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Hydropower: Relying on Superbolt for 30 years

1 November 2017

Text: Chad Henderson

photo: John Kelly

When it comes to long-term Superbolt users, American Mike Bruno is hard to beat. More than 30 years ago, he was involved in one of the earliest installations of Superbolt tensioners in a hydropower turbine. Today, he continues to praise the performance of these tensioners. Here, he shares some inspirational insights.

First published in Bolted #2 2017.

You first worked with Superbolt tensioners at Diablo Dam in 1984. How did that come about?
“I was a machinist working at Seattle City Light, the electric utility for Seattle. We worked out of the machine shop down there, and we would go up and be labour support at Diablo Dam. In 1984, they were doing a stator-rotor inspection on the turbine, so they had to remove the rotor; that involves taking the thrust bearing apart, which is mounted on the turbine shaft. It is very important that the thrust block is perpendicular to the shaft within less than one-thousandth of an inch. Otherwise, it will have run-out and wobble.”

How did the Superbolt tensioners help with that?
“Back then, to get the right tension in the bolts, you had to heat the bolts so they would elongate, do the installation, and then wait for them to cool overnight. If the thrust bearing wasn’t sitting right on top of the shaft, you had to do it all over.

“The engineers at Diablo Dam had been in contact with Superbolt, and they modified the bolts so you didn’t have to go through this long process. Instead, we could tighten up those little bolts. If the thrust bearing wasn’t exactly perpendicular, you just tweaked the bolts on the opposite side. It was a very labour-saving modification.”

Today, you work at Wells Dam. What do you do there?

“I’ve been with the Wells Hydroelectric Project for about 17 years, managing and monitoring the project. What I’ve always enjoyed about my work is that every day there are new challenges or something that you’ve got to fix. We’ve got air systems, electrical systems, mechanical systems, hydraulic systems – all these different auxiliary systems that feed the turbines that run 24 hours a day.”

How has the dam been modernized over the years?
“One of the ways that it has been modernized is that we have installed PLCs on the majority of our alarm systems. Today, we have over 2,500 alarm points on different systems. This allows us to set more parameters for the alarm points, and we can also trend over time and compare with different machines. If something is starting to fail, you can set up a parameter to get an alarm so you can look into it before the failure actually happens.

“We are also using Superbolt tensioners when rebuilding our turbines. They’re being used in the load screws that hold the turbine bearing shoes in place, and in our turbine’s outer head cover, where you can’t access the bolts with a big wrench because it’s close quarters. They’re very reliable.”

TITLE: Project Superintendent, Wells Hydroelectric Project, Douglas County Public Utility district
AGE: 60
LIVES: Chelan, Washington
BACKGROUND: Has a degree in industrial technology from Shoreline College; also studied at Cogswell College. Worked at Seattle City Light as a hydro machinist and foreman until 1990, then as a mechanical supervisor for the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project until 2000. Since then with Wells Hydroelectric Project.
PASSION: Married with three grown daughters, two granddaughters. Enjoys bow hunting and playing golf.

Creating big opportunities for small distributor

11 October 2017

Text: Alastair Macduff

photo: Nord-Lock Group, Viggo Bendz

Danish company Viggo Bendz has recently started supplying Stena Recycling with the Expander System for their grab machines - a potentially lucrative development for a small independent operator.

First published in Bolted #2 2017.

As prices continue to be down in the steel and metals industries, developing a successful partnership with a major customer can go a long way to securing profitability for a small business. The Danish company Viggo Bendz is based in Høng, on the west coast of Sjælland, the largest and easternmost of Denmark’s islands. The company employs eight people and delivers solutions and equipment for crushing, demolition and sorting. Poul Erik Jakobsen is owner and CEO. He took over the running of the business in 2006, just three years after it was formed. “When I started,” he says, “we were mainly dealing with excavators. Then one day I had a realization that the company would not survive in the future if we only sold certain kinds of bolts. We needed to expand our range in order to compete.”

