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Chinese steel ends Western monopoly

China's special steel enterprises have successfully developed an array of high-tech and high value-added products to break the monopoly of established rivals, including those in France, the United States and Japan.

The 300M steel developed and produced by Shanghai-based Baosteel Special Metals Co Ltd, or BSMC, has been used in the production of the landing gear for the C919, China's first homegrown large passenger jet, according to the company.

BSMC received the qualification certificate in 2016 as the material supplier of Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd, or COMAC, the manufacturer of the C919.

The landing gear is the heaviest steel part of the aircraft, accounting for 3.5 percent of its total weight.

It not only carries the weight of the entire aircraft, but also needs to withstand the huge impact of landing, says Zhao Suwu, a senior engineer from BSMC. So its steel components need to offer stability, impact resistance and fatigue strength.

"After dozens of industrial-scale production trials and seven years of research and development, the company has developed the whole chain of manufacturing technology for the M300 special steel," Zhao says.

"Apart from COMAC, BSMC is also actively working with an international aircraft manufacturer and an aircraft engine producer to be their qualified supplier."

In September last year, BSMC's Ni36LNG alloy, which is used on liquefied natural gas ships, was approved by the France-based marine engineering company Gaztransport et Technigaz SA, making it the world's second supplier of the thin-filmed alloy for LNG ships.

The alloy later won the accreditation certificates issued by two major ship classifiers, the Beijing-based China Classification Society and United Kingdom-based Lloyd's Register, the world's oldest ship classifier, marking another step for the application of the special steel in LNG ships.

"The technical team of our company has made great efforts to ensure the alloy's physical and mechanical stability at super low temperature," says Zhao Xin, deputy director of the company's technical department.

Other special steel manufacturers have also produced steel products that enable China to be a technology and product trendsetter in the global market.

Zhengzhou-based Zhengzhou Yongtong Special Steel has developed the Sorbite High-Strength Stainless Structural Steel S600E, which can be used in earthquake-prone areas due to its high strength and tenacity.

"China now imports around 10 million tons of steel products annually from other countries, and a large proportion of these imports belong to the special steel sector," says Ma Li, chief researcher at the Lange Steel Information Research Center.

The sector enjoys great prospects as China needs more high-end special steel products to upgrade its equipment manufacturing industry, Ma says.

However, many steel enterprises in China are still engaged in producing low-end special steel products, and they need to put more resources in the R&D of high-end ones, he says.

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