MARGO COLE ON THE COLOUR OF STRENGTH
In a world where the dominant colours are black and yellow, RUD Chains equipment would stand out – even if the ﬁrm were not a market leader. The company’s distinctive pink steel chains and lifting components can be found throughout the construction, heavy manufacturing, nuclear and offshore industries. They’re often speciﬁed by end users as a result of the reputation RUD has built up over the last 20 years.
But the Whitstable-based ﬁrm has been around for a lot longer than that. RUD is a subsidiary of German company Rieger & Dietz, which has been making round steel chains since 1875. It is now one of the world’s largest chain manufacturers, producing high-quality components and systems for everything from snow chains for HGVs and military vehicles, to conveyors and drives for the maritime and energy sectors.
Initially, RUD ﬁrst entered the UK market selling snow chains. It has built up its presence in the lifting industry in the last two decades, offering both round steel link chains and the lifting hooks and points that go with them – predominantly through a nationwide network of dealers. The biggest customers for the company in the UK are the construction industry and nuclear sectors. But it also has a history of supplying to shipyards, mining, and heavy manufacturing.
“In the construction industry, you can be lifting anything from very small weights to very large,” explains RUD sales David Bradley. “In the lifting industry we used to ﬁgure that 25kg can be lifted by one man – and above that is two men. Now that has gone out of the window, and anything could be done using lifting equipment.”
The company sells different diameter chains that can be used for loads up to 31.5t in single leg conﬁguration. But RUD’s highest speciﬁcation chain, the 28mm diameter VIP chain, can achieve a working load limit of 126t when it used in a multi-leg conﬁguration.
In addition, RUD sells a range of over 500 different lifting and lashing points that can lift anything from one third of a tonne to 200t. “Heavy lifting in the UK has dropped,” he adds, citing the decline in shipbuilding. “But, since the Germans are building bigger products, it helps if someone in the UK wants a bigger lifting-point.”
Bradley says that, like many German companies, RUD is “always innovating”. And, with a limit to the potential improvements in the design and forging of round steel chain, much of that innovation is focused on the lifting and lashing points. Two of the ﬁrm’s latest products to reach the UK market demonstrate this: the L-VLBG Lashing VIP ring and the ICE-LBG-SR load ring.
The L-VLBG lashing for bolting incorporates ball bearings, so it can rotate through 360° in all directions under load, while the suspension ring pivots through 180°. The ball bearings are so arranged that the forces of the working load are transferred smoothly and without jerking. This avoids unintentional slackening of the fastening bolt.
The lashing point is clearly marked with the minimum lashing capacity for all loading directions; patented markings indicate to the user when the product is no longer suitable for service. It comes with a corrosion-protected RUD bolt, which is captive but can be easily exchanged.
The ICE-LBG-SR load ring also uses ball bearings to enable it to rotate through 360° under load, making it possible to turn and ﬂip at high working load limits without affecting the mounting bolt stability. The SR stands for ‘super rotation.’ ICE refers to the grade of steel, which RUD has been developing over many years. The grade 120 steel is much stronger than typical grade 80 steel, and preserves its strength at very low temperatures. RUD is also using the ICE steel in its chains, where its additional strength properties mean that the same working load can be lifted with a smaller diameter chain.
Again, the ICE-LBG-SR lifting point is clearly marked with the working load limit for all loading directions – something Bradley thinks is very important, and is a feature on all RUD lifting and lashing points. “If you look at a typical British Standard eye-bolt, the load limit straight up may be 4t, and it will be marked as 4t,” he explains. “But if you use it at an angle, the capacity goes right down to 1t. What RUD does is to mark it with the working load limit at 90o. For example, if it has a capacity of 20t vertically, it will be marked as 5t at 90o. The end users like that.”
Another example of RUD’s ongoing innovation can be seen by looking closely at any of its chains or lifting points. On every one of them you can see a small dot, either 8mm or 4mm in diameter, which is actually an RFID chip embedded in to the lifting points.
It’s called the RUD-ID-Point, it comes as standard on all the company’s products, and contains that component’s unique identiﬁcation number. That number can be linked to RUD’s software, which will tell you all the important information relating to the component – such as the date it was manufactured, the test certiﬁcate number etc – while the owner can also add any other information they want. So, armed with an RFID reader, an inspector can check very quickly how old the component is, what load it should be carrying, and when it should be replaced.
According to Bradley, RUD’s German parent company is “full of young, enthusiastic engineers who spend a lot of time looking at problems and engineering solutions.” Accordingly, the company is open to developing new products for speciﬁc markets. In a highly-competitive UK lifting equipment market, this focus on innovation is essential.