Tuesday | 23 February, 2010 | 7:32 am

Stand up to wear & tear

By Lauren Duensing

February 2010 - "The longevity of our equipment is the lifeblood for our operations and competitiveness as a wrecking company," explains Kenny Wayne Bates, shear division, D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co., Greensboro, N.C., a demolition company that’s been in business for more than 50 years. "The shredder I manage processes nearly 400 tons of steel a week, and every bit is moving across the steel plate in the shear."

As a result, companies like DHGW need equipment that can stand up to heavy use, and tough equipment starts with tough steel. But until the 1960s, ultra-durable steel was hard to come by.

In the 1950s, Harry Dickinson, the man who would become the founder of Astralloy Steel Products Inc., Birmingham, Ala., was working as a mining superintendent at a coal mining company, and he noticed wear and tear on the steel equipment was causing excessive downtime and rising costs.

So, Dickinson set out to develop a superior steel that wouldn’t lose its toughness. According to Axel Barron, international sales manager, Astralloy Steel Products Inc., "Originally, our founder developed Astralloy V because he was frustrated with the poor performance of the existing steels in the early 1960s. The products in those days were moderate in strength with only a thin part of their surface hardened. In abrasive applications, the material wore through its superficial hardness rapidly, and the equipment had to be shut down quickly until a new part was made and installed."

Barron says this downtime "was particularly costly in mining applications, where downtime is so expensive and inefficient." Astralloy V was created to solve these types of problems by providing a through-hardened steel with a richer metallurgy that creates a balance between hardness and toughness.

Astralloy Steel Products has been supplying abrasion- and impact-resistant steel products for more than 40 years. The company offers an extensive product line, ranging from water-quenched and tempered grades to premium proprietary-grade alloy materials--including Astralloy V, which is often the material of choice for high-wear and high-impact applications.

Carry the load
Although Astralloy V is highly respected in the mining industry, its strength allows it to reach a wide variety of markets. It’s been used in aircraft parts and test stand anchor systems, forge dies, hammer faces, injection molding inserts, tool holders and collets. "These applications developed due to problems experienced with tool steel, such as brittleness and difficulty balancing hardness with toughness," Barron says. "As users see new problems, they turn to Astralloy V to solve them. We like to tell our customers to use the Astralloy V in the most difficult applications where other steels fail."

The material has also found its way into a variety of general industrial applications where "there are heavy gear and shaft applications, hot work environments, severe impact and abrasion and applications where failure is not an option," Barron notes. "These applications occur in power generation, mining, tunneling, construction, timber, pulp and paper, plastic recycling and molding, machine shops, steel mills, foundries, aviation, military and heavy industry.

"Because of its rich metallurgy, Astralloy V outperforms many other anti-abrasive and high-impact steels at a lower cost," he continues. "It can even replace many tool steels because it’s easier to work with, tougher and easier to harden. It also work-hardens effectively in service and provides superior stability in high-temperature applications."

It also has been used for unusual applications. In 1999, the National Park Service relocated the Cape Hatteras Light Station, Buxton, N.C., 2,900 feet from its original site due to shoreline erosion. When completed in 1870, the lighthouse stood 1,500 feet from the ocean. By 1970, it was only 120 feet from the waves. Barron says Astralloy V’s stability made it the material of choice to "carry the weight of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse when it was moved inland to a safer location."

Save money
Companies considering making a change to Astralloy’s proprietary grades of steel need "a clear understanding of the requirements for the application at hand, such as strength and stress requirements, hardness and the type of environment (temperature, corrosion stresses, abrasion) that the material will be subjected to," says Barron.

He notes that the company’s unique product line "improves our customers’ finished products by extending wear life and prolonging scheduled maintenance stops across many industries. Simply put, our proprietary steels provide increased productivity through better metallurgy. That efficiency lowers the overall cost of operations and increases each customer’s output."

Two years ago, DHGW tested the Astralloy 4800, another of Astralloy’s products, alongside standard OEM material for a four-month trial. During this time, the steel plate the company had been using experienced severe wear and tear, while the 4800 managed the workload much better.

The new steel plate has increased the service life of DHGW’s equipment more than twofold, providing a significant savings on maintenance time and repair costs. The wear-resistant, work hardening steel can withstand extreme abrasion, severe bending and harsh temperatures.

"I was overwhelmed and impressed by the Astralloy 4800, so much so that we now purchase it direct and create custom liners for our machines--the product is that good," says Bates. "4800 is the ideal product for any metal-to-metal application. We don’t have a specific cost savings number yet, but we are definitely saving money on maintenance and repairs."

Another customer, Camco Mfg. Inc., Greensboro, N.C., has also seen a significant difference in its operations after implementing Astralloy V.

According to Cliff Overman, tool and dies shop supervisor for Camco, "Four years ago, we tried the Astralloy V on plastic injection molds and witnessed a significant difference. Astralloy V withstood the wear and tear demonstrably better. Other materials would bend or break. Previously, parts of the plastic injection molds would often break because of the stress and strain, but Astralloy V holds up best and has eliminated breakage. The wear-resistant, work hardening steel offers unique benefits because it can withstand extreme abrasion, severe bending and harsh temperatures."

Future growth
"As Astralloy Steel Products began servicing the needs of their growing business, it became clear that one product alone would not fit all the needs of all the customers," Barron says. There were several applications in various industries that needed special steels for particular applications. Over the years, more products were added to the product line, and today, Astralloy stocks the widest variety of high-strength, abrasion- and heat-resistant steels available in the industry. This allows us to selectively match the performance and cost of each product to the unique situation that each customer is dealing with, thereby increasing their productivity and decreasing their maintenance costs.

"We definitely have plans for future growth," he continues. "As a newly acquired subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, our product offering has grown to include carbon steels, stainless steels and even maritime steel. Our customer-driven solutions continue to reach new industries because success with a particular application in one industry can be duplicated to another industry. In today’s global marketplace, it’s becoming more common for customers to get inquiries from their customers specifying steels that they are unfamiliar with. As part of the largest producing steel family of companies, we can identify these needs and provide the materials to meet customers’ expectations. When appropriate, we even provide alternative material ideas that can result in significant savings." MM

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