The ability to anticipate change has been important to Viggo Bendz from the outset. Currently, one half of their business is parts for excavators such as teeth, buckets, cutting edges, hydraulic hammers and grabs. However, the other 50 per cent of their turnover comes from machines and complete plants for the environment and recycling business. Contractors are the main users of the Expander System bolts that they distribute, yet they have been well aware of Expander System’s potential in the recycling business, where Stena Recycling is one of the main players.

Located in five markets – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Poland – Stena Recycling is committed to sustainability in their business practice. The two companies have had a long relationship, with Viggo Bendz supplying standard bolts for over a decade. However, they recently offered Stena Recycling the Expander System to test on their so-called ‘orange peel grabs’ (see picture). With this kind of machinery subject to wear and tear through constant and prolonged use, Stena Recycling have now taken the opportunity to employ a solution that will reduce the need for maintenance and will increase the safety and machine life cycle, Jakobsen believes. He says that, “By introducing the Expander System, Stena Recycling is saving money. Because of the quality, it represents a long-term investment for them. The industry is tough at the moment, due to the market price for steel and metals. Longer machine life obviously means both greater sustainability and profitability.”

The importance of supplying a sustainable solution to today’s market is something that Viggo Bendz knows well. The waste recycling business is one segment that is at the forefront of sustainable work practices, as companies increasingly focus on resource management and turning waste into new raw materials. More organizations are looking toward employing technology that en­ables this process and fits in with their sustainability strategy. Being able to supply a pivot solution that improves the durability and longevity of moving mechanical parts, means contributing something vital to the business of customers and to the environment as a whole.

As for being a smaller independent company in the current business climate, there are significant advantages according to Jakobsen. “We are focusing on quality products, which means that it is not always the cheapest solution for the customer. It is vital to us that we provide excellent service. Because of our size, we can be flexible and change direction quickly to help our customers and our own business if we need to.”

Being a distributor for the Expander System suits Viggo Bendz’ business model. They have a market presence all over Denmark, covering industries such as construction, mineral and scrap recycling. Currently Expander System accounts for around 200,000 euros of their annual turn­over. Like almost every modern business, raising the company’s profile nationally has meant increasing their online presence. “We are focusing a lot on social media now,” continues ­Jakobsen. “Once a week we try to upload a case story to Facebook. Every time we upload an Expander System case, we get a couple of new customers. This is something that we must continue to use to our advantage.”

With pricing being crucial to compete succesfully in the market for the foreseeable future, Viggo Bendz is both positive and pragmatic about its current position. “Yes, it is all about price,” Jakobsen says. “However, with Expander System we do not have so many direct competitors. Being able to offer reliable, long-term solutions gives us the chance to target customers in waste recycling and other sustainable businesses. Even travelling around locally, you see how many grabs and different machinery are in operation. This potential is exciting for us.”

CLIENT: Viggo Bendz.
END CUSTOMER: Stena Recycling.
LOCATION: Denmark.
PROJECT: To provide solution for pivot wear on grab machinery.


  • Longer machine life.
  • Less maintenance.
  • Improved reliability.
  • Increased uptime.


The Expander System: cost-effective and sustainable

With its focus on sustainability and cost-efficiency, the waste recycling industry is tailor-made for long-term bolting solutions. Grab machines work constantly and repetitively, collecting, sorting and distributing waste of all kinds. Naturally, they develop pivot wear over time. Standard bolt fittings and joints become worn, leading to enforced machine reparations, which in turn lead to downtime.

The difference with the Expander System is that it is installed directly into the existing mounting on the machines, and involves a simple process which avoids welding and line boring. As well as being cost-effective in terms of longer machine life and increased uptime, it also adheres to sustainability principles, requiring less equipment and repeated repairs. By prolonging the lifetime on cylinder rod ends and moving mechanical parts, Expander System contributes to the increased safety and productivity of hard-working grab machinery.

The Expander System is installed on over 10,000 types of machines, covering more than 80,000 different pivot applications so far. The most common industries where they are being used are construction, manufacturing, oil & gas, mining, marine and agriculture.

