Prototype Helps Steel Company Win New Businessbulbflat

HUNTINGTON — With assistance from an Innovate WV grant, funded in part by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a Huntington-based steel fabricator developed prototypes of a product that helped the company win new orders at an international trade show.

The InnovateWV grant initiative allows companies to access specialized manufacturing technology assistance at the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing – from the initial innovative concept through computer-aided design, reverse engineering, prototyping, fabrication and machining.

Steel of West Virginia Inc. worked with RCBI engineers on the development of prototypes for bulb flats, used as a stiffener by the shipbuilding industry. The prototypes were made through additive manufacturing, better known as 3D Printing, out of powdered steel on the EOSINT M280 Direct Metal Laser Sintering system at the RCBI Charleston Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center.

Company executives took the prototypes of the bulb flats to the International Workboat Show in New Orleans to show commercial shipbuilders, U.S. Naval engineers and others. Photographs of the prototypes also were incorporated in advertisements in trade magazines. The company believes these marketing efforts have paid off.

Since the trade show, the company has manufactured and sold more than 411 tons of bulb flats. There are 23 different sizes available. All are produced on the company’s No. 1 rolling mill, which manufactures special shapes of steel products.

Steel of West Virginia Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Steel Dynamics Inc., began full production of the bulb flats this year and is the only American company now making them. Bulb flats are the stiffener of choice in the shipbuilding industry because of their strength-to-weight ratio and because their shape prevents the buildup of corrosive debris.

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