"OUR HIGHWAYS can get better if steel fibre technology is quickly adopted by the NHAI like most of the tunneling projects, which have made use of this technology," says Shiraz K Doongaji, director, Stewols India, a company, a leading steel fibre manufacturer in India.
Doongaji discovered steel fibre during a visit to the Hanover Fair in Germany in 1995. This technology, which is only 30 years old in the history of civil engineering, is now being used extensively in Europe, the US and other countries. "Initially this technology was used in their defence applications such as construction of protection walls, bunkers and other strategic installations. Steel fibre replaces the rebar completely for ground-based slab systems i.e. for industrial floorings, roads, etc," he says.
Some of the projects completed by Stewol are the SALPG underground storage cavern in Vizag, flooring for the Mathura refinery, and the Military Engineering Service (MES) project. Even the upcoming Rohtang Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh will be designed with steel fibre technology. "It's estimated that the requirement of steel fibre for the current year will be around 4,000 tonnes" says Doongaji. Stewols claims to have done in-house R&D to develop machines that produce around 7,500 tonnes of steel fibre annually.
The technology was introduced by the University of Roorkee and the country's first steel fibre reinforced concrete road was constructed in the year 2000. Steel fibre has also been used in the Mumbai-Pune tunnels during 1999 when nearly 700 tonnes of steel fibres were imported from the UK. Steel fibre applications are also found in hydel projects.
The company now plans to use this technology in pre-fabricated structures, manhole covers and in low-cost housing schemes as well as for industrial storage applications. Stainless steel fibre is also an important ingredient in refractory industries where it's used to minimise cracks and improve the longevity of other refractory materials. Says Doongaji: "The randomly oriented steel fibres assist in controlling the propagation of micro-cracks present in the matrix, first by improving the overall cracking resistance of the matrix and later by bridging across even smaller cracks formed after the application of load on to the member, thereby preventing their widening into major cracks."
Going forward, Doongaji says new applications will fuel demand for steel fibre: "As the scope of steel fibre technology has picked up globally we hope to do major flooring activities in India and also go in for prefabricated products like automobile parts." The company is planning to collaborate with foreign partners to export the material to the European Union countries and to other destinations across the world. "Since India is becoming a hub for automobile components, we expect a very good demand for this material," says Doongaji