Page 3: Research
Research is a detailed study of a subject. It can lead to new ideas, new information and new understanding that can be used to solve a problem. One part of RD26 Ltd is RD Testing, a commercial facility that provides mechanical and metallographic testing and analysis services. Specialising in the testing and analysis of steels, its customers include steel foundries, forges, rolling mills and steel stockholders. Its research activities cover all aspects of the manufacturing process. It has made significant developments through research into metallurgy.
In looking for a solution to the problem on the oil platform, the client proposed a new structure, sited 2,000 metres below the platform. RD26 Ltd used its expertise to support the casting design to meet the strict requirements. This included researching the material properties and dimensional accuracy needed to withstand severe operating conditions.
The research team monitored the expansions and contractions of the metal, through cooling after casting and through heat treatment, to test for strength and fatigue resistance. The team used computer simulations to help achieve the extremely high quality standards required. These simulations modelled the extreme loadings likely to occur in operational conditions. Researchers can also build models to replicate a system. These can be physical models or computer-based representations. RD26 Ltd uses 3D solid modelling to design parts, assemblies, tooling and processes for casting and forging activities. In seeking ways to improve the manufacture of nuclear reactor components, extensive research was conducted by RD26 Ltd using modelling techniques. These were key in developing the optimum chemical composition and methods design for the foundry castings. Laboratory trials were conducted to determine the correct tempering process. This is the process of heating metal to a high temperature below the melting point, then cooling it, usually in air, to obtain the necessary balance of mechanical properties. On a larger, plant-based scale, trials were undertaken to investigate material flow, heat transfer and the frictional conditions.
Researchers used a scanning electron microscope to investigate microstructure property relationships. These trials are expensive. However, the size of the reactor components means that there is no room for error once the process is used in commercial production. Engineers need to get the product ‘right first time’.