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THERMEX REBARS

The Worst of Times
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The 'truth' hurts.

I have said it before at seminars, inaugurations, in papers and just about everywhere. And, I say it again I do not understand what the steel mills in India are selling when they name their deformed bars as TMT bars. Many mills in Kolkata have gone a step further, we find the city full of large hoardings and billboards of many mills wherein they proudly claim that their TMT bars are made with German (?) know-how.

 

In this respect, my experience in the tiny country of Nepal was far better. The first major seminar held by the Nepal Engineers Association on the use of reinforcement steel was titled High Strength Deformed Steel Bars and I was informed that the organisers refused to use the phrase TMT Bars. My first remark during my presentation was naturally a compliment to the organisers for their choice of words.

 

Yes, these are dangerous times and I am not talking about the terrorism, which makes headlines each day.

 

My interaction since 2000 with structural engineers, who ensure structural safety, reveals the extent of damage that has been caused in the nineties by the marketing strategy of the leading steel manufacturers in the country. Their successful campaign of making TMT a brand name, akin to large respected companies succeeding in brainwashing the common man into believing water and not Bisleri is a brand name. The small boy who cried Look dad, the King is naked was silenced. These large companies had legally acquired license rights for manufacture of High Strength Deformed Bars by use of the two patented rapid water quenching processes; and then they commit the mistake of coining the phrase TMT Bars and running a very successful media campaign in the nineties. It is difficult to quantify the damage that this campaign has caused but a casual talk with structural engineers is revealing. Many of them believed that TMT is a brand name a name for a special process that gives you a guarantee of quality Fe 415 grade bars. If this is what engineers, in whose hands lies the safety of the RCC structures of our homes, you can roughly gauge how deep the cancer has spread.

 

Fortunately, matters have improved a bit in 2001 and 2002 but we have a long way to go before the damage can be totally undone. It is going to be a long wait.

 

One can narrate numerous examples of the scam and the farce that exists today in the guise of superior German know-how TMT bars. A few should suffice. 

 

The Jt. Director, of B.I.S., Kolkata during our meeting in 2001 confessed he was fully aware of the TMT farce but pleaded total helplessness. Some of the interesting information he gave me throws light on the seriousness of the problem:

 

1. Spurious TMT was being sold near the offices of the BIS but he could take no action. The traders were not making any claim whatsoever that the TMT bars had any particular yield strength, UTS or elongation. Nor were they claiming that the deformed 'TMT bars' being sold by them conformed to any grade of IS 1786:1985. The bars were merely being sold as TMT Bars so no crime had taken place. If an unsuspecting buyer bought such bars under the mistaken belief that he was buying material superior to CTD bars, that was his problem, the trader had made no such claim!

 

2. The neighbour of the Jt. Director had proudly informed him that he had bought TMT Bars for his house instead of the 'rusty' CTD bars most others use. The Jt. Director could only admonish him for not taking the Jt. Directors advice before spending such large sums of hard earned money for a house, a permanent investment. The TMT bars turned out to have much lower yield strength and UTS than normal CTD bars!

 

3. He was under constant pressure from New Delhi (?) to grant an IS certification to the deformed bars being made by a rolling mill in Kolkata even though the samples tested by his inspectors had failed to pass the standard laid down.

 

4. When asked why the B.I.S. did not make it mandatory for all deformed bars sold in India to have a mark or certificate specifying the minimum yield strength, as common in most countries, he asked for a proposal which he would forward to Delhi. We hope this proposal will soon be implemented.

 

I queried quite a few mill owners in Kolkata about 'German knowhow TMT Bars'. They happily revealed that it was very easy to obtain a letter from someone residing in Germany confirming that he was giving the mill advice as to how to put water on the hot steel bar! And, as long as they were passing the hot bars through water they were performing a 'thermomechanical treatment'.

 

It is common knowledge that water is used in all rolling mills, at every mill stand. So, in a way it can always be claimed that thermo-mechanical treatment always takes place when producing rolled bars. Thus, legally, every rolling mill owner can market his product as TMT Bars. And, they were doing so!

 

We visited a mill at the owners request as he wished to order a Thermex Cooling System, a mill that was regularly manufacturing TMT bars! When queried why he wanted to go in for Thermex when he was already a successful seller and producer of TMT Bars, he merely smiled. Our visit to this mill was shocking. The mill was merely producing deformed bars without even the pretence of any water treatment after the rolling operation. The bars were then directly sold as TMT Bars. Needless to say, he did not get the Thermex System, but am told he has now ordered an Indian version, available from Rs. 50,000 to Rs 30 lakhs. Yes, Rs fifty thousand only. Please see picture of one Indian version of cooling pipes used in a rolling mill to produce TMT Bars.

 

fakepipe02.jpg
Some of Water Cooling Pipes used for Fake TMT Bars

The Indian version of TMT Technology also reminds me of the major news item a few days ago in the print and TV media. The Vice Chancellor of Kumaon University and some of his students had reportedly written about 200 odd papers on special topics. These had been submitted and published by various international bodies. Allegedly, and I say allegedly with great care, the media informs us these were not original papers but just cut and paste jobs based on many previous papers written by eminent scholars and freely accessible on the internet. If true, this is hardly surprising for many Indians. 

 

Similar is the case of the Indian versions of TMT technology, mere cut and paste jobs. One expected such misdeeds in earlier decades but today, one believes, India is a signatory to uphold Intellectual Property Rights! But then, who is to bell the cat?

 

A classic case is that of TMT bars being rolled through Edenborne coilers. The equalising temperature for providing proper thermo-mechanical treatment is around 600oC while the bar temperature in the curved entry pipe to the Edenborne coiler has to be over 750oC for rolling. Thus the thermomechanical treatment just cannot be done in such mills. H&K has refused to install Thermex systems in each such case, only to find that these mills have now adopted an Indian version and are producing TMT Bars and making money!

 

In all the hype about TMT, we in India seem to have forgotten the basic objective for developing this unique rapid water quenching process. It was NOT to merely develop bars of Fe 415 Grade. The main objective was to produce bars of minimum 500 N/mm2 with high elongation values of around 18 to 24 % so that a saving in steel could be achieved without compromising on safety.

 

THERMEX is a registered trademark owned by H&K in India and by HSE in other countries. Even so, we found a leading mill in Gujarat blatantly claiming in his brochure to be making TMT bars as per the Thermex Cooling System of Germany. Legal action has been initiated.

 

Industrial espionage is another source of worry. The cut and paste experts at a leading mill supplier were found to be ignoring Intellectual Property Rights with impunity. Legal action has also been initiated in this case.

 

One can go on at length in examples of the 'TMT Bars' now made in India. The damage has been done. And, one worries when a second Gujarat will occur. We can only leave it to divine powers to spare us such a tragedy. The matter is as serious a crime as that of spurious drugs. Only in this case there is no law or regulation to prevent such products from flooding the market.

 

Such spurious deformed TMT bars have made inroads into the market share of Tisco, SAIL and RINL. So today, one rarely finds these steel companies referring to their products as TMT Bars and the companies have instead taken steps to build their own brand name.

 

THERMEX is a registered trademark of H&K Rolling Mill Engineers Pvt. Ltd. in India and is owned by HSE, Germany in other Countries