Within waste recycling, The Expander ­System is not the only Nord-Lock Group solution to be hard at work. Several companies currently employ Nord-Lock Group products, including large UK waste services company Biffa. They have been using the wheel nuts on all their Mercedes trucks since 2012, having found them safer, more reliable and cheaper to source than standard locking wheel nuts.

Find out more about Expander System

Watch: “Are you getting the most out of your machinery?”


How the Expander System Group came to life and evolved

12 July 2017

Text: Ulf Wiman

photo: Stefan Jerrevång

The Expander System Group, the latest Nord-Lock Group acquisition, shares many customers with its new parent company and their history is remarkably similar. Founded in a remote part of Sweden, evolving from an innovative idea. In Expander’s case, a rusty nail was transformed into market-leading pivot technology. Founder and former owner Roger Svensson tells the story.

First published in Bolted #1 2017.

What is Expander’s business?
“Our patented Expander System is a state-of-the-art, cost-effective solution that permanently ends pivot wear in construction, forestry, mining and other heavy machinery. Fitted in the pivot, a double-locking expanding pivot pin assembly increases stability and safety and eliminates welding and line boring of worn-out pivot lug ears. The system has been field-tested for over 50,000 hours without failure.”

How did the company start?

“My father, Everth, and his twin brother Gerhard, did road work in the 1950s, starting out with one bulldozer. Machinery joints and pivots are prone to wear and tear, leading to expensive downtime and repairs, but they came up with a makeshift solution, knocking a rusty nail into the lughole to eliminate the gap. This worked surprisingly well, which inspired them to start developing the technology.”

When did you get involved?
“I learned about their ideas and immediately saw the potential. My father and I founded the company in 1986. At quite an early stage we got involved with computer engineers in the development of a parameter-controlled CAD system. This is an invaluable tool, as each Expander System is custom made to fit customer-specific applications.

In the 1990s we expanded geographically. North America is a huge market and in 1997 I moved there to get a business foothold. The launch was successful and in 2006 we established our own production facility in North America.”

Why did you sell the company?
“Enormous markets, such as South America, are starting to develop, but you need local presence. It was about either setting up my own network or selling to someone that already had a global subsidiary and distributor network. We already collaborated with Nord-Lock and after several discussions with Ola Ringdahl, CEO, Nord-Lock Group, I was sure that the Nord-Lock Group was a perfect fit.”

What does Expander bring to the Nord-Lock Group?

“There has been a major change in how people view repair and maintenance, which makes the market potential for the Expander System huge. We’ve only scratched the surface.

Also, we and the Nord-Lock Group have often shared customers, but solved different problems. Bringing our solutions together – and cross-fertilising them – will make our portfolio and product range so much stronger, which will benefit the customers.”

Facts: Roger Svensson
Role: Founder and former CEO, Expander System Group.
Age: 56.
Lives: Sedona, Arizona, USA.
Background: Studied Economics/Political Science at UCLA (double major). Member of the UCLA team that won the prestigious NCAA swimming championships in 1982. Held a couple of positions with other companies before starting Expander with his father in 1986. “I have always been an entrepreneur.”
Passion: Music: sings, plays guitar and writes his own songs. Is currently working on his debut album. Also paints and likes to write.

“A unique technology is emerging”

16 November 2016

Text: Alastair Macduff

photo: Laurence Claus

Laurence Claus is passionate. With more than 25 years’ experience working in the US fastener and automotive part supplier industries, he is driven by a desire to share his knowledge. He now heads his own company, providing training and consultancy in fastener-related topics to businesses in the manufacturing and automotive industries.

First published in Bolted #2 2016.

What fastener knowledge gaps do you see in the modern workplace?
“In North America, the general workforce is aging and companies are finding it difficult to replace experienced personnel. In the USA, over 10,000 ‘baby boomers’ retire every day. Following them is a large influx of millenials and, as a result, the workforce needs to be re-educated.

“Millennials think about work very differently than their predecessors, but are especially drawn to employers that show an interest in them. This is positive, but does present a challenge for companies who must invest in training new personnel.”

What are some fastener trends in the manufacturing and automotive industries?

“Compared to Europe, the US fastener industry has been slow in updating itself. I believe that companies here are starting to reinvest and reinvent themselves. In recent years it has been very much about lean manufacturing and driving efficiency.

