22 Apr '11
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
Today we’ll take a closer look at Izhevsk-based Pruzhina—an innovative scientific production center that has since last year been focused on making superior-endurance nanostructured springs. This summer the company is planning to launch production of what it claims are ‘timeless’ springs—a product that will retain its original properties with little or no wear. With a vast, ready market (from automotive to railroads) Pruzhina and its cutting-edge technology are innovators to bookmark.
Pruzhina started out last year with an initial $40m investment from a pool of investors operating as a private-public partnership (PPP). The pool included Udmurtia mechanical engineering company IzhMash, Pruzhina’s umbrella entity and its production and testing base; Russia’s nanotech giant, Rusnano; and one of this country’s ten largest financial groups, Uralsib.
In a separate move, Rusnano has given Izhevsk State Technical University a $530k grant to further evolve spring-making technology and train skilled personnel for the project.
Currently Pruzhina is doing test runs of its new product but has plans to launch serial production in August. Its stated goal is to produce eight million nanostructured springs a year. An estimated 250 people will be employed at the company.
How it works
Conventional ways of improving metal strength have predominantly included the use of hard alloy steels to reinforce the end product. But the cost-benefit ratio is poor. Nanotechnologies are said to ensure much higher quality without the added cost.
Production of ultra high-strength springs is based on an advanced technology of controlled formation of homogeneous nano-sized substructures at high temperatures.
Thermomechanical treatment of metals, a unique method at the heart of the technology, enables hot spring winding with the just right combination of temperature, a degree of strain and a sequence of cooling and hardening. Nano-sized substructures that form as a result of this process ensure the end product’s superior bond performance.
According to the investors, the technology makes it possible to exponentially increase springs’ service life and more than double spring loading limits. Additional benefit include: prevention of coil ‘collapse’ and enhanced performance in low temperature conditions.
Keep on rolling…20X longer
A Pruzhina spokesman said that tests of the firm’s springs in railroad cars lasted 20X longer than what Russian Rail uses today—the nano spring wear life was ten million strain cycles, he said.
It’s no wonder that Russian Rail has been targeted as Pruzhina’s prime prospect. Already a $90bn company, Russian Rail could save as much as $140m by re-equipping its entire one million railroad car fleet with Pruzhina’s sophisticated springs.
Other customers could include energy engineering, producers of agricultural machinery and elevator manufacturers. Pruzhina is also eyeing auto makers, both domestic and international.
Once production is up and running, Pruzhina estimates that its annual sales will be $70m. From there, as the saying goes, “hope springs eternal”!