Lead Forensics

New technology developed in tubular steel manufacture

New plastic and steel hybrid technology called hollow-profile hybrid (HPH) has been developed that claims to be higher-performing than traditional tubular steel.

There is existing steel/plastic hybrid technology that is a combination of sheet-metal overmoulded with thermoplastic composite. This is used for metal sheets, but the HPH technology extends the plastic hybrid process to tubular steel.

The challenge of these hybrid technologies is to create a high-strength bond between the metal and the overmoulded plastic. HPH achieves this by using ribs on the outside of the tubular steel that helps the overmoulded plastic stick to the tube.

The advantage of hybrid tubular steel is that it has better anti-corrosion properties and is lighter. At the end of its life, the metal and plastic can be separated for recycling.

The tooling costs of machines that amortise metal and plastic are expensive, which is why the hybrid tubular steel is only cost-effective for medium-to-high production. For one-off and low-volume production, traditional tubular steel is a better option. Car manufacturers are likely to adopt this hybrid technology.

Low-volume producers such as many warehouse equipment manufacturers will continue to use tubular steel for manual handling and storage equipment because it is lightweight, cost-effective and strong. Equipment made from tubular steel is reliable too, and lasts a long time even with heavy use.

The HPH technology was developed by Lanxess in Pittsburgh, USA. The firm is currently looking at how to produce steel that is reinforced with carbon fibre.

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