Originally appeared on Linkedin, by Simon Edwards, Head of Technical, Packaging, at Tata Steel in Europe
Responding to canmakers’ requests for a common solution to EU REACH legislation, Tata Steel and thyssenkrupp Packaging Steel embarked on a collaboration project to explore new technologies and products that could potentially replace Electolytic Chromium Coated Steel (ECCS).
The exciting result of this collaboration is TCCT™, or trivalent chromium-coating technology, which has been used to produce a brand new tin-free steel (TFS), REACH-compliant product. Developed by Tata Steel, TCCT™ will also be used by thyssenkrupp Packaging Steel under licence.
For anyone feeling besieged by acronyms at this point, REACH legislation is an EU regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals and replaces a number of European Directives and Regulations with a single system. The impact of REACH on metal packaging is significant as it prohibits the use of chromium-6 which is used in the manufacture of Electrolytic Chromium Coated Steel (ECCS).
Technology aside, REACH-compliance also has a current and looming sunset date of 21st September 2017, although recognising the extensive work undertaken to dates and the timescales involved in securing the authorisations and approvals required to bring such a product to market, an extension of four years seems highly likely to allow for full tinplate customer qualification.
This collaborative approach to developing a new technology to replace ECCS came about following extensive engagement with APEAL, a federation of the four major producers of steel for packaging. APEAL members collectively recognised the imperative for a new technology and the comparatively narrow timescale imposed: as such it actively explored a collaborative approach regarding technological development and in seeking a compliance extension.
I think I can speak for both Tata Steel and thyssenkrupp in saying that this has proved an exciting and fruitful collaboration. It began with the establishment of a common laboratory production and test programme between our two organisations, which worked in parallel on process and product engineering and optimisation. Ground-breaking technology was involved from the outset and we are now at the very important stage of actual testing: a new TCCT line has been commissioned by Tata Steel at IJmuiden in the Netherlands, and first test material from a thyssenkrupp Packaging Steel pilot line is also underway.
Submissions for EU and USA food regulation compliance have been made and test programs for product properties and ECCS benchmarking are being explored with lacquer suppliers.
The challenges have been immense and we were never under any illusion regarding the ground-breaking technologies that would be needed to adapt to these regulatory changes. But I am confident that TCCT will deliver and that canmakers will be able to see for themselves our REACH-compliant product at METPACK next month.
Plan your visit to the trade fair!