Activities & Expertise

Materials for the future

In recent years, a significant shift in mindset has been observed in metallury for two reasons. First and obvious reason is the everlasting quest for higher performance of materials, mostly translated these days in a challenging combination of properties that need to be fulfilled. Second reason is the improved alloying capability of production plants. Result of this extra degree of freedom for the metallurgical designers is another massive layer of new materials coming closer to industrial reality.

OCAS is strongly involved in the development and industrialisation of this next generation of products, not only pushing the strength ductility balance to a higher level, but also offering a whole range of outstanding properties such as extreme formability and toughness. All these developments only make sense if one manages to make optimal use of the offered performance. OCAS has a strong tradition in developing generic solutions guiding users how to take maximal benefit out of the offered properties, and setting up co-engineering projects with interested customers to translate the theory into an in-field example.

These evolutions also create needs and opportunities for wire products. First of all, these new substrate metallurgies for flat products require to be weldable, and as they exceed the range of available welding consumables, dedicated developments of welding wire are needed to be able to offer a complete solution to our customers. Also, some of these metallurgies open up very interesting opportunities for components produced via Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) technology. For non-ferrous alloys, opportunities exist for dedicated metallurgies for WAAM parts. Both tendencies pushed OCAS to install lab scale bar rolling capacity, in order to be able to make small material batches in an accelerated manner, so that developments can be offered quicker.

Meanwhile, we pay special attention to the surface quality of the developed products. OCAS has a number of projects focusing on improving the surface. Given the huge success of Magnelis®, a metallic coating with outstanding corrosion protection, a strong effort is put in the development of the next generation metallic coating. This is an exciting program exploring old and new metallic coating production methods hunting several new challenges such as durability, appearance, sustainability and efficiency.

Our sustainability efforts are not limited to metallic coatings only but cover a broad variety of different types of coating activities. We continue to work on several REACH compliant solutions, such as nickel and cobalt oxides-free enamelling systems or a hexavalent chromium-free solution for plating.

 

Related expertise to this activity

We develop your tailor-made alloys in small batches, from 100 g to 100 kg. Specifically for the development of new steel grades or special alloys, we can simulate an entire industrial production process on laboratory scale. This includes casting, hot and cold rolling, and annealing. Our production process for customised casting and rolling of metal alloys can be scaled up to an industrial environment. Recently, we automated our heavy gauge lab rolling mill and cooling pilot.

OCAS adapted one of its lab rolling mills to be able to switch to “bar mode”. Straight round bars with good ovality can be obtained. The lab bar rolling is compatible with OCAS’s lab casting tools. As such, the composition of the bars can be tailored to the client’s needs.

Apart from smart materials selection, we have experience in advanced materials testing and characterisation.

Our aim is to help you reduce your development cost (as there is less need for expensive industrial trials), to optimise your process and to enhance material properties. 

Enamelled steel is a perfect blend of tradition and high-tech environmentally-friendly innovation. The green alternatives not only reduce enamelling's carbon footprint, they also reduce the cost of the customer's process. In the past few years, OCAS has developed a number of novelties allowing to skip oiling and thus degreasing; to reduce the firing time and temperature; to combine good formability with a perfect surface and reduced fish-scale sensitivity.

The outlook for enamel-based technology is very promising indeed. Encouraged by enamel's excellent durability, appearance and recyclability, OCAS's researchers are currently working on a new enamel concept. This future product would be durable, ecological, light-weight and easy to shape -  at an affordable price. The concept of a REACH-compliant thin glass layer on steel scores peak life cycle analysis performance and has great potential to become a game-changing innovation.

OCAS can simulate the complete enamelling process in its lab, followed by an in-depth characterisation and testing of the in-use properties in-house. Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment to develop, prepare, apply and characterise different enamel coatings. 

OCAS develops new functional and aesthetic surfaces for any metal substrate to meet your specific requirements. Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment to prepare, apply and characterise different coatings: organic, inorganic, metallic, hybrid and/or enamel coatings. Our aim is to optimise your surface functionality, lower your production cost and make your product more environment-friendly.

The complete coating and enamelling process can be simulated in our laboratory, using a wide range of technologies. The first step is the pre-treatment of substrates including for example degreasing, pickling, phosphating and passivation. Coatings are then applied by electrodeposition, spraying (wet or powder paints or enamels), dipping, spinning or using a roll coater. A more advanced technique is Chemical Vapour Deposition, allowing the deposition of very thin layers (20-50 nm) on a variety of substrates. Our curing methods include conventional, infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) curing.

We are able to perform the full characterisation and testing of different technological aspects of surfaces from macro to micro and even to nanoscale: flexibility, adhesion, hardness, wear and staining resistance, colour, gloss, appearance, etc. Both outdoor exposure racks as well as accelerated corrosion cabinets are available to check the corrosion behaviour and durability of materials and coatings, including the evaluation of buried structures in different soil types.

