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Finnish Engineering Award for direct quenching technology developed at Ruukki

6/4/12

This year's Finnish Engineering Award went to a direct quenching technology developed at Ruukki that enables the energy-efficient manufacture of special and high-strength steels. Worth €25,000, the award is made each year by the labour organisation Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland - TEK and Tekniska Föreningen i Finland - TFiF. Jarmo Hallikas is the chairman of the evaluation board which is choosing yearly winners.

The award was made to the persons who are also behind the direct quenching patent: father and son Reijo and Tommi Liimatainen, and Mikko Hemmilä. The award is a great recognition both to the inventors and to the entire work community.

"Direct quenching or direct tempering is a unique breakthrough in the manufacture of high-strength steels. The award now received is a superb recognition both to the inventors and to the entire work community. Product development, production and sales worked closely together with the same goal in mind. The production side especially proved its flexibility when the new technology was tested. Sales on the other hand played a key role in identifying pilot customers, which was no easy task since there was no similar product on the market. This has been teamwork at its best," says Peter Sandvik, VP, Special Projects, at Ruukki.

The direct quenching or direct tempering method developed in the early 2000s can be considered as one of the most important innovations in the steel industry. The method enables the energy-efficient manufacture of high-strength Ruukki Optim and wear-resistant Ruukki Raex steels. The basic idea is that hot-rolled steel is quenched from a temperature of around 900C to ambient temperature immediately after rolling. This saves energy because the reheating stage after hot-rolling is omitted.

Customers benefit from increasingly lighter, more durable products

Use of high-strength steels enables customers to make energy-efficient products, in other words products that lift or carry more and thus save fuel. Less high-strength steel is needed to transport the same required payload and the weight of the end-product decreases. Our customers have achieved savings in tare weight of up to 20-30 per cent in heavy vehicles. This has enabled a 4-7 per cent higher payload on top of fuel savings.

Typical applications for high-strength steels are materials handling equipment and rolling stock. Wear-resistant steels are used, for example, in earthmoving and mining machinery. A lighter structure in all these applications means lifting or carrying a higher payload and lower fuel consumption.

"We have been successful in creating a demand and have also managed to expand our business into new market areas such as China, South America, Australia and South Africa," Sandvik says.

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