The basis | High requirements of steel as a production material
The challenge | Multiple benefits in one product
The process | Developing technologies and establishing them on the market
The benefit | Experience makes us a strong partner
The vision | Huge steel beams for exceptional projects
Vice President, Long Products
Higher, bigger, louder – the world’s cities are growing inexorably because more and more people are drawn to vibrant big-city life. Limited space means that cities are, above all, growing vertically. Imposing skyscrapers are rising from the smallest plots. Both the planning and the construction materials for these projects have a completely different level of importance than for conventional buildings. What’s more, the infrastructure must be able to cope with the extra load.
With this rapid development, urbanization also impacts on the steel industry. As the construction material of the future, steel must meet high requirements. At SMS group, we are constantly aware of these requirements and take account of them in our work. Included here is, for example, the development of new steel grades, surface technologies, or forming methods.
“Megacities are cities with significantly more than 10 million inhabitants, and the greatest growth is in Asia. Because space is tight, we need creative ideas. At the same time, buildings in these regions have to be earthquake-proof and easier to build,” explains Thomas Maßmann, Vice President, Long Products. He adds:
“Both these factors mean that we need to look at the use of steel differently. Especially as buildings get taller, at some point you leave the realm of reinforced concrete and enter the world of self-supporting structures.”
That’s why not only conventional reinforced concrete, but also many more steel products are used in construction today. Examples are steel sections or welded tubes. To increase the strength of construction steel, there is a trend toward lower-temperature rolling and tempering during the process. That is also reflected in the plants from SMS group.For example, we integrate cooling sections in rolling mills. Our TMbaR technology provides the same effect for rebars. “With this, we have developed a new technology for thermo-mechanical rebar rolling, and we are the first to launch it on the market,” says Maßmann.
With RailCool®, SMS group has developed a new process to temper rail ends in a heating process. This makes the rails more wear-resistant and capable of bearing heavier loads. That is an important property in curves and at points.
Another property steel needs for urban construction is corrosion-resistance. This is true especially because many large cities in Asia are near the coast. Maßmann sees this as a good opportunity for SMS group customers to establish themselves as suppliers of niche products and to process corrosion-resistant steels. “We have developed new coating processes for coating components or structures – also to reduce corrosion,” adds Maßmann.
Other results of growing urbanization are changed and increasing requirements of mobility and transport of both people and goods. China is a good example: In recent years, the country has built a high-speed rail network that efficiently links cities. Maßmann says:
“Every meter of rail laid in China was produced on SMS group rolling mills. We are the world leader in rail rolling mills.”
Today, the journey from Beijing to Shanghai is just as fast by train as by plane. Train travel is much more energy efficient, no more expensive, and very reliable. That also boosts sustainability. Now India has similar plans, and the rails there are also manufactured on rolling mills from SMS group. Europe and the US are also expanding and modernizing their infrastructure.
Supplying cities with power and water is another aspect that should not be underestimated, especially in regions where water is scarce. “The biggest challenge here is transporting water over long distances from dams in the mountains to the cities. Large pipelines are used for this. SMS group supplies solutions both for spiral and longitudinal-welded large pipes, which are used for these applications,” explains Maßmann. He believes the megatrend of urbanization will continue. Upcoming projects support his view:
“We have received orders for the world’s largest heavy section mills. The huge steel beams they produce are used for exceptional infrastructure or high-rise building projects.”
Examples from the recent past include the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Freedom Tower in New York – both superlative construction projects. The market for steel beams continues to grow. They are used not only for buildings, but also for rail tracks, bridges, pipelines, and road construction. With a vision for the future, SMS group helps ensure products can be manufactured that meet current and future requirements.
“Urbanization is not just about urban growth, but also urban change.”
Norbert Theelen, President & CEO, SMS group China
The city boom also has a major influence on steel producers themselves. Cities are growing so fast that steelmaking plants that were built far outside the city 15 or 20 years ago suddenly find themselves overtaken by urban sprawl.
The Chinese state has developed a program to relocate steel production and other industrial plants out of cities and into industrial parks. As a result, we are receiving more and more orders to relocate plants. Customers often use this opportunity to also revamp their equipment. When we attract relocation projects, we always offer newer, more efficient technology that is more eco-friendly.
Another part of the megatrend urbanization is transformation within cities. Old buildings are replaced by new ones, smaller buildings by large ones, and unstable buildings by quake-resistant ones. This means the demand for steel remains high. And it offers many opportunities for SMS group to contribute to the megatrend.