“Today’s spotlight in the automotive industry is lightweighting. Auto OEMs are increasingly designing mixed material structures with a focus on aluminium, composites and ultra high strength steel. These are not possible, however, without ‘enabling’ fastening technology. Hybrid, non-traditional combinations such as aluminium to aluminium, aluminium to steel or magnesium to steel are becoming commonplace.”

What are the challenges for end-users surrounding multi-material joints?
“A unique technology is emerging, in which European companies are at the forefront. Cars have traditionally been welded together. However, when mixing materials, this no longer works. Innovative companies have introduced flow drill thread forming screws and friction welding technology to address the challenges of these new multi-material joints.”

How important is it to think about life-cycle costs when choosing fasteners?
“The automotive industry is very cost-conscious, but one client learned the hard way that price should not be the primary measure when choosing a supplier. Their price-driven ‘strategy’ has had two negative consequences. They suffered major quality spill – saving money in the short term, but their business lost out in the long term. They also found that suppliers who had previously been happy to help them with technical support were no longer able to assist them. This has had a hugely negative effect on their business.

“I believe that the pendulum is shifting back. Fasteners are not a simple commodity and ­customers who previously wouldn’t pay premium price for a component are now more willing to do so. They are waking up to the bigger picture.”

FACTS: Laurence Claus

Title: President, NNi Training and Consulting, Inc.
Age: 49.
Lives: Northern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
Background: Graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. Has over 25 years experience in the fastener and automotive supplier industries. Bulk of career spent with an automotive fastener manufacturer, the last six as Vice President of Technology and Engineering. Started NNi four years ago.
Passion: Family. Has five children, aged between 2 and 10. NNi is named after his first three children – Noah, Nathan and Isaac.

“Offering a greater field of solutions”

13 July 2016

Text: Nic Townsend

photo: Sam Lee

First published in Bolted #1 2016.

FACTS: Fred Heaton
Role: Founder and Managing Director of Boltight.

Background: Started his career with GKN Bolt & Nuts at the age of 15. After ten years with GKN, he founded Hydratight Ltd in 1975, which he sold to T&N in 1979. He remained Managing Director of Hydratight for 17 years before becoming New Business Director for the T&N General Products Group. After T&N was acquired by the automotive company Federal Mogul he left and started his own management consultancy company, which would later become Boltight.

For Fred Heaton, what started out as a hobby in 1999 quickly grew into a thriving business specialising in hydraulic bolt tensioners. Now Boltight has been acquired by the Nord-Lock Group, in a move that is set to strengthen both companies.

What does Boltight do?
“As the name suggests, we provide tools for tightening bolts. Bolted joints do not always receive sufficient attention at the design phase, which can lead to tightening problems later, and we are here to provide a solution.

“Most of our customers are in the oil and gas, offshore, power generation and heavy engineering industries. Around 50 per cent of the time, we can provide a solution using standard tools, while the other 50 per cent will require tools designed and manufactured by us to meet the customer’s needs. We use a 3D CAD system to model the customer’s problem and our solution.”

What are Boltight’s strengths?
“We are fast to respond, quick to deliver and have many years of experience solving customers’ bolting problems. We keep every tool we’ve ever designed stored in our 3D modelling system, which we can use as references whenever we’re faced with a new problem.”

What will Boltight bring to the Nord-Lock Group?
“Being able to draw on our product range will mean the Nord-Lock Group can offer a greater field of solutions. No one tightening solution fits all applications, so it’s important to have a number of different products, other than just mechanical. Some customers will want a hydraulic solution, and Boltight has a whole range.”

What will the Nord-Lock Group bring to Boltight?
“We have good products and good engineers, but we are a small company and not particularly strong when it comes to sales and marketing. We have built up a distribution network and 95 per cent of our products are exported from the UK but we’ve only really scratched the surface of the available market. With Nord-Lock sales & marketing resources, we can reach out to new markets and applications, and we expect to see good growth. For example, we tend to sell to large one-off projects, but with the Nord-Lock network, we can now start to supply to original equipment manufacturers as well.”