In addition to these standardised tests, we are also equipped to perform electrochemical measurements using impedance spectroscopy, Scanning Vibrating Electrode Technique (SVET) and Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP). Read more about how our scanning flow micro-cell boosts our study of fundamental corrosion reactions.

OCAS’s expertise in alloy and coating design, metal surface engineering, non-standard testing and modelling supplements Endures’s current knowledge on corrosion, electrochemistry, MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), antifouling and protective coatings. The Endures team of experts helps its customers to reduce their corrosion costs by selecting appropriate materials and protecting structures in marine and corrosive environments. Endures conducts applied research on vessels, offshore installations and land-based structures and buildings to determine the type of corrosion damage, including MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), and to prevent future damage. Based in the harbour of Den Helder, Endures has a C3/C4 seaside testing location to expose samples to maritime exposure conditions both aerial and immersed, as well in the tidal or splash zone. Endures also has a raft for efficacy tests of antifouling paints and can carry out lab experiments in running natural seawater.

Together with Flanders Materials Centre (FLAMAC), a division of SIM, we make an accelerated development of new coatings possible, thanks to the high-throughput experimentation technology. Specific software and equipment allows fast and precise preparation of the formulations. The High Throughput Technology is based on an automated formulation, application and curing of coatings. This quick screening not only allows for cost reduction. It also reduces the research time to obtain the perfect coating for your application, thus reducing your time-to-market. Explore Flamac's high-throughput experimentation technology service.

With our modelling and simulation tools, OCAS offers solutions for your design and engineering challenges in order to achieve maximum efficiency and to reduce costs. Depending on the complexity of your request, we choose the most appropriate approach in close collaboration with you. This can range from empirical and analytic tools to more advanced finite element modelling (FEM) tools. Thanks to a wide choice of available software tools our multidisciplinary team selects the best combinations to improve your product or process development. The outcome of simulations can be experimentally tested at our facilities and compared with real-life tests for validation purposes.

Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment for materials testing, joining & assembly. The OCAS labs are equipped with standard as well as customised test set-ups for large component testing.

Long term energy requirements, combined with the changing climate highlight the importance of developing non-fossil fuels. Although the "hydrogen economy" is not yet a fact, significant efforts are being made to design steel grades that  can be used to safely generate, store and transport hydrogen. However, to develop new materials with the necessary resistance to hydrogen, it's crucial to understand the mechanisms of hydrogen embrittlement and the interactions with microstructure.

OCAS has a dedicated hydrogen lab to study the fundamental mechanisms related to hydrogen embrittlement, and test set-ups for both hydrogen-induced cracking (HIC) and sulphide stress corrosion cracking (SSCC), as well as disk rupture test equipment using gaseous hydrogen at high pressures. A lot of competence has been developed over these past few years in terms of methodology, knowledge building, modelling and understanding the hydrogen embrittlement phenomenon.

Being involved in various projects on the effects of hydrogen on steel - from internal development projects and technical services to funded knowledge building projects with various European research institutes - OCAS took the initiative to organise the very first conference dedicated to steel and hydrogen in Europe. After the successful SteelyHydrogen2011 Conference, the scope was broadened and the attendance at the second and third SteelyHydrogen2014 and SteelyHydrogen2018 conferences, again organised by OCAS, confirmed that hydrogen is considered a crucial topic for developments in the steel and other alloys in the next decade. OCAS is pleased to announce that we are currently preparing the 4th edition of SteelyHydrogen2021 .

Joining and assembly at OCAS cover a large range of material types, thicknesses and industrial applications. We optimise your component and manufacturing route for assembly through welding, joining or adhesive bonding. Our facilities include all major arc welding processes - MIG/MAG, PAW, 5-wire SAW, TIG, MMA.  In addition, we are equipped for brazing, braze welding and adhesive bonding.  

You can benefit from our vast materials expertise, covering the full range of steel grades, including coated steels, as well as other materials, in a large thickness range from less than 1 mm to more than 200 mm. 

OCAS performs welding procedure development and qualification to relevant standards and is furthermore fully equipped to evaluate the welded joint in terms of mechanical properties. Our experienced welding team can advise you on further optimisation of your welding process, including the introduction of novel techniques. Allied technologies available include heat treatment and non-destructive evaluation of welded joints.

To minimise your health and safety risks in the welding shop, we offer technical support in the field of air quality and welding fumes. Our extensive spectrum of sampling - from gas to dust - and analytical techniques available - from composition to particle morphology - completes our offer for fume analysis.

Our dedicated adhesive bonding lab is fully equipped to apply and test strength and durability of structural bonds. 

Read more on our in-house welding capabilities.

Our welding team has highly skilled and experienced operators. All our welding project leaders are EWE/IWE qualified. Since 2012, one of our senoir research engineers welding chairs sub-commission C-XI-E 'transmission pipelines" of the International Institute of Welding (IIW) and is furthermore elected representative on the technical management board of IIW.  Since 2008, one of our senior project leaders of the surfaces department chairs the sub-commission Health & Safety for Welding of the Belgian standardisation body.