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New Stainless Products for Indian Building Sector
(December 2001)

-By- A. N. Singh

Building sector is one of the most potential areas for new stainless steel product development and promotion

Food, clothing and shelter are the three most essential- needs of human being. To meet these basic needs most of our industries are engaged in production and supply of food products, textiles, and building materials. Stainless Steel due to its unique material properties, playing significant role in adding value to the products of food, textile and building sectors.
Application of stainless steel in food sector does not need any description. Today we cannot get our food without presence of stainless steel appliances in our kitchens. In fact the very first successful application of stainless steel started in form of cutlery, in the year of it’s invention in 1913. Since then stainless steel has become the most important engineering material for food processing sector. Similarly in textile and garment industry, where ever dyes and chemicals are involved, stainless steel is inevitable choice. Many precision components of textile machinery are being made of stainless steel.
In the building sector Stainless Steel was introduced in the year 1930 with cladding of top portion of the Chrysler Building at New York in USA. Stainless cladded top still remains in very good condition even after facing 68 years of rough weather.
The latest major example of stainless steel applications in modern buildings is at Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The twin 88-storey tower has utilized more than six thousand metric tons of stainless steel in form of panels, tubular structures, door and windows, facade and various other building components.
In the global context about 12.6% of total stainless products goes for fabrication of building hardware. But in India the consumption pattern is extremely low to the level of about 0.5%. During the last few years some application has begun in Indian buildings as column claddings, railings, door and window frames, structural etc. But practically it is negligible compared to developed countries.
For growth of Indian Stainless industry, the very first requirement is to identify potential areas of applications. Based on the global application patterns and domestic data, we have identified building sector as one of the most potential areas for new stainless product development and promotion.
Before making any strategic plan for promotion of stainless steel in building sector, it is essential to figure out the causes for such low consumption. To find out the root causes we conducted a field study and customer survey. Based on the findings of study, the following main reasons were identified for low consumption of stainless steel in Indian building sector:

  • Lack of awareness among builders, architects and users about stainless product applications in building sector.
  • Non-availability of stainless building products in Indian market.

  • Lack of fabrication technology and trained manpower for production and installation

  • Lack of appropriate designs, suitable to Indian lifestyle and architecture.

To create the awareness about the stainless products and its applications, we are organising various workshops and seminars since last 10 years through Indian Stainless Steel Development Association. But creating only awareness in the mind of the people without making the product physically available, many times become counter productive.
Today people don’t buy product alone, they want solution to their problems or needs. Therefore it is essential that before creating awareness for a new product we must ensure that the product is readily available in the market place, and is capable of meeting the customer’s, functional, architectural and economic requirements.
A stainless door which is used in an European home cannot be used as it is in Indian conditions. To provide a successful product, supplier should ensure that it is designed as per domestic conditions, economically produced and made available in domestic market. After realising these basic bottlenecks, Jindal Strips Ltd. the largest producer of stainless steel in India, has taken a pioneering initiative to set up a Stainless Design Centre at New Delhi.
The main objective of stainless Design Centre is to identify, develop and promote new stainless products based on Indian designs, which can be economically produced and supplied by Indian fabricators. New product designs would be provided to selected entrepreneurs with complete technical assistance for production and promotion of the product. Stainless Design Centre with a team of professional designers and engineers is currently working on design and development of various new products in the areas of Building hardware, Kitchen Systems, Public utilities and Consumer durable.
In this paper new product for Indian building sector, which has been identified and developed by Stainless Design Centre, are presented for commercialisation by stainless fabricators of the country .

Why Stainless Steel in buildings?
The main objective of any industrial and economic development is to improve the quality of life of the people. This is only possible if the developmental activities are sustainable.
Sustainable development is a process of change in which exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological developments and institutional changes are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspiration.
In sustainable development all activities must be integrated with environmental aspects and impacts.
During the twentieth century (which has incidentally 26 more weeks to go) in the name of industrialisation and so-called development, in fact we have destroyed our environment to alarming level. We have blindly cut the green trees, eliminated the most of the dense forests, contaminated natural water with industrial effluents and polluted the air with suffocating gases. Result is ecological imbalance, erratic weather, complex diseases and unpleasant environment, which are deteriorating every moment.
In the process of deforestation of our planet earth, building sector has also made significant contribution. If we examine our buildings we will find plenty of wooden items used in it. Can we comfortably live in a house, at the cost of our natural environment?
I am sure all of you will agree with me that, if we are not taking pro-active steps to restore our natural environment, we will be leaving an inhabitable polluted world for our future generations.
Now it is a natural duty of each one of us to examine the environmental impact of every product we produce or consume at our work place and home. With specific reference to building materials, we must replace the existing products that adversely impact the environment, by an appropriate sustainable material.
To get proper insight let us examine the building materials used in our country .In addition to the brick and cement the major building materials include wood, carbon steels, aluminium and plastics.
The wood is mainly used in doors, windows and furniture of Indian buildings. Due to rapid rate of decreasing number of trees it is becoming scarce and expensive. Wood is prone to termite attack and fire, needs periodical painting and maintenance in addition to the maximum impact on our ecology. In real sense to save our lives we cannot afford to cut any further tree.
Carbon steel is used for re-enforcement of concrete, fabrication of gates, grills, door and window frames, and various hardware items. Carbon steel has problem of rusting and needs periodical painting, regular maintenance and has to be replaced after few years.
Aluminium is used in limited way especially for fabrication of door and window frames, grills and some of the building hardware. Aluminium does not have adequate strength, wear resistance and fire resistance. Due to lightweight and low hardness it is easy to fabricate but wears very fast due to poor abrasion resistance.
Plastic is a relatively new material for building sector. It is mainly used for water storage tanks and some other building hardware for bathrooms. Compared to other materials it has very poor strength, shorter life, and poor aesthetic appeal and less cleanability but low cost. It has adverse impact on environment.
The stainless steel is one of the best substitutes for the all the above four materials - woods, carbon steel, aluminium and plastics from all angles including environment, performance, aesthetics, safety, durability and life cycle costs. Stainless steel is one of the best sustainable engineering materials of today.