Is the Nord-Lock Group a good fit for Boltight?
“Yes, Nord-Lock has a clear strategy and sees this as a long term investment. They are not just buying and selling companies – they expect long-term value and want to see Boltight grow.”

“They didn’t think we could succeed”

12 November 2015

Text: Janna Thalén

photo: Sandra Lee Pettersson

First published in Bolted #2 2015.

If not for the big barn next to his grandparent’s home in Halabacken in Jämtland, in Sweden’s northwest, this story would probably have been completely different. The rather humble business that started here 55 years ago, in the middle of the woods with a backdrop of snow-clad mountains some 40 kilometres from the nearest town, has evolved into an international industrial company.

Kurt Persson has been with Nord-Lock (and its predecessor Nobex) for 50 years, and can these days be addressed as both Senior Advisor and senior citizen. He describes himself as a person who always looks forward and who never gives in.

“I finished school after nine years of compulsory schooling and since then it has been ‘learning by doing’.”

Nobex’ business sprang out of his father Bengt’s interest in technology. For a long period, the production focused on an innovative oil burner, which was later succeeded by mitre saws. These were produced until 2001. When Nobex acquired a company that produced locking washers in 1982, the seed was sown for Nord-Lock.

“For the first seven years of washer production we were in the red. We didn’t have a clue about what we were getting into. We have taken some pretty hard knocks, but have never doubted the longevity of the product.”

How did you solve the issues?

“The technology has always been good, but initially the product was not up to standard, and we more or less got thrown out of some large-scale Swedish companies when we tried to enter that world. We turned it around through continuous improvements of the wedge-locking system, design developments, and by making sure that we had technically skilled people in the sales organisation. Now we act as a partner to large international companies in a variety of sectors and fine-tune customer-specific solutions.”

What does the production look like?

“During the 33 years that we have produced our washers, production technology has changed immensely. We have roughly 350 variants of the wedge-locking system, but quite often get specific inquiries. A nuclear plant wanted a unique solution and we had to develop a special tool to produce the ten washers that they requested. It was not a cheap solution, especially as they only used two of the washers, but they were satisfied.”

Are there any decisive moments in the company’s history?

“One milestone was when we built the first real industrial building in Mattmar in 1980. The municipality supported us, but the county administrative board said no. They didn’t think we could succeed in this sparsely populated area. In the end we received the funding and were able to start construction, provided we put in ‘real doors, so that it at least can be used as a bus depot’.”

How do you feel about Nord-Lock’s future?

“It is incredibly satisfying to retire knowing that Nord-Lock is growing strongly and has a dynamic management team and wonderful employees.”

FACTS: Kurt Persson
Name: Kurt Persson.
Age: 66.
Title: Senior Advisor.
Background: started cleaning machines at the age of 4 at Nobex, Nord-Lock’s predecessor. Joined the family business aged 16 and has since worked as, for example, production technician, workshop manager and production manager. Nord-Lock CEO 1985–2010. Now works part time as Senior Advisor.

An insider’s outlook

19 March 2015

Text: Ulf Wiman

photo: Allen McEachern

If you want to know what is going on in the world of fasteners, ask Salim Brahimi, the authority on fastener hydrogen embrittlement and an active member of several standards committees, for example as chairman of the ASTM International Committee F16 on fasteners and the Advisory Committee that represents Canada on the International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee 2 on Fasteners. His company, IBECA Technologies, solves complex problems for high-profile projects, and he leads university research programmes on fastener materials and coatings.

First published in Bolted #1 2015.

Title: President, IBECA Technologies Corp.
Age: 48.
Lives: Montreal, Canada.
Background: Master of engineering in metallurgy and a graduate diploma in management. Over 25 years of experience in fasteners, as well as quality systems and process optimisation. Active in several standards organisations (e.g. ASTM). Leads research programme on fastener hydrogen embrittlement at McGill University, Montreal.

What are some current fastener industry trends?
“The majority of fasteners are mass-produced commodity products, so cost-effectiveness is crucial. The capabilities of the manufacturers vary and while the expertise is growing, there is not yet consistency. Manufacturing should focus on producing value-added products, for example, to the automotive and aerospace industries.”

