Stainless steel in the transport industry

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Image of the Pioneer Zephyr Train

How important is transport industry in our lives?

Transport is an important part of human life and human lives are vastly improved by increasing reliability, efficiency and availability of means of transport. The transport industry in various forms has grown since invention of the wheel in Neolithic times (c.4000 BCE). The types and means of transport have also expanded as have related technology and engineering.

Image: The Pioneer Zephyr Train used in the US from 1934

Passenger transport demand

  • Today: c.44 trillion passenger-kilometers (a large volume);
  • By 2050: 122 trillion passenger-kilometers (a nearly three‑fold increase!);
  • Private vehicles will continue to dominate the landscape; and
  • Global freight will triple by 2050, as we seek new means to trade across the world.

Stainless steel fabrication to address challenges to transport industry

The variety in means of transport is increasing. The biggest challenges for the transport industry are 1. Demand and investment; 2. Health and safety; and 3. Environmental issues. CO2 emissions are key in the latter category and will need significant attention to meet strict Paris Agreement standards.

To address these challenges, it is clear that the transport industry will need to focus on (all capable of being delivered by stainless steel and other Nickel alloys):

  • Technology advancement to accommodate demand with improvements in efficiency and economics;
  • Improvements on health and safety as demand and density increases;
  • Various environmental considerations, given the significant intrusion of transport means.

Use of stainless steel and Nickel alloys in transport

Stainless steel and Nickel alloys deliver as follows:

  • Bridges, street furniture, public art – given high-lustre, flexibility, weldability, durability, low maintenance produces significant iconic works in a fast-growing civil engineering and public art industry. Stainless steel easily shows its heart and soul in increasingly outstanding examples.
  • Ship and aircraft turbines – corrosion resistant stainless steel and other Nickel alloys, under extremely stressful and saline environments, ensure strength, durability, longevity and much more bang for the buck of investment;
  • Train carriages and truck bodies – are strong, durable, and importantly easily absorb crash-impact (crumpling and not fracturing): and
  • Food and similar transport in railcars, trucks and containers – clean and antiseptic surfaces that enable easy transport of freshest food and also in more stressful conditions, frozen or cold storage.

Rail – stainless steel use growing in enduring rail transport industry

One of the most-used forms of transport and increasingly so;

  • Stainless steel rail carriages first used in 1930’s in US and now used in North America, Australia, Japan;
  • Despite its attributes, stainless steel has not been adopted universally (yet). This is mainly a cost issue (that omits long-term benefits of low or no maintenance);
  • Delhi metro adopted stainless steel in 2002 and similarly in Bangalore and Kochi, for carriages, station furniture and hardware. Most recently this was also rolled out into high-speed trains; and
  • Beijing is also an adopter of stainless steel for its subway.

Air – fastest-growing transit industry and stainless steel is important for extreme conditions

  • In the 20th century advances in aircraft technologies have meant air transport for freight and passengers has become mass transit;
  • Significant improvements have been made in fuel economy, safety, management of corrosion and aircraft can fly longer distances and more often;
  • Stainless steel and other Nickel alloys have strong tolerances for heat and in combination with all sorts of other materials, even non-metals (carbon fibre and expoxy resin, nowadays commonly used in aircraft construction and;
  • Landing gears are one of most important parts of aircraft, make use of Nickel alloys (and low carbon steel). These provide properties of extreme strength, damage resistance, welding capability and corrosion resistance.

Road – use of Nickel and environmental concerns driving strong growth

  • Nickel is (and has been) a key component for batteries rechargeable or not;
  • Batteries use has grown extensively in all areas of industry and especially given massive developments in electronics over past decades (including mobile phones, cameras, power tools and much more); and
  • Most recently since 1990’s has seen also huge growth in battery operated cars and motorcycles (electric vehicles or EV’s). These EV’s make up < 1% of share of market and this is fast-increasing (expected to reach 10% by 2025).

It is not surprising that for over 20 years, Nijen Stainless Fabrications has undertaken stainless steel fabrication work for the transport industry across the UK and Ireland. Our projects have included fit outs for cold storage trucks, liquid carrying tankers, and even transport for racehorses. Our stainless steel fabrication Northern Ireland services include work on the Northern Ireland Translink train network rolling stock. Our specialist welding, bending, rolling and laser cutting contribute to maintaining operational performance in the transport sector.