Structural Steel Heat Straightening

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- The Process -

Although heat straightening has been used successfully for decades, it has only recently been embraced by federal, state, and local governments as a viable method for the repair of structural steel. Heat straightening (also known as flame straightening) is the art of straightening damaged steel back into alignment by using heat. The proper application of heat straightening yields dramatic results. Damaged structures can be returned to their original strength and alignment at a fraction of the cost of replacement.

The art of heat straightening requires expertise and precision. Many factors need to be addressed in quick succession as heat is applied in controlled amounts to exact locations. It takes many years of continuous experience to master the skill of heat straightening. When attempted by the inexperienced, steel can be overheated and strained by excessive jacking forces. This is called hot working and is significantly different from heat straightening. Heat straightening can be applied multiple times to the same member with little or no adverse impact to the strength of properties of the steel. Proper heat straightening involves careful control of temperature and very limited amounts of jacking.

Heat straightening is a relatively simple process to understand. When steel is heated, it expands. As the steel cools, it contracts and returns to its original shape. When the steel is heated and restrained by outside forces and/or heating patterns, it takes on a new shape when it cools. Several different heating methods are used to restrain the movement of the steel. The most common are the vee heat, spot heat, and line heat. Various types of physical restraints are also used. These include 10 and 20 ton hydraulic jacks and 1.5 and 3 ton come-a-longs.

Financially, heat straightening is less costly than repairs involving replacement for several reasons. Heat straightening is a quicker and more efficient option, saving time and labor cost. Compared to replacement, the cost of materials and equipment required for heat straightening are minimal. Additionally, heat straightening repairs involve less impact on traffic congestion because traffic is left flowing during repairs. Heat straightening can also be performed at any time of the day, depending on traffic volumes. Unlike the permanent closures that frequently accompany replacement repairs, work zones can be removed at a moment's notice.

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