Monday | 01 November, 2010 | 5:17 am

Award applauds steel aficionados

By Lauren Duensing

November 2010- High-strength steel can be used in droves of products. When dreaming up new ways to use this efficient and strong metal, a few innovative companies created products that stood out. SSAB, a provider of high-strength steel, recognized four finalists for its 2010 Swedish Steel Prize Award, which SSAB will award Nov. 17-18 in Stockholm.

"This year's finalists demonstrate great understanding of how high-strength steel can be used to improve a product or a production process," says Karl Gustav Ramstrom, SSAB executive vice president and head of business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "The finalists are also front runners in their respective industries, with cutting-edge innovations." The purpose of the prize is to award innovative designs using high-strength steel and developing lighter, safer and more environmentally friendly products.

Long-lasting design
Each finalist offers a unique take on how to use high-strength steel to produce more efficient and durable products. Wranne Fahraeus, a design firm based in Gothenburg, Sweden, stood apart from its fellow candidates because the company's submission was not an industrial-strength tool or vehicle but a whimsical and practical lightweight bedspring. "We believe that our new way of looking at a traditional product has put the spotlight on our bed," says Olle Wranne, CEO of Wranne Fahraeus. When searching for the best material to support the bed frame, Wranne notes the key to the frame was to find a material that could withstand the stresses of everyday use as well as provide much-needed support and comfort.

The unique combination of steel, wood and wool offers consumers an alternative to a typical mattress. "The product is easy to take apart and its parts are recyclable," Olle adds, noting that the product is easy to assemble and clean.

Olle emphasizes Wranne's sleek design catches the attention of a different kind of consumer, one who aims to steer away from traditional bedding-industry offerings. "Our aim is that the bed will be a long-lasting and well-liked piece of furniture that people are fond of for many years," Olle says.

Limitless uses
From bedding to mining, SSAB's list of candidates hail from a variety of industries. Van Reenen SteelSouth Africa designed a new truck body that offers a more impact-resistant and durable option for the mining industry. Bertus Haasbroek, technical manager for VR Steel, says the first problem with competitor offerings on the market is the truck bodies are too lightweight. "This is exactly where the problem starts," Haasbroek says. "The lightweight body does not last long on the mine."

Haasbroek referred to an example where a customer at an iron ore mine asked VR Steel to look at its truck body, which over time, had accumulated a significant amount of weight. VR Steel's basic design allows the wear package to be built into the shell of the body, so that the customer does not need to add material.

VR Steel has a quick turnaround for the truck body. "We are using the best CAD software available," Haasbroek says. "So instead of taking months, it only takes two weeks before we can start cutting and six to eight weeks to manufacture."

Germany's Ruthmann GmbH & Co. KGused high-strength steel to create its innovative sky lift. According to Thomas Rammelt, marketing and sales manager for Ruthmann, high-strength steel was the only lightweight and strong metal that could work successfully. "The Ruthmann Steiger TB 270 is the highest-performing sky lift mounted on a 3.5 ton chassis in the industry," Rammelt says.

Convenience is another contributing factor as to why Ruthmann's sky lift is preferable over others. In the past, to work on projects reaching beyond 27 meters meant mounting the sky lift onto a truck weighing 7.5 tons, which requires a special license to operate. Because Ruthmann's sky lift does not require adding the sky lift onto a larger truck, "more consumers can reach 27 meters" much easier.

Delving beyond excavation vehicles currently available on the market, BluPoint Pty Ltd,in Australia developed more efficient bucket teeth, which are used in large loaders in the mining industry. The tooth tips are more wear-resistant than their competitors and are easily weldable to cast teeth. On average, bucket teeth usually are replaced multiple times a day. With BluPoint's innovative design and enhanced durability, consumers can go about daily workloads without having to change bucket teeth constantly, saving consumers time and money.

This year's candidates offered an array of breakthrough methods using high-strength steel. It is SSAB's view that in the long-term, "there is a shift from standard to high-strength steels." According to Ramstrom, using high-strength steel will allow for improved profitability both for end users and manufacturers.

In addition to being more cost-effective and efficient, using high-strength steel can aid in providing a "better environment" in the long-run. The positive environmental impact is significant as a recent study by the Swedish Steel Producers' Association found that increased use of advanced high-strength steels in heavy transport vehicles might reduce transportation's contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 5 percent, equivalent to 100 million tons per year. As the steel industry moves forward, manufacturers continue to find new ways to use this high-strength and efficient metal. MM

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