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Posted: Jun 24, 2011
NPC Launches Commercial Production of Ultrastrength Springs
(Nanowerk News) In Uzhevsk, in the Republic of Udmurtia, RUSNANO project company NPC Springs has launched its first line for producing of ultrastrength springs. The manufacturing process employs unique Russian technology. The springs are used in suspension mounts for automobiles and agricultural equipment, railroad cars, energy complexes, and elevator systems.
The project has a total budget of 1.11 billion rubles. Its investors are RUSNANO, IZHMASH, and URALSIB Financial Corporation.
Taking part in commissioning ceremonies for the first production line were Udmurtia Prime Minister Yuriy Pitkevich, RUSNANO CEO Anatoly Chubais, head of URALSIB Financial Corporation's Private Equity Fund Alexander Rakhlevsky, acting General Director of IZHMASH Maxim Kuzyuk, and General Director of NPC Pruzhina Valimir Kutergin.
The new line for mass production makes it possible to process an additional 3,000 tons of metal per year. Added to earlier small-batch production, capacity at the Izhevsk plant rises to 6,000 tons per year. Recalculating that figure to the ultrastrength springs means that the factory can produce about 266,000 sets of springs for railway cars or two million springs for automotive suspension mounts annually. When the second production line begins operating and facilities for small-batch production are modernized, the company will have capacity to process 9,000 tons of metal per year—three million automotive suspension mounts yearly—enabling it to satisfy nearly all the current demand from Russian automobile manufacturers.
The ultrastrength springs produced in Izhevsk are already being used in energy blocks at hydropower plants, in spring blocks for oil and gas pipelines, and in braking systems for elevators.
"The new plant capacity will enable Pruzhina to increase delivery of ultrastrength springs to the market. Its customers are companies that pay strict attention to the quality of parts. It is extremely important to them that we extend the useful life of the final product. Izhevsk springs have already shown their reliability in armored vehicles where suspension components, because of the armor, experience significant strain. Use of these springs in regular automobiles will add considerably to spring longevity," RUSNANO Managing Director Konstantin Demetriou explained.
"We are realizing three projects with RUSNANO. All are directed toward modernizing Russia's economy, particularly in high technology. Our investments to date are around 400 million rubles," URALSIB's Alexander Rakhlevsky noted. "Believing in the principle that business has social responsibility, we have chosen to support, foremost, the introduction of leading domestic technologies."
"Udmurtia even in Soviet times was known as a region with highly developed industry," said General Director of Pruzhina and First Deputy General Director of IZHMASH Vladimir Kutergin. "It is a reputation we want to maintain and, therefore, introducing innovative solutions in all phases of production is vital. In our case, successful commercialization of promising Russian technology will enable us to speak not only of the appearance of unique manufacturing capabilities in the region but also of the creation of a sizeable economic impact for the entire country as a result of using our products. For example, by using new springs in railway transport, expenditures for exploitation and repair of rolling stock will significantly decline and the volume of cargo carried will increase."
The History of NPC Pruzhina
Professor Oleg Ivanovich Shavrin, DSc in engineering and eminent design engineer, began working on the problem of strengthening springs 40 years ago, while doing postgraduate work at the Izhevsk Mechanical Institute. He obtained his first positive results in 1964. Still, it took many years to implement at industrial facilities the technology he developed. Prototypes of processing complexes for production of durable springs were installed at the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant and the Tulzky Oruzheiny Zavod.
Small levels of spring production using Professor Shavrin's technology began taking increasingly notable positions in the market while studies continued.
For more than 16 years, the springs were used in Oka automobiles. Oka was a company with stringent rules for vendor selection. It relied heavily on tests it conducted on the springs' durability at factory mounts. The norm was considered 90,000 loadings on one spring without breakage. The Shavrin springs withstood 200,000 loads and continued working faultlessly.
Clearly, for successful development of the springs, production had to be brought to a new level by establishing a high-tech business corresponding to European standards of quality.
In 2007 an accidental meeting occurred between two doctors of engineering science traveling in a coupe between Izhevsk and Yekaterinburg—Oleg Shavrin and Vladimir Kutergin. Mr. Kutergin had been involved in business for many years. A discussion ensued about creating a modern plant for production of the ultrastrength springs. Not long after, company NPC Pruzhina was established at IZHMASH and the search for an investor began.
Because the technology for manufacturing ultrastrength springs is a nanotechnology—changes in the structure of the steel occur at the nanolevel—the entrepreneurs applied to RUSNANO. After successfully going thorugh RUSNANO's assessment steps, NPC Pruzhina became a project company, and URALSIB Financial Corporation and IZHMASH entered the project as co-investors.
Springs – a resilient element designed to dampen mechanical energy. A spring's compression is tailored to reducing length under pressure.
Products from NPC Pruzhina—cylindrical, ultrastrength springs compressed to 1,600 mm with feed bars ranging from 8 mm to 70 mm. This range is sufficient to accommodate virtually all springs for railway transport, automobiles, agricultural equipment, oil and gas pipelines, and other special-purpose applications.
The springs produced within the project have very high parameters of durability, longevity, and geometric precision, which are achieved through a unique manufacturing technology.
The ultrastrength springs are produced with a hot winding process that is the only means of winding large-diameter wire for, for example, railway rolling stock.
The manufacturing technology is based on the high-temperature thermo-mechanical properties of steel. During production of the springs, additional small deformations are made that give nanosized substructures to the metal—and that raises the spring's durability characteristics.
Distinguishing technical characteristics
Structure of the steel is more homogenous, greater dislocation density, nanosized subgrains
Compared with usual processing, smaller sized, more evenly distributed particles of carbide-cementite
Within individual grains are nanosubstructures with small-angle margins
Average size of substructure elements of the ferrite matrix, 20 nm to 40 nm with the entire interval ranging from 20 nm to 100 nm
These special features facilitate the creation of unique springs with characteristics that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The springs are made of high-carbon and alloyed steels.
Independent tests at the All-Russian Railway Research Institute's Ural Branch comparing these springs to ordinary springs have shown that ultrastrength springs produced with this patented technology have the following characteristics:
Number of cycles before breakdown increased no less than tenfold
Imperviousness to relaxation increased fivefold or greater