JFE Steel Corporation has announced its development of SP3 (Super Pearlite Type 3), a new state of the art rail offering the world’s highest level of wear resistance for heavy haul railway lines. The inaugural shipment of SP3, a head hardened premium rail that lasts more than 10% longer than conventional head hardened rail, was delivered to BNSF Railway in the United States in February 2010.
Wear resistant rail is widely used outside Japan, especially in the United States, mainly for freight tracks used for transporting heavy commodities like coal and grain. It is especially beneficial on curved portions of track where centrifugal forces accelerate the pace of wear.
SP3's unprecedented wear resistance is due to its ultra fine metal structure, which JFE Steel achieved by optimizing chemical composition control and post rolling cooling, the latter by means of a highly advanced heat treatment process. Internal hardness, a critical factor in achieving longer rail life, is especially robust deep inside SP3 as well as on its surface. As a result of these specialized technologies developed by JFE Steel, the useful life of SP3 is more than 10% longer than that of conventional head hardened rail. For railway companies, this translates into significantly reduced costs for rail maintenance and replacement.
SP3 demonstrated its superb wear resistance in tests conducted jointly in the United States by JFE and BNSF Railway, one of the country’s largest railroads. The tests, which lasted more than one year, alternately used SP3 and conventional head hardened rail on the same sections of curved track handling actual freight traffic in the states of Nebraska and Idaho.
As a result of SP3's performance in the tests, BNSF placed a commercial order for about 600 tonnes, or some 9 kilometers, of 141 pound SP3 rail, which JFE Steel shipped from Japan in February.
Going forward, JFE Steel will develop markets for SP3 in North America and other railway markets around the world, as well as expand its line up of premium rails to meet ever more sophisticated needs.