Renewable Energy Initiatives Continue Their Meteoric Rise

Across the world, support for renewable energy has swelled over the past decade. A variety of methods have been developed to gather energy from resources which are naturally replenished on a regular basis – from harnessing the wind and tides, through utilizing geothermal heat.

10 years ago, renewable energy was still evolving, and at that point in time, only 15 countries had developed policies. These policies were limited to first-world, technologically advanced countries who had the money to expend. Now, in 2014, over 140 countries have a renewable energy target in place, with 138 of them having solidified energy support policies.

Europe is leading the way – almost every country in the European Union has a plan set forth, and they have a collective target of producing at least 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. They’re making great strides with it too. In 2009, they had already hit 11.7% of their energy production from renewable sources. Some countries in the EU are even striving towards deriving all of their energy from renewable sources – Scotland has that aim, while Germany is already well on their way, with over 20 million residents living in regions where the energy is from renewable sources.

The United States is staying with the pack as far as developing our policies. We currently have the second most capacity for renewable power across the planet, with only China ahead of us. We’ve got quite a ways to go if we want to reach the point that Denmark, currently the world leader, has reached in terms of population served by renewable energy. How advanced are they? In 2013, wind power alone accounted for 33.2% of the energy used in Denmark.

Renewable energy is a permanent part of our infrastructure, and it is a field that will continue to develop as time goes by. As more nations strive to produce the majority of their energy from renewable sources instead of relying upon gas, coal, and other non-renewable sources, the market will continue to grow. Continuing the shift to renewable energy will make energy cheaper, more reliable, and will help to reduce our impact on our environment.

Hot press forging

Did you know that fasteners can be fabricated through hot press forging? This blog will cover what exactly that is and why the process is used.

Forging is one of the oldest known metalworking processes. Originally done by a smith using a hammer and anvil, we have thankfully moved to more modern techniques. Today, industrial forging is done with presses. There are two types of presses, mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical presses use cams, cranks and toggles to produce a fastener. Mechanical presses are faster than hydraulic ones. Hydraulic presses use fluid pressure and a piston to generate force. Hydraulic machinery, while slower, do offer greater flexibility and capacity.

The main advantage of producing a fastener through press forging is that the piece will be stronger than if it was machined or cast. This is because when a piece is forged, the internal grain deforms to follow the shape of the part. This creates a continuous grain, improving the piece’s strength.

Press forging applies a slow, uninterrupted force on a piece, differing from the quick impact of drop-hammer forging. This method is advantageous because it has the ability to deform the completed piece. While this method does take longer, the strength benefits outweigh the length of time needed. Press forging is also more economical than hammer forging, while also creating closer tolerances.

Press forging is especially useful when dealing with very large diameter fasteners. There is no limit to the size created, because there is no limit to the size of the press forging machinery. New techniques have led to a higher degree of mechanical integrity. And by limiting the oxidation to the outer layers of the fastener, micro cracking is reduced.

Please contact us today for any and all of your fastener needs.

Making Cement More Green

Cement is a material that is all around us and one that we hardly notice. It is the main ingredient in concrete, which is in the bridges we cross, the sidewalks we step on and the buildings we work in. Cement is the second most consumed material on Earth, only behind water. More surprising than the amount we consume is the amount of CO2 that cement produces. This single industry can make up anywhere between 5% to 10% of global emissions.

The main substance in cement is limestone that is heated to 1400C and then ground down to create a lumpy, yet solid substance known as clinker. Clinker is them combined with gypsum to form cement. The amount of heat needed to produce cement makes its energy and emission consumption very high. The heating of limestone creates CO2 as does the burning of fossil fuels to heat the kiln. The most common cement used for construction is Portland cement, which is the cheapest and consequently has the most environmental concerns.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland believe they have found a more efficient way to create cement. Their cement is produced by materials that are widely used and available- calcined clay and ground limestone. By mixing in their cement, known as LC3, with Portland cement, they believe they can bring down global CO2 emissions by several percent. It is not enough to just cut emissions, the new cement must also be strong and durable enough to be used as current cement is.

The EFPL just received a round of funding to further their research and we here at Coburn-Myers are looking forward to what they come up with.

Fracking and Manufacturing

As a population, we are incredibly dependent on oil and natural gas resources to power our vehicles, factories, and plenty of products and services that we interact with on a daily basis. Fracking is a method that can be used to effectively extract oil and natural gas from well sites across the country. In the U.S. alone, hydraulic fracking is used in over 35,000 wells today and there have been approximately one million hydraulic fracking wells since the practice began in the 1940s. Hydraulic fracking uses high-pressure fluids composed of water and a few chemicals to cause fissures in the ground. When a well is drilled and fissures are formed, natural resources such as oil and natural gas can freely flow to the surface.