Going forward, what are the challenges?
“Apart from producing commodity products at a competitive price, the challenge is also to maintain quality and consistency for products used in critical applications. It requires high-quality personnel, but there currently is no institutional approach for training that focuses on the fastener value chain. There is a lot of reliance on handing down knowhow; how to operate the machines, but also how the standards work.”

What do the standards organizations bring to the table?
“They play a significant role as the standards are the technical blueprints that facilitate trade. I can’t emphasize enough that experts from all over the world are involved in this. People don’t necessarily appreciate the importance of that. It is something that I am proud to be part of.”

Tell us about the standards organisations’ work.
“Consensus standards organisations all have their respective perspectives, geographical penetration and structure. Technical committees in ISO and in the European CEN are made up of delegations of experts representing each member country, technical committees in North American bodies such as ASTM and ASME are made up of individuals who commit on a volunteer basis. This makes them quicker to respond to market trends. Regardless of the model, it comes down to expert consensus. When you bring people with different perspectives together, the results receive wide scrutiny, which means robust standards in the end.”

Are there other differences?
“In North America we have both metric and inch fasteners and to complicate things, the US market has its own, independent metric system. But in reality, in terms of metric standard, ISO is the way the world has gone. The trend is for USA and Canada to defer to the ISO standard. At the same time, they want a say at the table and are increasingly active in ISO.” 

Building communities through bolts

17 September 2014

Text: Christina Mackenzie

photo: Karsten Thormaehlen

Students from the German city of Karlsruhe founded “Engineers Without Borders – Karlsruhe Institute of Technology e. V.” in 2004 to supply first aid to Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami. The club, which is not affiliated to the Engineers Without Borders global organisation, has over 100 students divided into independent project groups in seven countries. Robert Jürgens is one of the 22 members of the Sri Lanka project group, which built a suspension footbridge in the second half of 2013 over the Bentara river in the region of Karawwa in the south-western part of the island.

First published in Bolted #2 2014.

How did you know a footbridge was needed here?
“We’d already undertaken two projects in Sri Lanka so we have contacts in situ who give us leads. We visited the area and realised that the river separates the homes of around 2,000 people from their fields and school. So even if they could wade across when the waters are low it was very dangerous to cross during the monsoon season. The project was feasible and really helpful so we went ahead.”

How did you choose the exact site?

“There were technical reasons linked to the solidity of the river banks and to where the locals wanted the footbridge to be located, even if there was no road at all to reach the site. We had to build a temporary one using palm trees that we cut down so that our manual cement mixers and other equipment could reach the construction site!”

Why a suspension bridge?

“Well, it had to be cheap! We only have a small budget and it is my task to approach companies for supplies or funds. Nord-Lock gave us 1,300 pairs of NL12sp, 400 pairs of NL16sp and 50 pairs of NL20sp to ensure that the hundreds of bolt connections on the bridge remain tight. Due to the tools and manpower available, the bridge had to be easy to assemble. We wanted to avoid welding in these somewhat difficult conditions so bolting was the answer. And to ensure the bolt didn’t come loose it was recommended that we use Nord-Lock washers. We also didn’t want the bridge to be an eye-sore in the landscape as it is quite big: a 30 metres span for an overall length of 56 metres and 1.30 metres wide.”

How long did it take?
“Actual construction took place from July to October 2013 with a maximum of 22 people working at any one time. We had help from locals and several villagers came every single day. One of them was particularly motivated and reliable so today he is the bridge manager, checking the bolts and the state of the concrete. Overall the project took nearly two years.”

Who maintains the bridge today?

“As with all our projects the maintenance is in the hands of the locals and our successors in the student club check up on them from time to time. Earlier this year nine students went to Sri Lanka looking for a new project and they checked over our earlier operations.” 

Facts: Robert Jürgens
Age: 25
Background: With his business engineering degree studies at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Robert Jürgens was the right person to handle the logistics, fundraising and public relations aspects of the bridge building project in Pitigala.