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Lighter and more material-efficient

World steel prices, together with energy and labour costs, are likely to start rising again as the world economy recovers. Locally manufactured, material-efficient solutions – such as Kenno Tech’s laser-welded sandwich elements – look set to have even more to offer in tomorrow’s world.

World consumption of raw steel rose from just under 800 million tonnes in 1999 to over 1.2 billion tonnes in 2006, and is likely to continue growing again at a similar pace once the global economy picks up again; while world energy consumption is expected to rise by 25% over 2007 levels as early as 2015. At the same time, the pressure is growing to slow climate change and develop more eco-efficient solutions.

Kenno Tech’s laser-welded sandwich elements used for the walls, floor, and roof of this tourist kiosk produced for the City of Helsinki makes it light and easy to transport.

Traditional welded steel structures tend to be heavy and inefficient in terms of material usage, and are often now manufactured in low-cost countries far from the markets where they are used, adding further eco-inefficiency to the equation. Structures utilising thin sheet metal and automated laser welding, in contrast, can be manufactured more competitively in higher-cost countries and provide light weight, greater material efficiency, high dimensional accuracy, and excellent finish quality.

Clear benefits and great application potential

The laser-welded sandwich elements designed and manufactured by Kenno Tech offer light weight combined with durability and bending strength equivalent to that of much heavier conventional structures. Based around face plates and longitudinal core profiles, they resemble a steel version of corrugated board. Elements can be optimised for different applications by varying the thickness of the cover plates and the design of the core.

The excellent rigidity of the floor sections supplied to Mapvision for their optical gauge units for the 3D or 4D measurement of complex assemblies means that units can be delivered precalibrated.

Compared to traditional steel structures, this approach can yield steel savings of between 30% and 50% and reduce weight by the same margin. Very stiff structures with low structural height can be achieved, and can be designed to be self-supporting or with much lighter frames and/or support structures than would otherwise be needed. Laser-welded sandwich elements can also incorporate insulation, electrics, and plumbing.

Laser welding is fast and can be used with steel plates as thin as 0.3 mm. Distortion is minimal, giving high dimensional accuracy. Welding seams are thin and very uniform along their length, resulting in high finish quality. Recycling is easy as well.

As a result, Kenno Tech’s sandwich panels are ideal for numerous types of applications. Concrete moulds, information kiosks, heat exchanger and other process industry units, and floor panels are just some of the products that Kenno Tech has already designed and manufactured for its customers. And the potential range is much larger, once all the benefits on offer are more widely understood.

> Jouko Vallikari
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)