What new stainless products can we introduce?
The main objective of any new product is to enhance the customer satisfaction by improved product features, which can provide more convenience and comfort to the ultimate user. With reference to the building products, the key product features, which need to be addressed in any new product, include the safety, security, durability, freedom from maintenance and frequent replacement, aesthetics etc. Technically speaking, except brick and cement all building hardware currently made of wood, carbon steel aluminium and plastic can be completely substituted by stainless steel products with improved features.
In order to identify the stainless products, which can be commercially introduced in India, we conducted a study of the stainless building products being used in other countries. Based on the examples and experiences of other countries we had intensive interaction with a number of Indian architects, civil engineers, builders, fabricators, marketers and ultimate users.
These interactions helped us to identify the typical needs of Indian building sector and potential of stainless building hardware in Indian market. Based on the actual need of the stainless building products, market potential, fabrication considerations, design and cost factors, customer preferences and other business factors we have selected following three products, which can be profitably and successfully introduced in Indian market:

  • Stainless door and window frames

  • Stainless security grill

  • Stainless Water Tank

    After the identification of the products, the next step is to plan and organise the production and availability of the same to the customers. Stainless Design Centre has done complete study of all technical and commercial aspects of the product and is fully equipped to provide comprehensive technical assistance to fabricators and entrepreneurs who want to produce and launch these products.

Stainless Door and Window frames
Door and window frames are one of the most important building components, has constant and high demand in building sector. From security and safety angle the door and window frames must be strong and durable in addition to good looks.
The most commonly used material for door and window frames is wood. Due to rapidly decreasing availability of wood and restriction on cutting of trees, the availability of the wooden door and window frames is constantly decreasing with continuous rise in the cost.
The other alternate materials for door and window frames are carbon steel, aluminium and plastics.
The door and window frames made of current materials have several disadvantages like -prone to fire, wooden frames are attacked by termite, affected by moisture and water, needs regular painting and maintenance etc.
To overcome these deficiencies of wooden, carbon steel, aluminium and plastic doors and window, stainless steel is the most ideal substitute.
Compared to the wooden, steel, aluminium and plastic products, stainless steel door and window frames has following major advantages:

  • Fire resistance

  • Termite resistance

  • Rust proof

  • Strong and durable

  • Maintenance free

  • Low life cycle cost

  • Environment friendly

  • Easily fabricated in desired shape and size aesthetically beautiful

Fabrication Process
The input material for stainless door and window frames are cold rolled sheets in thickness range of 0.8 to 1.2 mm. These frames can be made of AISI-201/ AISI-304 or AISI-316 grades cold rolled stainless sheets, can be selectively used depending upon the atmospheric conditions.
Stainless door and window frames can be fabricated from cold-formed profile sections. These profiles can be produced in continuous cold forming line or in a simple press brake.
After the profiles are made the frames are cut to standard length as per design, 11 appropriate holes and slots are punched and the door and window frames are assembled accordingly. Other components like hinges hold fast, tie rods etc. are fixed by fasteners or spot welding.

Stainless Grill
Security grills are essential building hardware, fitted on the windows and balconies for safety and security of the people and belongings. In addition to providing security it is supposed to beautify the look of building.
The conventional grills are being made of carbon steel rods or thick flats mostly of welded construction. Aesthetics and design of grills are quite important in addition to its strength. Carbon steel grills, exposed to rain and moisture get rusted and need frequent painting and replacement after few years. Due to rusting and corrosion problems to get longer life these are made of solid steel bars, resulting to heavy weight.
A special kind of stainless grill made of rectangular and circular tubes have been developed in Taiwan. These grills are produced in beautiful designs and are lightweight but very strong. Taiwanese are adopting an innovative method for fabrication of grills which involves very little welding.
These grills can be made in various sizes and designs to fit all kind of applications. These grills can be fitted in windows, balconies of the houses and can be used as road dividers and boundary walls also. Just like any other stainless items, these grills are also totally maintenance free and long lasting.

