Domestically produced ultra-thin stainless steel foil showcases China’s strength of manufacturing

A worker displays the 0.02 mm ultra-thin stainless steel foil produced by Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Precision Strip Co., Ltd. (Photo courtesy of Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Precision Strip Co., Ltd.)

An ultra-thin stainless steel foil developed by Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Precision Strip Co., Ltd., which is the thinnest in the world, recently won a big prize at the Sixth China Grand Awards for Industry ceremony.

The stainless steel foil, as thin as a cicada’s wings when unfolded, can be ripped effortlessly by hands. It is a sophisticated basic material that is in urgent need in major emerging industries. However, China was not able to produce it in the past and had to import it at extremely high cost.

In recent years, the increasingly higher demand for the product in China further exposed the supply-demand imbalance when aerospace, nuclear power and new energy industries soared. It was under this background that the domestically made ultra-thin stainless steel foil was developed, which reinforced the industrial chain, effectively lowered production cost, and enhanced China’s control over relevant sectors.

To gain the ability to independently produce steel sheets 1/4 as thin as typical printer paper, Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Precision Strip Co., Ltd. spent over 10 years improving its technologies. After conducting over 700 experiments and tackling more than 170 challenges and 450 problems related to manufacturing equipment and techniques, it finally mastered the way to produce 0.02 mm steel sheets.

Last year, it once again made breakthrough in the limits of rolling and other techniques, and produced stainless steel sheets that are only 0.015 mm thick which can be used to manufacture batteries for new energy vehicles. It was because of such perseverance that the enterprises embraced perfect transformation and upgrading.

To improve the quality of supplies through scientific innovation is a vital experience for Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Precision Strip Co., Ltd. and even the entire steel industry to achieve better-than-expected growth.

According to statistics, major iron and steel enterprises across China created total revenue of over 4.7 trillion yuan ($619 billion) last year, up 10.86 percent from a year ago.

The success of the industry to have withstood the impacts from COVID-19, despite the throes of its de-capacity, came from its complete industrial chain, as well as the innovative cooperation between enterprises on the industrial chain. The sales of new products such as ultra-thin stainless steel foils, quality bearing steels and gear steels embraced a rise against headwinds. They not only stabilized the production capacity of the steel industry, but also expanded market space, maintaining steady growth of the industry.

Winners of the Sixth China Grand Awards shared one similarity – seeking breakthroughs in high-end and frontier technologies. From the ultra-thin stainless steel foils to auto gears, and from superconducting materials to open AI platforms, many enterprises are racing to tackle new technologies and set standards, acting as forerunners of scientific innovation and technology translation, which indicated the strength of China’s manufacturing sector.

Today’s China has further consolidated its role as the world’s largest manufacturer. The added value of the country’s manufacturing industry accounted for 28.1 percent of the world’s total in 2019; profits of its major industrial firms rose 4.1 percent year-on-year in 2020; over 10 national manufacturing innovation centers were approved or established during the last five years. These figures are accelerating China’s steps to build itself into a manufacturing power.

In the future, the country will further enhance independent innovation and improve the quality of supply system in the manufacturing industry, so as to continue progressing towards the higher end of the global value chain.

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