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Commercialising Innovative and Market Disruptive Pin Technology for Improving Heavy Machine Operations in Port, Mining and Construction Industries. Phase 1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BTPin (Commercialising Innovative and Market Disruptive Pin Technology for Improving Heavy Machine Operations in Port, Mining and Construction Industries. Phase 1.)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2017-11-30

The overall goal of this innovation project is to perform a Market and Economic Feasibility Study for introducing our patented pivot pin technology to a new market to exploit new opportunities and to prepare the groundwork to demonstrate it on a large-scale. Bondura’s first expanding pin was designed and manufactured in 1991 and patented in 1992. This technology is in use in the offshore industry since its large-scale production. Our pivot pin has the DNV GL Type Approval, ABS Product Design Assessment approval and certified under ISO 9001. Some of our main clients are well-known machinery and equipment manufacturers such as MHWirth, Daewoo, Transocean and Palfinger.

Pins (or bolts) are one of the most easily overlooked pieces of equipment yet their absence renders most heavy machinery completely inoperable. They are used in all types of machinery and equipment to hold two joints together but allowing each its movements viz. pipe-handling, cranes, power plants, material handling systems, maritime industry, renewable energy systems, even garbage trucks. The independent movements of the joints exert pressure causing pins to wear out, which is the main problem of standard solutions. Lack of focus on this component has led to virtually no innovation and we estimate that the majority of the fasteners market (99%) is served by unchanged standardized solutions that are subpar in function. These standard solutions are utilised by all heavy machinery Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) – while the production is outsourced to Tiers 1 companies that produce standardised screws and bolts (such as Bolt & Nut Manufacturing Ltd, Hague Fasteners Ltd etc.). Over time, the simplistic construction of majority of these standard tools leads to exertion of lateral pressure during the independent movements of the joints in which they are placed causing them to wear out. This is the main problem of the conventional bolt/pin systems as the wear causes slackness in the joint, vibration, lack of precision and in the end, severely reduced safety and performance. This type of malfunction can start already within hours of using the machine or it can happen after 1 month or 2 years. The frequency at which standard bolts fail depends on the equipment they are used in, the quality of assembly, the materials used and the environmental conditions including frequency of use and the pressure exerted. Therefore, it is difficult to predict when they will fail but their failure can cause drastic consequences – from production halts to huge downtime costs. For example, failure of only one bolt has left the entire north of Norway without electricity in both 2014 and 2015 – hours without electricity had huge costs for the entire region. Welding and line boring are the conventional methods used to get the worn bolts out and replacement bolts are always necessary. However, these are expensive and time-consuming while the solutions are again temporary.

Our technology is unique in that it prevents this type of wear/play to occur. Our Bondura® pin is tapered at both ends and these tapered cone sleeves expand upon tightening. Thus, the pin gets fixed to the equipment which results in an extremely solid connection, avoiding play and wear. For this reason, our product significantly reduces the downtime of the equipment, maintenance and repair of the machinery. At Bondura we specialise in developing customised pin solutions for all types of equipment. Our technology is patented across the main European markets and the US (NO20075786 and US Patent 8,037,783). There is no competitor who currently produces pins using our advanced manufacturing technology and that offers customisation possibilities. As BT has historically solely been operating in the strongly demanding offshore industry, we now aim to introduce our technology to new machinery markets (specifically the heavy machinery segment) across Europe seeing how our solution offers significant performance improvements and is market disrupting in its potential (Ref. Expressions of Intent in Section 4.1.2). Our new prototype designed and built for serving non-offshore markets is currently at TRL7 stage.
Goal and methodology of the Feasibility Assessment – To ensure that BTPin will meet the needs of the chosen market focusing on heavy machinery industries we undertook a Feasibility Study. Methodically, the assessment was divided in three complementary assessments linked to well-defined activities designed for reaching the overall goal:
1. Market feasibility assessment:
- To carry out a full market research study of the port, construction and mining industries focusing on the heavy load equipment segment to verify the size of the segment in each market, user needs, demand and market trends to ensure a swift market uptake.
- To formulate an Exploitation and Dissemination Plan that encompasses an optimal go-to market strategy.
- To carry out a complete market analysis in terms of potential distributors and key clients to have a clear actionable list of potential channels through which our product can be distributed in this new market.
- To formulate a plan for options over IP protection to overcome potential limitations in Freedom-To-Operate (FTO) due to expiring patents and to perform an exhaustive IPR analysis.

2. Economic feasibility assessment:
- To carry out a full investment analysis in terms of production, equipment and human resources necessary for the market expansion strategy.
- To carry out a full cost/benefit analysis, also considering quality, standards and regulatory issues.
- To estimate financial projections for a 5 years’ period post-Phase 2 project and determine expected profitability.

3. Technical viability:
- To involve and survey potential end-users and key clients in the development to understand overall technical requirements for the target market segments.
- To accomplish a risk assessment and define mitigation and contingency plan.
- To establish the requirements (licenses, equipment, personnel) for undertaking large-scale demonstrations under real operating conditions and formulate how the demonstrations will be implemented in the envisaged Phase 2 project, including engaging demonstration partners, ensuring access to all required resources and established procedures.

The work performed during these activities formed the basis of a detailed and realistic Business Plan (BP).
"Our technology is unique in that it prevents pins to exhibit wear/play. The key innovative feature of our technology lies in its design - the Bondura® pin’s unique construction is tapered at both ends and these tapered cone sleeves expand upon tightening. Thus, the pin gets fixed to the equipment which results in an extremely solid connection, avoiding play and wear. For this reason, our product does not exhibit wear or produce play in the equipment it is installed in and as such it significantly reduces the downtime of the equipment, maintenance and repair of the machinery.

Here is an overview of the key features that our innovation brings:
1. Combating degradation of assets: our solution is 5 to 10 times more durable than the standard bolts. As Dean Young, Program Manager at Transocean, confirms “in late 2008 I inspected and found since the installation of the Bondura bolts to be as tight as the day it left the shop in 2003”.
2. Offering very affordable replacement costs: our technology offers significant cost reductions in terms of replacement costs even though they are superior in terms of quality and durability.
3. Increasing the lifecycle of equipment: our technology enables less wear and a reduction in the times a machine is repaired increasing its overall lifecycle.
4. Significantly reducing total operating costs over a lifetime.
5. Reducing downtime of equipment, the biggest cost for heavy machinery.
6. Ensuring very low maintenance costs during operation as our pins require minimal maintenance and repair. Our products are also competitively priced, so our customised pins are an affordable solution
7. Eliminating stuck pins: due to the design of our product the issue of stuck pins, which are very hard to replace, is eliminated. As Geir Johnny Eide, Technical Superintendent at Stena Drilling, confirms “the Bondura pins makes the replacement a lot easier and faster to do compared to use of standard pin bolts. We are using a Hydraulic Bondura pin pulling tool for removal and this makes it all a lot easier. We have not experienced that the bolts have been hard to pull and this is very time saving”.

Our pin was first introduced in 1991, patented since 1992, and it has been extensively used within the offshore industry for over 20 years. Our Phase 1 Feasibility Study (GA #774553) confirmed the commercial and economic viability of our solution and led to a strategic business plan for entering construction, port and mining industries. Major equipment manufacturers have indicated an interest to purchase and implement the Bondura pins.