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TISCO to step up spending on R&D, technology innovation

By Fan Feifei in Beijing and Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-02 10:22
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Workers make seamless steel tubes in TISCO factory in May, 2020. [Photo/]

Taiyuan Iron & Steel (Group) Co Ltd or TISCO, a leading stainless steel-maker, will continue to increase its investment in technological innovation and research and development of world-leading high-tech stainless steel products, as part of its broader drive to support the transformation and upgrade of country's manufacturing industry, a top company official said.

Gao Xiangming, chairman of TISCO, said the company's R&D expenses account for about 5 percent of its annual sales revenue.

He said the company has been able to force its way into the high-end market with its world-leading products, such as ultrathin stainless steel strips.

TISCO has mass-produced the "hand-tear steel", a special type of stainless steel foil, which is just 0.02 millimeters thick or a quarter of an A4 paper's thickness, and 600 millimeters wide.

The technology to produce such high-end steel foil has long been dominated by a few countries, such as Germany and Japan.

"The steel, which can be torn apart as easily as paper, can be widely applied in areas such as space and aviation, petrochemical engineering, nuclear power, new energy, automobiles, textile and computers," said Gao.

According to Gao, the extremely thin type of stainless steel is also being used for foldable screens in the high-end electronics industry, flexible solar modules, sensors and energy-storage batteries. "The successful R&D of the specialty steel product has effectively promoted the upgrading and sustainable development of key materials in the high-end manufacturing field."

So far, TISCO has 2,757 patents, including 772 for invention. In 2016, the company launched its steel for ballpoint pen tips after five years of R&D to develop its own patented technology. It is a breakthrough that could help end China's long reliance on imported products.

Gao said they are ramping up efforts to make TISCO a top-level manufacturer in advanced steel products globally by optimizing company structures, encouraging tech R&D in partnership with top institutes and research centers, and enhancing staff training systems.

Last year, the company set a record for its production of the world's largest and heaviest weldless integral stainless steel ring forging, a key component for fast-neutron reactors. At present, 85 percent of the products TISCO manufactures are high-end products, and it is the world's biggest stainless-steel exporter.

He Wenbo, Party secretary of the China Iron and Steel Association, said China's steel enterprises should focus on mastering key and core technologies, beef up efforts in scientific and technological innovation, as well as increase investment in R&D.

He said green development and intelligent manufacturing are the two development directions for the steel industry.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has had an influence on the steel industry, in the form of delayed demand, limited logistics, falling prices and mounting export pressure, said Gao.

The company has taken a string of steps to mitigate the negative impact of the contagion, such as broadening production, supply, retail and transport channels during the epidemic, accelerating efforts to resume normal work and production, and strengthening health checks for employees, he said.

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