Fracking is an attractive way of obtaining natural resources for energy because it cuts costs and raises the standard of living throughout the country. According to economists at IHS Inc., “hydraulic fracking will likely raise the average U.S. household income by $2,700 per year and create 1.2 million jobs by 2020.” Additionally, hydraulic fracking will have a positive impact on the amount of energy available. The energy boom and fracking services in the U.S. have caused an increase in the supply of natural gas and positioned the U.S. as a leading provider of natural gas, making this a relatively cheap energy source for our population.

As fracking and energy costs continue to play an important role in our country, manufacturing is also impacted. Companies that manufacturer goods and provide services most definitely use massive amounts of energy to manage their business and would likely prefer low energy costs. U.S. companies can now purchase less expensive energy without having to import it and paying a premium cost.

As technology and the energy requirements of our country continue to change, we are always looking for less expensive and readily available energy sources. Fracking is a great method that will allow us to continue to supply companies and businesses with energy at an affordable rate and have a widespread economic impact.

The Metric System

Fotosearch_k10972075The metric system dates back to the 1700’s, when it was first created. As you can imagine, doing business would be difficult with every neighboring town using a different system. The system set a standard for making both weights and measurements uniform. But it wasn’t until a century later when the system was adopted within the European Union. At this point it began to rapidly spread.

Now fast forward to the modern day and age, and we have the majority of the world using the metric system. It is the default measuring scale used for global trade transactions and agreements. However, three countries still abstain from using the system fully which are the United States, Liberia and Myanmar. The U.S. officially adopted the system in 1975, although it hasn’t been successfully launched. Let’s take a look at the system and what advantages have placed it as the main way to measure our world and conduct business.

Greater Accuracy

The metric system has a central unit of 10’s which can be converted amongst the 7 measuring units in the system. The 7 units are as follows:

Unit for length is the meter
Unit for mass is the kilogram
Unit for time is the second
Unit for electric current is the ampere
Unit for thermodynamic temperature is the kelvin
Unit for amount of substance is the mole
Unit for luminous intensity is the candela

It is Widely Used

Because this system is so widely used, it is beneficial to be prepared to do business on its terms. With 95% of countries using this system of measurements, it is a must for international business.

Base Units

It is easier to follow a system that is interconnected and makes sense. In place of remembering various different conversions, the following base units can be used:

10 millimeters is 1 centimeter

10 centimeters is 1 decimeter is 100 millimeters

10 decimeters is 1 meter is 1,000 millimeters

10 meters is 1 decameter

10 decameters is 1 hectometer is 100 meters

10 hectometers is 1 kilometer is 1,000 meters

Once you have these memorized, you will be equipped to do business with any country in the world.

A New Type of Concrete May Last Over a Century

A team of engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have a developed a new type of concrete that can last over 120 years. Known as Superhydrophobic Engineered Cementitious Composite (SECC), this water-repellent concrete is comprised of superstrong fibers that will leave bridges and roads without cracks for many years. Using superhydrophobic additives, mixed with superfine powders, the team was able to create a minute spiky surface within the concrete that was nearly impenetrable to water. An addition of unwoven polyvinyl alcohol fibers allows the concrete to bend without becoming brittle and breaking. The water repellent nature of SECC prevents the absorption of water, which is what leads normal porous concrete to crack. This new concrete is also more pliable, which means that if cracks do form, they will not grow and ultimately cause failure.

According to a list by the Government Finance Officers Association, typical concrete roadways can last up to 30 years and concrete bridges may last as long as 40 years. SECC, however, should be able to last four times as long on roads and three times as long on bridges. While this new concrete would cost more than traditional concrete, the decrease in maintenance costs over the life of SECC would more than make the cost worthwhile.

To test their new concrete, the engineers laid a 4-by-15- foot slab of SECC in a university parking garage. They implanted sensors within the concrete so they can monitor the moisture, stress and load levels. This will allow them to analyze the concrete in the real-world and hopefully prove the findings that they saw in the lab.

Off Shore Wind Farms Can Tame Hurricanes

 

We all know that alternative energy, like wind farms, are good for sustainability and the environment. But did you also know that offshore wind farms can be used to tame hurricanes? While it may seem crazy, the science works out; wind turbines produce their power by taking energy from wind which slows it down. A study performed by Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson, simulated three hurricanes: Sandy (New York 2012), Isaac (New Orleans 2012), and Katrina (New Orleans 2005), and found that had off shore wind turbines been in place during these storms, the damage may not have been as bad.

