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Chromium(VI)-free Coating Technology for Special Chrome-Coated Packaging Steel

Coating line VA13 for tinplate packaging

Commissioning of the ultra-modern coating line is scheduled for the middle of 2022.

Photos: thyssenkrupp Steel Europe Fotografie; Nils Röscher

An ultramodern chromium-coating line for packaging steel is currently being constructed at thyssenkrupp Rasselstein in Andernach, Germany. This is where steelstrip will be chromium-coated in line with an innovative procedure from the middle of 2022. The new coating technology – called Trivalent Chromium Coating Technology (TCCT®) – is based on chromium(III) instead of chromium(VI). This means that the company will soon be able to offer its customers a future-proof product for manufacturing chromium-coated steel packaging that meets the specifications of the EU’S REACH regulation.

With an investment in the range of hundreds of millions of euros, thyssenkrupp Rasselstein is continuing to promote sustainability, process efficiency, quality, and competitiveness. At the same time, this change will allow measures for health protection and environmental conservation to be improved.

From steel to packaging steel – before finally becoming a can

From the ends and bottoms of pet food cans, to mounting cups on aerosol cans, right through to crown corks and offset ink tins – the cutting-edge coating facility supplies special chromium-coated steel for different types of steel packaging. Thanks to its extremely thin coating, the material is ideal for further processing and protected against corrosion.

The new procedure for manufacturing special chromium-coated material – TCCT® – replaces chromium(VI) with chromium(III). “The technology is based on a patent from Tata Steel Ijmuiden B.V.. We acquired a license for it,” reports Oliver Hoffmann, CTO at thyssenkrupp Rasselstein. The company’s existing competencies in the manufacturing of special chromium-coated steel in Andernach will be crucial in perfecting the procedure: “We have pooled our expertise in one joint technology team and this will allow us to further develop the procedure,” he explains. It’s not only customers who are set to benefit in the future, but also the company itself.

Chromium(VI)-free production on the new coating line from the middle of 2022

The changeover in the production of special chrome-plated packaging steel to a REACH-compliant process is progressing on schedule. From the middle of 2022, the company will be producing material for customers on coating line 8. The new line will produce only TCCT®. The quantities of chromium(VI)-free, special chrome-coated packaging steel from the ultra-modern coating line 13 will then be gradually increased and at the same time the production of ECCS on coating line 8 will be reduced by the corresponding amount.

After approximately one year, coating line 13 will replace the current line that produces ECCS. From that date, our portfolio as packaging steel specialists will include only special chrome-coated packaging steel which has been produced 100-percent chromium (VI)-free.

For producers of steel packaging, TCCT® will in future enable the company to offer a REACH-compliant solution which entirely dispenses with the use of chromium(VI) in the manufacturing processes, while maintaining the usual high product quality. TCCT® is produced in accordance with the revised European standard EN 10202-2022 and is notable for the following advantages:

  • very good adhesion to organic coatings
  • very good wettability
  • suitable for challenging forming processes
  • compatible with sterilization; no marbling
  • stable and simple process
  • TCCT® specifications are similarly available to ECCS specifications

Boost to innovation with energy-saving effects

The new building in which coating line 13 has been constructed covers 10,000 square meters, or about one and a half soccer fields.

After commissioning, the packaging steel will be coated on the surface with a nanometer-thin protective layer in an electrolytic bath in coating line 13. A further advantage of the modern system is as follows: “We will be at the cutting edge of technology in every sense of the word – including in terms of energy consumption and occupational safety,” says Paul Michels, project manager for the new coating line. Oliver Hoffmann reveals another groundbreaking aspect of the system: “In the future we will be able to work with an even broader production range.” This means that even wider and thinner plates from the site that are even more solid and robust will soon be used as primary materials for cans. “Our customers will of course benefit from this. Further progress will also be made possible, as our new measuring technology will go far beyond today’s standards.”

Cans made from tinplate are recycling champions

The modern system is state of the art from a technological perspective, especially because additional more efficient and energy-saving processes will be implemented using the digitalized workflow. Michels makes the following predication: “After further tests and calculations we can look forward to lower CO2 emissions from production.” The can also contributes to the recycling process: as the most frequently and most efficiently recycled packaging material, tinplate remains unparalleled when it comes to ecological sustainability.

The VA 13 in Andernach will ensure environmental conservation, occupational safety, and resource efficiency. The investment promises added value in many respects, as employees, manufacturers, customers, and consumers will all benefit equally from the switch to the new TCCT® process.

Steel production in the million ton range

  • 1.5 million tons of packaging steel are processed on the systems in Andernach near Rasselstein.
  • That corresponds to 15 percent of thyssenkrupp’s production in Duisburg.
  • 400 customers in 80 countries order packaging steel for cans from here.
  • The product range comprises thicknesses ranging from 0.100 to 0.499 mm.
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