From garden spades to crash safety components

Today Gestamp HardTech in Luleå is the research and development centre for the global Gestamp Automoción group. The centre produces press-hardened crash safety components for the automotive industry.

The basis for the company’s success is a patented technology for shaping and hardening boron steel alloy in the same process and thus avoiding problems with variations in tolerances. The result is an extremely durable, light structure that is appreciated by the automotive industry in its hunt for weight savings and preserved crash safety in order to reduce fuel consumption. The major automotive manufacturers are among the customers, chiefly Ford Motors, Volvo and BMW, but also VW, GM, Daimler Chrysler and Porsche. The company even ships steel components to Japan for installation in Mazda cars.

Behind the 1975 patent was the newly established Luleå University of Technology and SSAB predecessor Norrbottens Järnverk (NJA), but it was not before the middle of the 1980s that the first production line was begun. Initial production was spades, lawn mower blades and other tools. It was in connection with the development of the Saab 9000 that applications for the automotive industry picked up speed.

“In order to fulfil tough American crash safety standards Saab was obliged to strengthen its side impact protection and this is where Plannja HardTech – as we were known then – created a solution using press hardening. The rest is history” says Peter Drugge, Gestamp HardTech CEO.

Today there are over 400 employees in Luleå with annual sales that exceed EUR 93 million. Around 150 of the employees work in R&D or tool production for the group’s other factories.

“It’s easy to find qualified engineers and competent employees here in Luleå. The whole basis of the company is founded on cooperation with the university with whom we continue to have very good relations and run a number of joint projects, for example within simulation technology,” says Peter Drugge.

In 2005 SSAB sold the company to Gestamp Automoción, since when it has been known as Gestamp HardTech.