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Leveling high strength steel

Brownie Cox, Industry Manager for The Bradbury Company, on AHSS and other high-strength materials and its impact on leveling equipment

MM 0715 facetime leadMM: Where are Advanced High Strength and Abrasion Resistant (AR) steel used? 

Brownie Cox:In construction equipment applications, bull dozer blades, the inner walls of concrete trucks and garbage truck compactors incorporate AHSS and AR steels. In such high-wear areas, equipment builders capitalize on the properties of AR steel to extend the life of components. In automobiles, primarily impact areas are sites where high-strength steels are applied. One place that most wouldn’t think about includes automated teller machines. Most ATMs are welded safes that have a blast rating and are almost indestructible.

MM: What are the problems processors might face when leveling these materials? 

Cox: Most levelers made in the past were never designed to provide the force required to level these high yield strength materials. In order to correct the shape deformations caused by the process used to create these materials, the steel has to be taken past its high yield point. Today, heavy frame design and higher torque drive trains in the levelers are a must to contain the massive closing forces and be able to continuously drive the rolls through these forces. The stronger materials require new designs to fulfill these objectives. A lot of research and development has already been done. This has forced a real paradigm shift in the machine building industry.

MM: How do these materials affect secondary processes? 

Cox: All subsequent processes are affected including punching, bending and stamping. However, from a leveling perspective, the primary concern is internal stress deformation after cutting with laser and plasma. Especially with heavier gauges, final parts need to be flat after cutting in order to jig up and weld accurate assemblies. When not properly leveled, bowed parts can be unworkable and become scrap.

MM: How long will a leveling line last with proper maintenance? 

Cox: With proper maintenance, a leveling line has a 20-plus year lifespan. Primary areas of concern would include lubrication areas such as bearings and gearboxes. Additionally, the shear is a high production area.

MM: How often should a steel processor expect to upgrade rolls, drive trains and other components of its leveler when processing HSS and AR steels? 

Cox: Much higher closing forces are used in new levelers designed for high strength steels. As a result, these increased forces speed up wear on rolls and bearings. Life of these components are likely reduced compared to the length of normal loads. Rolls and bearings will need to be resurfaced or replaced sooner than standard material, but it is production volume-dependent. 

MM: If a leveler is being operated two shifts and producing at the top of its rated capacity range, how long would it take a company to see a return on its investment?

Cox: Based on the question, the return on investment will be similar to normal steel production. The point here is that with new leveling equipment designed for high strength steels, your market opens up to the new customers who require it.

MM: How much training should a new leveler operator have before processing steel?

Cox: Most present leveler operators have sufficient training to perform their jobs well. A new leveler in the facility will offer newer, more advanced controls. Training on these new controls will be provided by the original equipment manufacturer.

MM: How much support should a leveling line buyer expect from the equipment builder? 

Cox: Technical support is always important. Most new equipment requires an internet connection directly to the machine. Service may be performed online and diagnosis is immediate, without the usual travel time and expenses associated with it. MM

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