment. as Laura Moli Sanchez, a member of ArcelorMittal’s Global R&D team, explains: “The results show that wear on the discs made from the new steel is 13 percent lower than on those of the grade already used. This represents a significant improvement.”

After heating, the blank is stamped at high temperature to produce the plough disc

Sustainability at the core of La Piña’s business

Due to its increased hardness after heat treatment, the new quenchable boron grade will enable La Piña to create discs which last longer, require less maintenance, and improve the sustainability of the agricultural industry. The solution is a good fit with La Piña’s ambitious sustainability targets. “We are continuously optimising our processes,” notes Alejandro Amà. “This has included introducing cleaner sources of energy and solvent-free organic coatings. La Piña was the first company in Spain to utilise the environmentally friendly water quenching method for boron steels back in 1984. We have also made significant investments which allow us to produce our own electricity, and recycle hot exhaust gases in the production plant. These investments have halved our emissions.”

Thanks to the latest cooperation with ArcelorMittal, the relationship between the two companies is even stronger than ever explains Alejandro Amà: “We have worked with ArcelorMittal and its heritage companies for several decades now. For La Piña, ArcelorMittal represents peace of mind. La Piña might be a small company, but we have always been treated as if we are a part of the family. And we value ArcelorMittal’s R&D support and high-quality products.”