Japanese steelmaker Kobe Steel is planning to make capital investments of roughly 50 billion yen at its Kakogawa Works. The company claims that the main thrust will be a new continuous annealing line for steel sheet in response to growing demand for automotive ultra high-strength steel (UHSS). The new facility will be started up in February 2021.

According to Kobe Steel, automakers have been promoting lighter car bodies with higher strength in recent years in order to meet ever-stricter regulations for fuel efficiency and collision safety.

The new investments are also a response to a need for higher production capacity and productivity in line with rising demand for automotive [advanced] high strength steel (AHSS). On completion the plant will boast a capacity of 240kt/yr (metric tonnes).

The new facility will combine a continuous annealing line with hot-dipped galvanising and galvanealing equipment, claims Kobe Steel. The plant will produce both cold-rolled steel and hot-dipped galvanised/galvanealed steel.

According to Kobe Steel, ‘the continuous annealing line to be newly constructed will be equipped with cutting edge heat treating functions’. The new annealing line with enable the production of ultra high strength steel with a tensile strength of 780MPa or higher. This type of steel, says Kobe, offers high formability.

The plan is to increase the production capacity of the plant’s existing pickling and tandem cold mill and material handling equipment.

By expanding its production capacity, Kobe Steel will be producing high strength steels in three locations: Kakogawa in Japan, PRO-TEC Coating Company in the USA and the Kobelco Angang Auto Steel Company in China.

The PRO-TEC Coating Company is a joint venture with US Steel and Kobelco Angang is a JV with Angang Steel Company, a subsidiary of Anshan Iron & Steel Group Complex that produces high-strength steel in China.