Close up of the surface of a laser clad steel roll
This steel mill roll has a new Tungsten carbide coating, which was applied by laser cladding.

Why do steel mills need a chrome plating alternative for steel mill rolls?

To understand why steel mill operators may want to choose a chrome plating alternative, we need to think of the working conditions inside of a steel mill.

If you’ve ever been inside an operating steel mill, you quickly learned two things:

1) It’s unimaginably hot in there.
2) The equipment takes a severe beating.

Perhaps the hardest working components in the facility are the steel rollers. Steel rollers form the steel, shape it, and move it through the plant for processing. When shipped from the factory, the rollers are typically plated with chrome. Chrome is durable, resists corrosion and has good impact resistance. But in reality, due to their extremely demanding working conditions, most chrome plated steel mill rolls don’t last longer than 6 months. Roll surfaces get damaged, worn down, and become uneven. The metal becomes stressed and fatigued.

Problems caused by roll fatigue

1) Reduced steel mill performance and process efficiency

2) Increased downtime
Downtime can lead to loss of resources, profitability and, in some cases, missed delivery deadlines.

3) Diminished product quality and consistency
Damaged rollers can lead to product defects.

4) Replacement rolls are expensive
When repairs aren’t feasible, new rollers are needed in short cycles, but with long lead times.

The good news is that there is a chrome plating alternative that yields a much more durable roller surface: laser cladding with tungsten carbide.

A man pointing at viewer with text overlay "Chrome Plating is out! Laser Cladding is IN!"

Stronger coatings applied with laser cladding

Unlike many other surface hardening methods, laser cladding creates a true metallurgical bond to the base material. Our favorite metal powder to use for coating steel mill rolls is a Tungsten carbide blend. Tungsten carbide can provide a coating that is approximately double the stiffness of steel, and with twice the density. When combining the unique traits of the laser cladding process with the impressive properties of tungsten carbide, several major benefits are realized:

  • Increased Thermal Resistance
    Rolls clad with Tungsten carbide can withstand over 5,000°F. Chrome plated rolls can withstand 3,000°F.
  • Significantly Improved Longevity
    Due to the higher stability of tungsten carbide, the rollers can withstand more stress and last four times longer on average.
  • Decreased Downtime
    The increased life cycle means less downtime, and all of the headaches that are associated with it.

At a time when every dollar counts, increasing efficiency is more important than ever. Steel mills that have recognized the benefits of laser cladded rollers over chrome coated ones enjoy reduced costs and downtime, increased profitability, and quality, consistent output.

If you are wondering if your bottom line can benefit from laser cladding, please reach out to one of our application engineers. They’d be happy to review your needs and propose an innovative solution.