CHINA’s largest steelmaker has raised prices for key steel products for March, halting decisively five months of price declines. Baoshan Iron and Steel (Baosteel) had halted two-thirds of its galvanising steel production facilities in late 2008 due to weakening demand. The company has now raised the sale prices for major hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel products. The new March 2009 prices for hot-rolled steel products will be at US$547 per tonne, while cold-rolled products have been set at US$618 per tonne. According to analysts, Baosteel may be optimistic regarding the Chinese market with the Lunar New Year holidays approaching. It is hoped this move will boost the confidence of other steel makers. The prices are still slightly depressed, however, with uncertain demand from the automotive and home appliance industries.
AUSTRALIA-based Dyesol has collaborated with the fifth largest steel producer in the world to open a multi-million dollar facility in Wales, UK. This moves comes a month after the company opened new manufacturing, design and assembly facilities in Queanbeyan, NSW. The Photovoltaic Accelerator Facility will accelerate the commercialisation of Dye Solar Cell (DSC) technology onto Corus’ steel sheeting building products. Corus also showcased its advanced composite panel manufacturing lines at the opening event, and spoke about the importance of innovation at a time when traditional steel business was taking financial blows. The Dyesol technology is said to have lower facility cost, requires less energy to manufacture, and outputs higher levels of electricity in normal and low light conditions. By integrating the photovoltaic capability into steel building panels, buildings gain passive electricity generators.
THE Australian Stainless Steel Development Association (ASSDA) says its PacRim Stainless 2008 conference will be held in Townsville, Queensland, from 30 to 31 October 2008. The steel industry is being challenged by the recent emergence of many new grades of stainless steel, and requires innovative solutions to help it access and use these materials effectively. Multiple speakers will be presenting at the conference, headed by Outokumpu President and Chief Executive Juha Rantanen. Papers will be presented on opportunities in various countries, stainless steel in the food and minerals processing sectors, Australian innovation, stainless steel clusters, and the role of steel in the Queensland Water Grid. The conference will also be the site of a Fabrication Forum which aims to generate discussion among fabricator delegates. It will deal with issues such as procuring work from local government, lean manufacturing, and how to sponsor overseas skilled workers.
AMERICA’S manufacturing slump could be Australia’s gain, as the Queensland government launched a recruitment drive in the US ‘rust belt’ for metal workers, fitters and engineers. Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Minnesota are suffering from record unemployment as manufacturing plants shut down or lay off hundreds of workers. The exodus of jobs to China has emerged as a major issue in the race for the next US President. Peter Beattie, Queensland’s Los Angeles-based US trade commissioner, has started running a media campaign seeking skilled workers. The sunny state is particularly looking for boiler makers, welders, diesel fitters and engineers. The advertisements contrast Queensland’s climate with the freezing conditions found in the northeast of the US during winter. They also focus on the language similarities, family and education, wage structure and worker benefits. According to the State Government and employers, hundreds of places are open for skilled workers. They say American workers are well trained and skilled, would enjoy the relaxed lifestyle down under and fit in well with the local communities.
THE AUSTRALIAN Steel Institute has announced the winners of the 2008 ASI South Australian State Awards. The Awards aims to showcase the best in steel design the State has to offer in architecture, engineering and building projects. Australia’s steel industry employs 72,000 people with annual turnover of $21 billion. Despite the downturn in housing construction, infrastructure works and construction in other areas are seeing a flurry of activity, according to the ASI. The institute expounded the importance of innovation and inspiration as being central to buildings of significance. Among the winners of the state awards were local architecture firms Woodhead and Wallbridge and Gilbert for their work on the Adelaide Central Bus Station, and Cameron Ainslie who was named most outstanding Graduate in the industry. Ainslie, who works with diversified engineering company Ahrens, says he will be remaining heavily involved in the steel industry because the opportunities to design and construct new, efficient and functional structures is nearly limitless.
