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Adoption and Utilization of ASTM Standards at Baosteel

by Li Yuguang

Baoshan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd., is China’s state-of-the-art steel producer and its largest iron and steel complex. Its first phase of construction went into full operation in 1985, the second phase was officially commissioned in 1991, and the third phase in 2000. At present, Baosteel has an annual steel production capacity of 11 million tons. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology of contemporary iron and steel smelting, cold and hot processing, hydraulic sensing, electronic control, and computerized information systems in production and equipment, Baosteel is large in scale, continuous in production, automated in manufacturing processes, and its overall facility ranks among the best in the world. Its main products include cold rolled steel, coated steel, hot rolled steel, seamless steel tubing and high-speed wires.

Baosteel provides large quantities of quality steel each year, most of which are high-grade products that were previously imported from abroad, to domestic and international automobile manufacturers, petroleum and natural gas producers, ship builders, machinery manufacturers, railroad industry, home appliances manufacturers, and the building industry.

Since the early days of its production, Baosteel has focused on producing world-class products, so the adoption of advanced international standards has been a natural choice in its production and sales. As internationally established standards for materials and testing, ASTM standards have been widely used at Baosteel ever since the very beginning of its operation. With the constant improvement of Baosteel’s production structure and product quality, its adoption of ASTM standards continues to expand in scope.

Adoption of ASTM Standards in China’s Steel Industry: Current Status and Future Prospects

China’s steel industry has grown steadily through the decades from an insignificant base initially into an industry of enormous size, with a total annual output of over 100 million tons. It continues to forge ahead today with a new goal of “making high-end products and products of greater strength.” ASTM material and testing standards have gained wide recognition and adoption among major manufacturers in China’s steel industry, including Anshan Iron and Steel Corporation, Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, and Baosteel. According to our statistics, more than 100 ASTM standards have been adopted at Baosteel alone, which fall roughly into two main categories: 1) standards on materials, such as cold-rolled steel, coated steel, hot-rolled steel, bar and wire steel, and steel tubing, and 2) test methods, such as physical performance tests, chemical tests, and nondestructive examination.

Both the Anshan and Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporations have also adopted ASTM standards widely, including standards for hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, coated steel, electrical sheet steel, shape steel, steel wires, steel tubing, and standards in testing methods.

With its entry into the World Trade Organization, China’s domestic market will become increasingly globalized, and steel consumers in China’s auto industry, oil fields development, boiler manufacture, electric power stations and bridge building industry demand greater variety and higher quality in steel products. This, in turn, serves to push China’s steel industry forward in its overall performance. It is therefore predictable that ASTM standards on materials and testing will be used in even more extensive areas of application, and we foresee a promising prospect for its wide adoption in China’s steel industry.

The Experience of Baosteel in the Application of ASTM Standards

ASTM Standards Are Important Means of Communication Between Baosteel and Major Manufacturers of the World.

Baosteel’s major customers are large international corporations or their joint ventures in China, which tend to conduct their technical negotiations and draw up their contracts in terms of advanced international standards. That is why Baosteel has made it a point to adopt these advanced international standards. The current Baosteel corporate standards, in general, adopt advanced international standards directly without modification, which makes them more internationalized and gives them a competitive edge.

In cold-rolled low-carbon steel grading and hot dip zinc-coated structural sheet steel classification, for example, Baosteel has adopted the practices accepted generally in the international market. Meanwhile, in accordance with the standardization principle of “doing it once, doing it right, doing it internationally,” Baosteel has modified names of certain products introduced originally from abroad to conform to the international standards. Cold rolled high-strength steel, for example, had been named after the Japanese in accordance with Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) G3135 and JFS A2001, both of which are based on its tensile strength. Baosteel has modified the name of these products by adopting the nomenclature based on yield strength that is generally accepted internationally. Meanwhile, the technical specifications of bake-hardenable steel, phosphorus sheet steel and low-alloy steel have been made to conform on the whole to European (EN) and ASTM standards. It is by no means an overstatement to say that the major technical specifications of Baosteel’s corporate standards match those used in developed countries. As a result, our customers abroad do not find anything unfamiliar or strange in our technical specifications and have little difficulty in understanding clauses containing technical specifications.

At the beginning of this year, Chang-An Ford, a joint venture between the Ford Motor Company and China, came to Baosteel for steel procurement. The company originally intended to use the Ford standards in its procurement. After a careful study of Baosteel’s corporate standards, the company decided that the major technical specifications of Baosteel are almost identical to those used at Ford, and decided to use Baosteel’s standards directly in its purchase of the materials used for the 17 parts to be used in its trial model.

