Time to renovate your bathroom?
Steel basins add glamour, purity, and sustainability
Did you know that the average European bathroom is renovated every 10 to 15 years? And that 99% of customers choose white fixtures? “Even though we can finish our basins in any colour of the rainbow, only one percent of orders are for a colour other than white.” says Lars Betzner, Head of Purchasing at Germany’s leading manufacturer of basins – Alape. “White has been associated with purity and hygiene for centuries, and that’s the main reason our customers choose it.”
German firm Alape creates its hand-finished bathroom basins and sinks with ArcelorMittal’s cold forming steels designed for enamelling. “We love to work with ArcelorMittal products because of the possibilities their steels offer,” notes Lars Betzner. “They give us the best results throughput the entire production chain. And they are ideal for complicated geometries which require a high degree of deformation.”
Simple and complex shapes achieved with just three grades
Alape manufactures basins from three main ArcelorMittal grades. “We utilise DC04EK for our bucket sinks, DC06EK for built-in and sit-on basins and washstands, and DC07EK for basins with complicated geometries,” explains Lars Betzner. “The advantages of these grades are their high ductility and strain resistance, combined with their high yield strength. They are also perfect for enamelling.”
Creating a wash basin from steel takes around two weeks. It begins with deep drawing – a process in which a shape is pressed into the metal under extreme force to create the ‘bowl’ of the basin. The result is a bowl without seams, ensuring there is nowhere for dirt or germs to hide. “As we can create basins from one piece of steel, our customers appreciate the design, and purity of our products,” notes Lars. “They also recognize that our basins are sustainable and 100% recyclable.”
The sustainability of Alape’s steel basins is a significant advantage. Many basins and sinks in Europe are made from ceramics. While they offer the same hygiene properties as steel sinks, ceramics are difficult to recycle or reuse at end of life. In the next stage of production, lasers cut away the parts of the steel blank which are not required before the edges are bent and welded to form the final shape. Grinding and levelling ensure the edges have a smooth and consistent finish. “Depending on the geometrical complexity of the basin we can automate some of these steps,” notes Lars. “But for the complicated geometries we make from grade DC07EK, we do nearly everything by hand.”
Once the basin has been sprayed on one side with the enamel, it is left to dry before the basin is fired in a kiln at very high temperature. This process melts the enamel and fuses it to the underlying steel, creating a hard, waterproof surface that is easy to clean and which will last a lifetime. “I’ve seen examples of our bucket sinks which have been in place for over 45 years, and they are almost as good as new,” notes Lars Betzner.
Enamelling is the final step in the process. Although Alape can match almost any colour, almost all customers opt for white. “Half of the one percent who do choose another colour select black,” says Lars. “Those basins are usually for hotels or special projects.”
It’s about people doing successful business
Alape prides itself on the quality and durability of its products. But that attitude is also applied to its business relationships as Lars Betzner explains: “To fulfil our highly ambitious goals we put our trust in long-term and open partnerships, like the one that we have had with ArcelorMittal for over 20 years. But I would like to note that it is not Alape and ArcelorMittal as companies that have created this relationship. That is down to the people who do successful business together every day.”
About ArcelorMittal’s steels for cold forming
D04EK, DC06EK, and DC07EK are part of ArcelorMittal’s range of steels for cold forming applications. These grades are utilised in bending and deep drawing processes where strength, rigidity, and ductility are required. Typical applications are found in the automotive and domestic appliance sectors where they are used to create complex, multifunctional parts.
|Grade||Dimensional feasibility||Re (MPa)||Rm (MPa)|
|DC04EK||0.3 to 3.0 mm||140 to 150||270 to 350|
|DC06EK||0.3 to 2.0 mm||120 to 210||270 to 330|
|DC07EK||0.5 to 3.0 mm||100 to 170||250 to 310|
Originally a family business, Alape began by making enamelled jugs, buckets, and farm equipment more than 125 years ago. In 1930 the company introduced its bucket sink – a ubiquitous design which is typically found in cellars, farm buildings, and gardens across Europe.
In 1954 the family moved operations to Goslar in the western part of Germany. Using their extensive knowledge of techniques such as bending, welding, and enamelling, Alape began to concentrate on making basins and sinks for bathrooms. In 1967 it launched the first wash basin combined with a floor-mounted cabinet.
Since the 1980s Alape has deliberately focussed on developing architectural basins and furniture for bathrooms and wet rooms. In 2001, Alape became part of the Aloys F. Dornbracht group.
Today around 60 percent of Alape’s sales go to German-speaking countries in Europe. Other significant markets include the Nordic countries and Scandinavia, Western Europe, and Australia. Alape also works with its parent company to distribute their products worldwide.