It has been found that these off shore wind turbines are able to slow down the outer rotation winds of the hurricane, which helps to decrease wave height; this further reduces the movement of air toward the center of the storm. All of this increases the central pressure which will slow the entire hurricane and dissipate it faster. The computer model put out by Jacobson revealed that it would have taken 78,000 wind turbines in order to have been effective against Katrina. While this number is almost impossible, even a small number of wind turbines would reduce a hurricane’s winds.

Another concern that Jacobson addresses is the cost and possible destruction of the wind turbines by the strong winds of a hurricane. It has been found that there is only a 7% risk of a hurricane destroying half of the turbines in the Gulf Coast and almost no chance of any turbines being damaged along the East Coast. Current wind turbines are able to stand up to 112MPH winds which are akin to either a category 2 or 3 hurricane. But with enough turbines present, the winds would not be able to reach those speeds, limiting the destruction of the turbines, as well as the cities behind them. The turbines would also be expensive to build. But the cost-savings benefit would offset such an expense. They are cheaper than the massive seawalls that shore-lined states are building to protect themselves. They are also self-sufficient; by harnessing the winds of the hurricane that they are slowing down, they are able to produce much more energy.

Copper Mining Is On The Rise

Copper is a precious commodity these days, evidenced by the increase in theft. People often steal copper wiring from outdoor facilities and electric substations to be resold and repurposed elsewhere. Copper does not occur naturally in the earth’s crust, so it must be extracted from a mined ore. These ores include Tennantite, Chalcopyrite, Chalcocite, and more. The price of Copper has skyrocketed in recent years, making it even more profitable to mine. In 2002, one pound of Copper cost $0.76. In 2007 it had jumped to $3.02 per pound, and is now around $3.20 per pound. The four biggest Copper producers in the world are Chile, China, Peru, and the United States, respectively.

In 1992, Chile opened the door for more foreign private investment in large-scale copper mining ventures. This made it possible for American companies to work with the Chilean government in the mining of copper ores in Northern Chile. Chile produces copper, gold, silver, iron, and coal from its mines, and it makes up a very large part of their government funding and exports. Copper mines can be underground or in open-pit form. Once the ore is retrieved from the mines, it goes through an extraction process to separate the copper from the rest of the material. For economic and environmental reasons, the leftover materials are reclaimed for new uses, for example, sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfuric acid and used again in the extraction process. Investment in South American mines has proved very profitable and worthwhile in recent years. 

Small Fastener Company in a Big World

The industrial sector is not particularly known for being new or “hip.” Industrial and manufacturing companies have been slow to adopt many new technologies, especially when it comes to having an online presence. We noticed that the companies that have embraced digital technology have adapted more easily to changing times and new generations, so we have done the same. Coburn-Myers is a small business that is able to compete with very large industrial fastener suppliers, and we have technology to thank for part of that success. “Online shopping” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about fasteners, but it is something that we have adopted in our business model in order to make the ordering process as simple and painless as possible for our customers.

We recently revamped our entire website to reflect our attitude towards the changing times. We know that our customers need a website that is interactive, efficient, and fast to help them find the parts they need quickly and to order them with ease. It may seem strange for an industrial fastener supply company to be active online and on social media, but we feel it is the best way to provide our customers with the highest level of customer service and personal attention. Competing with the “big dogs” is easy when you have the right tools and a knowledgeable, experienced staff to provide individual fastener solutions.  

Construction Industry To See Moderate Growth in 2014

Since 1981, Coburn-Myers has been providing specialty fasteners in virtually any shape, size and material to a wide variety of industries, including construction companies that specialize in building industrial and commercial facilities.

Because our mutual success is intrinsically linked to that of the construction industry, we were particularly interested in McGraw Hill Construction’s 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook report, which provides the forecasting which the construction industry uses to help guide its business planning.

Overall, the report expects total U.S. construction starts to rise 9% to $555.3 billion in 2014, up from the previous year’s 5% increase to $508 billion. McGraw Hill Construction’s vice president of Economic Affairs, Robert Murray, sees 2014 as a year of “measured expansion for the construction industry” based on job growth and interest rates that have remained and are likely to stay historically low. In addition, states and localities are in a better financial position.

More specifically, commercial construction is expected to increase 17% in 2014 – a noticeable uptick from the 15% gain experienced in 2013. Warehouses and hotels will continue to dominate with retail stores and office buildings also showing increases. Institutional building will edge up 2%, which is a marked turnaround after five years of decreases. Educational building commitments will rise with both colleges and K-12 expanding and upgrading.

McGraw Hill’s 32-page report looks at the U.S. construction industry’s major sectors and also provides an outlook for the broad types of construction within each of the five major regions of the country.

As we look ahead to 2014, we’re ready to provide the expertise, experience and fasteners our customers require as they plan and execute on their construction project plans.