If It’s a Steal…Pay Attention to the Steel
All steel is not created equal. So it stands to reason that not all undercarriages are created equal either. But when you search for replacement undercarriage options, you may be surprised to see countless companies offering low-cost solutions that are “just as good as OEM quality.” Before making a decision, always make sure to research the steel that makes up the product.
On average, more than 50-percent of a customer’s tracked vehicle maintenance costs will go into maintaining the undercarriage. It’s no surprise as “where the rubber meets the road” with this type of equipment, there is no rubber…and there’s typically no road. Whether it’s a construction site or a mining operation, the conditions are grueling. And that’s why specifying undercarriages and undercarriage parts made with the highest quality steel and the most proven forming processes is key to the longevity and performance of your equipment.
So what should you look for? The following are some steel terms to keep in mind when shopping for the best quality undercarriages:
This is a process where steel is heated up to 75 percent of its melting temperature before being formed using a press. The result is an end product with greater strength than cast or machined metal parts because of the exceptional grain flow achieved through the forging process. Furthermore, hot forging results in a better overall finish, without the typical concern for pinholes that often form on the surface or inside of a cast part, which can seriously compromise structural integrity.
Given its superior strength, Berco has been using hot forging to create undercarriage components for more than 90 years. Today, we have 20 hot forging lines producing over 8,000,000 chain links, 2,000,000 semi rollers and 500,000 segments, drive wheels and large-sized bottoms annually. This forging line includes the “Maxi-Press” and “Midi-Press,” 32,000-ton and 16,000-ton screw presses, respectively. These are among the largest screw presses in the world, making Berco the only company capable of forging large-sized undercarriage components for mining equipment.
Heat treatment of parts involves any number of techniques to heat and chill steel to upgrade the mechanical properties and achieve superior wear resistance and stress relief. It’s the key to guaranteeing superior quality products with excellent durability properties when facing any demanding application.
Berco utilizes an exclusive heat treatment process that results in consistent surface hardness, unmatched hardened depth and a better overall core strength. But these results won’t be realized with just any type of steel.
Through-Hardened or Deep-Hardened Steel
Heat treatment can be used with nearly any type of steel, but the results of that effort are only maximized with the right type of steel. When a high-carbon steel is heat treated and then cooled rapidly, the result is greater hardness throughout the component. And that translates into superior strength, better wear resistance and less chance for part fatigue or failure. This is important when facing high stress applications, such as construction and mining jobsites.
If the steel does not include sufficient amounts of carbon, such as with a mild steel, through hardening is not possible. Heat treating will harden the surface material, known as “case hardening,” but will not harden throughout.
Berco utilizes a unique medium-alloyed boron steel that ideally responds to the heat treatment process. The result is a product with superior hardened depth, which provides end-users with a much more reliable, longer-living piece of equipment.
Though it might seem out of place with the previous categories, as it’s not a steel-specific term, price can many times be a sign that steel quality is suspect. That doesn’t mean you have to go through the original equipment manufacturer to buy undercarriages and related components for a premium price. Conversely, it also doesn’t mean you should consider the lowest priced product.
Rather than “cost,” you should always be thinking of “total cost of ownership” when considering an equipment purchase. Though the lowest priced undercarriage might be appealing from an equipment budgeting standpoint, think about the indirect costs associated with excessive wear, an increased need for maintenance and potential jobsite breakdowns. Chances are, when you put pen to paper, you’ll find that though the initial cost may be much lower with the lowest priced option, but the total cost of ownership favors the more expensive unit.