ASTM Standards Are Major Tools for Detecting Deficiencies and Gaps

Another advantage in adopting advanced international standards is that it enables the adopter to detect deficiencies promptly and make adjustments accordingly in the direction of its endeavor to maintain its development. Through careful study of advanced international standards and comparing them with its own, Baosteel is able to avoid pitfalls and shorten its cycle of product development. It also provides Baosteel with insight and guidance for the continued improvement of its product quality.

To date, Baosteel has analyzed its product varieties, product classification, product grading, and available specifications, and has compared them with ASTM, EN, Deutsches Institut Für Normung (DIN), JIS and other international standards to gain a thorough understanding of the current status of its products and the gap between the company and its international competitors. We have discovered pronounced deficiencies in Baoshan’s development of high-strength steel. In the areas of high-strength and super-strength steel for structural use, advanced international standards indicate the development and extensive use of dual-phase steel (DP), multi-phase steel (MP) and transformation-induced plasticity steel (TRIP), with steel grade raised up to 1500 megapascals, while Baosteel is evidently lagging behind in these areas. Bearing this in mind, Baoshan decided to include the development of super high-strength, DP, MP, and TRIP steels in its medium and long-term R&D programs. Currently, some of these grades of steel are already at the trial production stage.

ASTM Standards — Shortcut to Gain Customer Acceptance

As ASTM standards are widely accepted, many customers use them when they place orders with Baosteel. Many standards for products and testing used by General Motors for product certification, for instance, originated from ASTM. As Baosteel had adopted ASTM standards long before, the certification of its sheet steel for auto use by General Motors went smoothly, and within a short period of time, GM headquarters certified and accepted most of Baosteel’s products.

ASTM Standards — Passport for Entry into the World Market

The recognized authority of ASTM standards serves as a virtual worldwide guarantee for product quality. It also makes it easy for customers to use the product. The successful entry of Baosteel products into European and U.S. markets is a clear demonstration of ASTM’s authority. Currently, many of the world’s Fortune 500 companies have entered the Chinese market. Products manufactured in line with ASTM standards have received widespread recognition among these companies.

Problems that Have Emerged in the Use of ASTM Standards at Baosteel

While enjoying the enormous convenience afforded by ASTM standards, we have also encountered certain problems that need to be addressed. Some of these problems include:

a) Conflicts that exist between some material and testing standards. ASTM standard E 18, Test Methods for Rockwell Hardness and Rockwell Superficial Hardness of Metallic Materials, for instance, stipulates that there should be no indentations at the back of the sample after the test. ASTM A 677, Specification for Nonoriented Electrical Steel Fully Processed Types, however, requires an HR30T hardness test for steel plates ranging from 0.014 to 0.025 in. (0.36 to 0.64 mm) in thickness, which will definitely leave indentations at the back of the samples tested, and lower hardness readings usually result when indentations are present.

b) Some ASTM standards are not updated promptly. ASTM E 112, Test Methods for Determining Average Grain Size, for instance, still uses the outdated calculation formula of the number of intact crystal grains plus half of the number of intercepted grains for the determination of the average number of crystal grains on a circular surface. A paper presented at the 1995 International Metallography Symposium in Colmar, France, has shown that this will result in the inclusion of one extra grain that should not have been included. The new formula, however, remains to be incorporated into the above-mentioned ASTM standard.

c) Some ASTM standards fail to take the cost of specimens into due consideration. ASTM E 1271, Practice for Qualifying Charpy Verification Specimens of Heat-Treated Steel, for example, specifies the strength requirements of impact verification specimens, which increases the cost of specimen preparation considerably. If materials of lower strength are used in the preparation of impact verification specimens, it will not only reduce the cost of specimen preparation, but will also lower the variation coefficient of the impact verification specimens obtained, which will result in higher precision of the verification equipment. That is why we feel that there is room for improvement in ASTM standards.

Conclusion

ASTM standards have been widely used by the major players in China’s iron and steel industry, including Baosteel. We believe that ASTM will see an accelerated development as greater efforts are made in its internationalization process. We hope, in the meantime, that ASTM International will assume a more integrated approach in its standard development, take into full consideration technical feasibility, cost, as well as operability, and invite interested people around the world to participate in the development and revision of ASTM standards to produce more standards with international authority.

Copyright 2003, ASTM

Li Yuguang is with the Manufacturing Management Department at Baoshan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd.