From the primitive hammer and anvil to modern, computerized machining, the march of technological progress has left no industry untouched – least of all the steel industry. Once dominated by labor-intensive, energy-consuming methods, the industry—particularly within the seamless pipe manufacturing sector—has found itself on the cusp of a new era, driven by the constant pursuit of innovation.
Standard practices in steel manufacturing have often involved a careful balance between cost and quality, but recently, environmental impact has taken center stage. Traditional methods, although generally reliable, are energy-intensive and contribute to carbon emissions, making a sustainable manufacturing model more relevant than ever.
One company, nestled in the heart of Edmonton, Canada, has taken considerable strides in this direction—Bri-Steel. Helmed by Neil Rasmussen, this seamless pipe manufacturer has been pushing for a departure from some existing manufacturing methods in North America through its utilization and advocacy for the groundbreaking hot expansion process.
The hot expansion process—or the Thermal Pipe Expansion (TPE) process as employed by Bri-Steel—is not new to the piping industry, nor is it a novel addition to the company itself.
In fact, Bri-Steel has utilized this innovative method from its inception, which allows the manufacturer not just to save time in seamless pipe production but also to significantly minimize operational costs while ensuring a reduced environmental impact.
“The industry has long been familiar with the hot expansion process, but it wasn’t widely implemented here in North America,” Rasmussen reveals. “We’re actually the ones who brought the process here about 11 years ago.”
Compared to conventional manufacturing methods, the benefits of TPE are undoubtedly multifaceted. Rasmussen highlights that the greatest advantage of a process like hot expansion is the fact it allows Bri-Steel to produce pipes of much larger diameters.
Additionally, unlike the traditional techniques that are highly inflexible in terms of altering pipe sizes, thanks to TPE, Bri-Steel can respond to clients’ urgent requests and adjust pipe sizes practically on the go.
“Typically, since conventional methods are incredibly time-consuming, in order to see profit, manufacturers need to get large order quantities from their customers,” Rasmussen explains. “With TPE, on the other hand, the adjusting process can be done in less than three hours, saving time and cost. Essentially, you need it now? We’ve got you covered.”
That said, the lack of broader implementation of the hot expansion process in North America, as Rasmussen postulates, could be related to certain concerns revolving around the method. As it involves heating material to cause it to expand, some have expressed worries about stress and formation in pipes if not managed correctly. However, he maintains that, owing to the advanced technology of the process, the pipes produced are sturdy, durable, and leak-proof.
The advantages of TPE, or the hot expansion process, don’t stop here. TPE particularly stands out for its ability to reduce waste. Unlike other methods, which often result in material wastage, the hot expansion process utilizes an engineered-size mother tube, which is then expanded to the desired size, thus ensuring optimal use of materials.
On the same note, its most important aspect is that TPE is a true friend to the environment. Worries pertaining to carbon emissions are especially relevant nowadays, given the current global environmental crisis.
“The pipe is heated by induction heating, which is an environmentally-conscious process as it consumes only electricity and does so very efficiently,” Rasmussen reveals.
Considering these tremendous benefits, the hot expansion process, as supported and utilized by Bri-Steel, is undeniably a breath of fresh air, promising a brighter and more sustainable future for seamless pipe manufacturing.
Furthermore, this process, in essence, reflects a shift in thinking – a shift towards greater adaptability and responsibility. It’s not just about improving the manufacturing process – it’s about transforming an industry to meet the challenges of the 21st century.