ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products

Online client newsletter | March 2020

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Bridging communities

Matière’s Unibridge® uses high strength ArcelorMittal steels to provide vital links in remote areas

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The French company Matière first introduced its Unibridge® concept in 2004. Today these patented structures are shipped around the world where they are used as permanent or temporary crossings for vehicles and pedestrians. Thanks to their modular nature and ease of construction, the Unibridge® is particularly popular in remote regions where materials and skilled workers are hard to find. The solution uses ArcelorMittal’s S355K2+N and S460M high strength steel plates which are known for their durability and give the Unibridge® a 100-year design life.

In remote areas around the world, the Unibridge® is providing safe links between communities

“When Matière began producing metallic bridges in the 1990s, it gave our customers a choice between concrete and metal for the first time,” says Hervé Blanc, Deputy General Manager of Matière. “And it also led to the development of the Unibridge® in 2004.”

The Pont-de-Juba in Sierra-Léone, one of 35 countries where the Unibridge has been deployed

Designed for remote and developing regions

The Unibridge® was initially developed as a solution for the military, but was never adopted. Matière immediately saw the potential of the solution in developing countries and remote locations as Hervé Blanc explains: “These areas typically require many bridges, but there is a lack of resources and skills to produce them.”

Ease of transport and construction in remote areas was a key consideration in the early design phase notes Hervé Blanc: “We developed a structure that does not require welding on site and which can be assembled without heavy lifting devices.”

Rail infrastructure in remote areas can also be improved with a Unibridge®

Two Unibridges (total length 159.6 metres) were used to span the Kourouba Dam in Mali

Matière adapted the design to ensure two of the box girders which form the basis of the Unibridge® could fit into a standard shipping container.

“Thanks to the use of ArcelorMittal grades such as S460M, weight is not an issue,” says Hervé Blanc. “In the beginning we constructed the entire bridge from S355 and a typical box girder weighed 12 tonnes. Today we are using more S460M, and the average weight is 10 tonnes, a saving of almost 20 percent.”

By adding piles, the length of a Unibridge® can be extended almost indefinitely

Low maintenance steels extend bridge life

One of the key advantages of ArcelorMittal’s steels is that they don’t need a lot of maintenance as Hervé Blanc explains: “ArcelorMittal’s steels are very tough! The bridge simply needs a fresh coat of paint every 15 to 20 years to protect it.”

“The introduction of the Unibridge® in 2004 was the beginning of Matière’s success story,” says Hervé Blanc. “But every Unibridge® is also a human success story. They can cut a journey that normally takes a day, to just an hour. This dramatically changes the way people in remote areas live and interact.”

The Unibridge® can be assembled in remote areas where skilled labour is scarce

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