Fabrication Process:
The input materials for these grills are rectangular or circular tubes of stainless steel. Various sizes of tubes are cut to standard length and holes are punched in the tubes for assembly of cross tubes. For punching of holes, special kind of tools and dies are used which are fitted in small power press. After the assembly of tubes comer joints are TIG welded.
To give sparkling finish, after the assembly, the grills are electro-polished. Plants for fabrication of grills can be set up in small-scale sector .

Stainless water Tank
It is one of the biggest ironies on this earth, with 75% of its total area covered with water, the availability of drinking water is gradually becoming a major problem for the human society throughout the world.
Even in a low income group country like India drinking water is being sold at 12 rupees a litre, almost at the same rate as of milk. As per municipal norms, an individual requires 20 gallons (about 120 litters) of water per day for drinking, sanitary and bathing purposes.
The potable water is mostly supplied by the local water supply departments for limited time only, every domestic or office building needs at least one water storage tank for meeting 24 hours requirement. The earlier tanks were made of concrete, with the increased availability of steel gradually it got substituted by galvanised steel tanks. During the last few years with the developments in plastic technology, plastic tanks has become the most popular choice for storage of potable water.
Water tank has become essential product for building sector. From product point view, the basic characteristics which must be met by a water storage tank includes the following:
The material of tank should not contaminate and react with water stored in it.
The inner surface of the storage tank should be smooth enough, not to create a rough site for growth of fungus and algae.
Tank material should have high cleanability and tank design should provide easy to clean
Water tank should be practically maintenance free and provide long service life.
Water storage tank material must be environment friendly
Water tank should be light weight and easy to install
Water tank should be aesthetically beautiful to match with the architectural elements of design
Water tank should be economically affordable by most of the customers
Compared to the concrete, galvanised and plastic tanks, stainless steel water tank stands most superiors on all of the above aspects with the minimum life cycle cost.
Stainless water tanks are fabricated from AISI 304 grade cold rolled sheets. Initial cost of stainless water tanks are about two and half times than of similar plastic tanks but its life cycle cost comes out to be one third of plastic tank life cycle cost. Stainless water tanks are having over seven times longer guaranteed life compared to plastic tanks and tremendous hygienic and aesthetic value .which no other material can provide.

Fabrication process:
Stainless water tank fabrication mainly involves seam-welding process. The input material is AISI-304 grade stainless steel cold rolled sheets in thickness range of 0.5 to 0.8 mm and width range of 500 to 1500 mm. Top and bottom ends of the tank are deep drawn in large press and supplied to fabrications units. Barrel portion is fabricated from cold rolled sheets.
Fabrication process mainly involves electrical resistance welding of sheets and top and bottom dish ends. To increase the strength, barrel portion is rolled to provide ridges in a ridge-rolling machine. Production technology is simple but needs special purpose welding and ridge rolling machines.
The complete plant for fabrication of stainless water tank can be set up in small sector. There is potential for over a hundred such plants in India.

How to go for commercial production of these products?
As I have mentioned earlier, just creating awareness of any new stainless products is not enough to develop business opportunity. We have known about the three potential products. Now it is important to create business from these products. To convert these products in to new business, in addition to will of the entrepreneur and funds, the following three elements are essential:

  • Market potential

  • Production facility

  • Technical Know-How
    Regarding the market potential of building products, as per the estimates more than half a million new houses in urban sectors are built every year. On average, a two bedroom house requires 8 door frames, 10 window frames, about 10 grills along with at least one water storage tank. Thus there is vast demand of the products. In addition to houses a large number of offices, shops, institutions, commercial buildings, restaurants and factories are built, renovated every year also require door & window frames and water tanks.
    To produce good quality products as per requirements of modern buildings, matching production facilities are essential. For production of door, window frames and grills either new facility has to be created or the similar kind of existing units can be modernised. For production of stainless water tank, a completely new set of machinery is required. Some of the machines need to be imported from other countries.
    The most important aspect for success of these products, is availability of appropriate technical know-how and absorption of technology for design, production, promotion and marketing of the new products. This is a major problem especially for small and medium scale stainless industry. Realising the criticality of technical know how, Jindal Stainless Design Centre has taken initiative for identification and development of source of technical know-how and transfer of technology to the production units.
    To ensure the success of new products, Stainless Design Centre is offering following services to competent and dynamic entrepreneurs right from Concept to Commercialisation of the stainless products:

  • Design of new stainless products.

  • Assistance in setting up of project.

  • Production know-how.

  • Assistance in procurement of production equipment.

  • Supply of raw materials.

  • Technology transfer and training.

  • Product promotion and market development.

  • Continuous Quality improvement.
    Those setting up a new project on planning expansion of existing one would do will to ponder over the advantages of stainless steel in building.

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