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Man of Steel receives rare medal

On 15 November, Sandvik's Bo Rogberg was awarded Professor Gunnar Wallqvist's prestigious gold medal by the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. The medal is awarded every tenth year to honor a prominent person who has made a major contribution to engineering and produced practical applications from research, but never, according to KTH, "to a typical desktop or laboratory researcher."

Bo is anything but a desktop or laboratory researcher. With one leg in the research community and the other in production, he has driven Sandvik's consistent development of new and innovative methods for continuously cast steel throughout his 32 years of employment at the company.

During his first assignment – to deploy Sandvik's first continuous-casting machine – Bo says that he basically lived at the steelworks and, during that period, acquired an in-depth understanding of the practical applications of his research. Dramatically lower energy usage and higher production yields repaid the machinery investment within two years.

Bo Rogberg, what does this prize mean to you?

It means a lot and it's a pat on the back for all my hours of hard work, where my guiding principle has been to combine theory with production in order to generate results in the form of higher productivity and better products. The medal is proof that research responsibility does not end simply because I submit a report – it continues all the way through to production.

Continuous casting is one of your specialties. What does it involve?

Steel used to be cast in molds and then heat-treated in several stages. Continuous casting means that we can cast high-performance steel much closer to the form of the final product, which requires significantly less energy. The technique has existed since 1949 and is still being developed.

What do you think the future holds for the materials technology?

Sandvik is consistently producing new alloy steels and one obvious challenge will be to develop continuous-casting techniques that ensure high quality. I would like to see continued investment in niche alloys, where we can differentiate us from the commercial steel industry, for example, where we will probably see a move toward fewer units with high production volumes. There will probably be a paradigm shift around energy supplies as well, and I think we can expect totally new remelting techniques and alloys for special areas.

Olle Wijk, Head of Research and Development (R&D) at Sandvik, how would you describe Bo?

He is one of Sandvik's most eminent researchers who, in many respects, works silently in the background. I particularly appreciate Bo's honesty and razor-sharp capacity for analysis. He analyzes the practical issues before starting work and follows his plan from start to finish. He also has a strong network in the research community where he supervises degree projects, for example, from institutes of technology.

How does Bo's research contribute to Sandvik's business?

His contributions to the continuous casting of advanced steels cannot be overrated, from their introduction and continuous advancement to in-depth analysis of the technique for new steel grades. I would go so far as to say that this technique is the reason why Sandvik Materials Technology is such a strong player in the steel industry. The transfer to continuous casting was a paradigm shift for Sandvik and I wonder whether we would still be in the industry if Bo, and his colleagues, hadn't been part of the shift.

Petra Einarsson, President of Sandvik Materials Technology, what does the prize mean for your business area?

Above all it demonstrates that our research is extensive and reliable, that quality is our number-one priority and that we work with systematic and tactical methods all the way to product development, which Bo Rogberg´s gold medal nicely proves.

Finally, Bo: the previous medal winner, Anders Werme, is known as the man of steel. Are you the new man of steel now?

Ha ha, I don't really know. Is it true? OK then, you can call me the man of steel.

About the medal

Previous medalists are Anders Werme in 2003, Gunnar Manneberg in 1993 and Per Hellman in 1983.

KTH's prize citation:

"Bo Rogberg has played a central role in the wider metallurgic advancement of high-performance steel, at both Sandvik and other companies, through his capacity as the long-standing Chairman of the Swedish Steel Producers' Association's technical area of casting and solidification. His leading role in the development and introduction of the continuous casting technique for high-performance steel is particularly significant. He has also held a number of leading positions within the organization. His most prestigious accomplishment has been to combine theoretical calculations with practical attempts to successfully optimize the production of high-alloy steels. From a production engineering point of view, such steels are extremely difficult to produce, but their market value is superior. Bo Rogberg's unique ability to apply a theoretical approach to materials and production problems has been central to the development of existing, and the development of new, steel grades."