Microstructural control and properties optimization of microalloyed pipeline steel
A series of physical simulations, with parameters resembling those of industrial rolling, were applied using a thermo-mechanical simulator on microalloyed bainitic pipeline steel to study the influence of varying the processing parameters on its microstructure evolution and mechanical properties. In this study, the austenitization temperature and roughing parameters were kept unchanged, whereas the parameters of the finishing stage were varied. The developed microstructures were studied using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). It is illustrated that selecting the appropriate cooling strategy (without altering the deformation schedule) can produce an optimized microstructure that breaks through the strength–ductility trade-off. Increasing the cooling rate after the finishing stage from 10 K·s−1 to 20 K·s−1 activated the microstructure refinement by effective nucleation of acicular ferrite and formation of finer and more dispersed martensite/austenite phase. This resulted in a remarkable enhancement in the ductility without compensating the strength. Furthermore, a pronounced strength increase with a slight ductility decrease was observed when selecting the appropriate coiling temperature, which is attributed to the copious precipitation associated with locating the coiling temperature near the peak temperature of precipitation. On the other hand, it was observed that the coiling temperature is the predominant parameter affecting the strain aging potential of the studied steel. Higher strain aging potentials were perceived in the samples with lower yield strength and vice versa, so that the differences in yield strength after thermo-mechanical treatments evened out after strain aging.