AUSTRALIAN-owned NZ Steel is creating an animated three-dimensional model of its iron-making plant at the Glenbrook steel mill. According to the plant staff, the model will allow the company to plan maintenance tasks, improve safety and minimise downtime at the metal facility. The model is an attempt to stop the inevitable “brain-drain” of experience and knowledge as the plant’s work force ages. The project models and demonstrates a number of jobs around the iron-making plant, such as how to do a mantle change. In the metal plant, machinery must be taken apart, parts replaced, and then reassembled in extreme conditions. The 3D model is a step toward making the entire process clearer for new workers.
BLACKSMITHS in Eveleigh, Sydney, are campaigning against the State Government’s move to evict them from their workshop. For the past 17 years, Wrought Artworks has had free use of the furnace workshop in Bay Two of the Australian Technology Park. Using ancient blacksmith techniques, metal is melted in a furnace and banged into shape by a steam-powered hammer. The Redfern-Waterloo Authority is demanding the company pay to use the workshop because it is a commercial business. It says it simply wants a tenant which pays the rent. According to the company, it had an agreement to run rent-free in exchange for keeping the heritage equipment maintained. It fears the government will demolish the site and turn it into an office building The authorities say the heritage status of the site will be preserved if the company is evicted. Activists say heritage is about more than building and machinery. 85-year-old ex-machinist Bob Rhymes worked at the site for 30 years, starting in 1950. According to him, heritage is also about the memory of the men who worked there. Many died of industry-related disease, and keeping the machines working is a way of keeping the memories alive. The workshop will be running an open day on 17 August 2008.
THE WINNERS of the Australian Steel Design Awards for Victoria and Tasmania were announced on 25 July 2008 at the Crown Palladium. The awards aim at highlighting the standard of design and execution achievable with the aesthetics of steel and the Australian industry’s capabilities and efficiencies. The state awards were presented in seven categories. The Steel Fabricators Award was won by Structural Challenge for their entry on the new Nigel Peck Centre for Learning, while the PlanIT Design Group got the Steel Detailers Award for their Melbourne Convention Centre redevelopment. The Architectural Steel Design Award for a Large Project went to Cox Architects & Planners’ entry on the National Institute of Circus Arts building, while the Small Project category was won by Studio D’Ambrosio for their Under the Moonlight House at Mount Hotham. The Structural Engineering Steel Design award was given to the Connell Wagner submission for Stage Two of the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. The Metal Building Product Design Award was won by Suters Prior Cheney Architect’s Boroondara Sports Complex. The awards are part of the first-ever national steel awards program held by the Australian Steel Institute (ASI). Results of the national program will be announced in September.
THE MANAGING director of structural steel fabricator National Engineering is retiring at the end of August. Dave Williams will be handing over his role to Norm Chapman so he can enjoy life cruising, shooting and golfing. According to Williams, the structural steel industry was experiencing difficult times with rocketing steel prices, shortages and a lack of major projects because of the poor building market. The financial difficulty has been made worse by the American sub prime lending crisis. He also says National Engineering’s plans to relocate to a new site in Burrangong have been effectively finalised, and are now subject to planning approval and rezoning.
THE STEELMAKING process could be the key to unlocking the secrets of the planets, according to researchers at Swinburne University of Technology. Professor Geoff Brooks, Dr Sarah Maddison and Vianney Taquet are collaborating to use mathematical models from steelmaking to determine what compounds form during the initial stages of planet development. According to the researchers, the science behind steelmaking is comparable to the process of planet formation. Steelmaking furnaces often contain molten metal with a layer of crust on top. Similarly, the centre of the Earth is made of molten metal, with an outer crust. The university researchers are also taking know-how from the steel makers. For example, the industry has models that show how extremely high temperatures can determine the grade of steel that is produced. An adapted process allows scientists to work backwards from a piece of metal to indicate the temperatures and processes which it has undergone. This could help in the analysis of meteorites.