03 Oct 2016

The $3.9 billion Royal Australian Navy submarine fleet goes to sea on world-class BISALLOY® steel.

This Australian-made performance steel product has won international acclaim for its combination of strength, weldability and toughness. And it enabled submarine hulls to be constructed in Australia for the first time.

Bisalloy Steels, based in Unanderra, won a Highly Commended award in the 1993 Department of Defence Australian Industry Quality and Achievement Awards. In presenting the award, the Hon Gary Punch, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for the Department of Defence said: " Bisalloy Steels took a Swedish specification steel which was still in the research and development stage and, in conjunction with BlueScope (then part of BHP) and Defence, developed an engineering steel that leads the world in low alloy quenched and tempered steel."

World Class Submarines ... World Class Steel

The Collins Class submarines are a combination of proven technology and the latest developments. Specifically designed by Kockums Marine AB of Sweden for Australia's unique geographic and strategic circumstances and built by the Australian Submarine Corporation in Adelaide, the boats will be the most advanced diesel-electric submarines in the world.  But the Collins submarine project did not only result in world class submarine design.  New standards were achieved in manufacturing, project management and logistic engineering.

Innovative technology was successfully transferred from the laboratory to industry. And Bisalloy Steels has incorporated new technologies and processes developed for this historic multi-billion dollar project into all its products - supplying steel with increased toughness and improved weldability.

Bisalloy Steels Defence Connection

Bisalloy Steels, which commenced operations in May 1980, is Australia's only producer of high strength and abrasion resistant quenched and tempered steel plate. Before 1980 such specialised steels for civilian and defence use had to be imported.

The BISALLOY® range of performance steel products have been used extensively throughout the manufacturing, mining and construction industries but also have had a significant presence in defence applications.

Bisalloy Steels supplied high strength BISALLOY® Armour steel plates for the FFG.7 guided missile frigates 05 and 06 and retrofitting on frigates 01 to 04. The company also supplied the same high strength steel plates and armour plates to the US Navy and US Army.

In 1987 the Australian Government signed a contract with the Australian Submarine Corporation for six submarines, which would take the defence force into the 21st century.  This was the largest defence contract ever won in Australia and the Government stipulated that 70 per cent of project funds had to be spent in Australia to facilitate the acquisition of new skills and new technologies. Thorough and detailed advance work resulted in Bisalloy becoming the preferred supplier for the project.

Testing Times

Bisalloy Steels’ product had to undergo rigorous testing to conform to the RAN's stringent requirements.

Naturally, submarine hulls must be capable of operating under severe conditions, without loss of structural integrity or performance. The steel needed to have particular characteristics. Strength, toughness and shock loading impact resistance are vitally important but the steel also must be readily cold-formed, fabricated and welded.  BlueScope, as the local steelmaker, and Bisalloy Steels, as the quenched and tempered plate producer, were faced with the challenge of transforming an experimental, embryonic steel product into one that was commercially viable and able to withstand stringent testing.

Thus was born the Australian grade BIS 8 l 2EMA. This plate is weldable, micro-alloyed, high yield stress steel with excellent low temperature impact properties.  Bisalloy Steel’s BIS 812EMA withstood exhaustive testing, including the Charpy V-notch impact tests, Schnadt tests, Dynamic Tear tests and the spectacular Explosion Bulge Test (the dry-land equivalent of depth­charging from close range).

A Laboratory-Industry Alliance

From laboratory to industry is not always the smoothest of paths yet in this project innovative technology developed by materials engineers was successfully implemented into industrial processes.

Bisalloy Steels collaborated with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, BlueScope and others on an intensive research program, involving critical testing and evaluation of materials.   The resultant innovations are at the forefront of submarine steel technology worldwide.  Bisalloy Steels and other Australian industries have amply demonstrated their ability to support self-reliance in Defence Force projects.

From Submarine To Steel

The benefits are by no means limited to the submarine project.  Bisalloy Steels has incorporated the technology developed throughout the progress of the contract into all grades of manufactured steel, regardless of end-use.
It has found particular application in the technologies associated with the production of low sulphur content micro-alloyed steels containing niobium, vanadium, titanium and/or boron.

Bisalloy Steels now has the capability to directly supply Australian-manufactured special steel plates for any future submarine or other naval vessel construction in this country or elsewhere.

Watertight Quality Assurance

Bisalloy Steels also had to meet prerequisites for sub-contractors on the submarine project in the area of Quality Assurance.

When the AS3900/IS09000 series of quality system standards was introduced Bisalloy Steels revised and reissued its documented quality system to comply with AS3902.
This system has been independently assessed by Lloyd's Register as meeting the requirements of the quality system standard, passing all regular surveillance visits by that organisation and the regular audits conducted by the Australian Submarine Corporation and the Defence Department.

The philosophy behind such quality control is to build in as many checks, inspections and tests as possible in the early manufacturing stages to avoid potentially more expensive problems further down the track.  Bisalloy Steels’ demonstrated and guaranteed ability to meet such stringent quality controls can only benefit existing and potential customers.

Collins Submarine in a Class of Its Own

The Collins was launched in August 1993. It is the first of the six submarines, all of which will be named after officers and men who served with great distinction in the RAN.  The Collins Class submarines are entirely new, not just a duplication of existing submarine design, and the first to be totally designed by computer.

With more than half a million component parts in each submarine construction was a complex task.  More than l 000 tonnes of Bisalloy Steel were used in each submarine, hull, with a total of about 8000 tonnes supplied over 15 years.

The hull sections range in weight from 200 to 650 tonnes.  The first Collins Class submarine, completed on schedule and under budget, is expected to equal or exceed RAN performance specifications.  Bisalloy Steels is proud to have been part of this remarkable achievement.

The skills and technologies Bisalloy developed for this ground-breaking, multi­billion dollar submarine project have been applied to all company processes and products –providing assurances of expertise, service and quality.

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