Extrication Challenges of Advanced Steel In Vehicles: Part 4 — Power Cutters

SUBJECT: Advanced Steel TOPIC: Extrication Challenges of Advanced Steel in Vehicles: Part 4 OBJECTIVE: The rescuer will understand and explain the capabilities and limitations of various hydraulic-powered rescue cutter tools TASK: Given the information...


SUBJECT: Advanced Steel TOPIC: Extrication Challenges of Advanced Steel in Vehicles: Part 4 OBJECTIVE: The rescuer will understand and explain the capabilities and limitations of various hydraulic-powered rescue cutter tools TASK: Given the information presented in Part 4 of this...


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SUBJECT: Advanced Steel

TOPIC: Extrication Challenges of Advanced Steel in Vehicles: Part 4

OBJECTIVE: The rescuer will understand and explain the capabilities and limitations of various hydraulic-powered rescue cutter tools

TASK: Given the information presented in Part 4 of this series, the rescuer will demonstrate the steps necessary to effectively operate a power cutter to cut through the advanced steel structural areas of a late-model passenger vehicle.

As a rescuer, just having a hydraulic-powered cutter unit in your tool inventory no longer guarantees that you will be able to cut through all the structural areas of a crash-damaged passenger vehicle. There may be nothing mechanically wrong with the tool you are using; it probably worked hundreds of times before to do the same thing you are trying to do now. Your failure may simply be a matter of your cutter being outgunned by the strength of the ultra-high-strength advanced steels found in new vehicles.

In Part 4, we look at research being conducted with hydraulic-powered cutters to determine what it takes to cut the advanced steels and how cutters can best be used to complete this task. The pioneering research by this author has revealed some new and interesting information about the challenge of new vehicle extrication. Also, it has become apparent that not only the power of the cutter but other factors such as tool positioning, hose length, pump fluid flows as well as the blade design itself can mean the difference between making the cut or not.

The hydraulic rescue tool manufacturers are all acutely aware of the challenge of cutting advanced steel. All rescue tool manufacturers have cutters that will not cut through advanced steels; that is obvious. They are typically a cutter manufactured in the 1980s, '90s or the past few years. Generally, it will be a newer model cutter that is capable of cutting through the advanced steels such as Boron.

A field research project was designed and put into action by this author. Power rescue cutters are being assigned standardized tasks consisting of cutting through vehicle A-pillars, roof rails and B-pillars that are known to contain advanced steels. To create consistency and a level playing field, the project required lots of exactly the same type and thickness of advanced steel to cut through. The steel engineers from the American Iron & Steel Institute in Southfield, MI, provided technical data on the exact composition of the advanced steels used in our test vehicles. In a cooperative effort with officials at the Vehicle Research Center of State Farm Insurance, several crash-damaged late-model vehicles were provided from their "total loss" inventory. These vehicles all had exactly the same Boron structural steel design.

Systematically, each rescue tool manufacturer has been offered the opportunity to submit various makes and models of power cutters to be put through the testing. Each cutter is used to cut "thin" Boron; in this case, metal that was slightly thicker than a dime. The roof rails of the donated vehicles all had 0.889-millimeter-thick Boron, so that was our thin testing. For the "thick" Boron test, each cutter had to cut through the B-pillar at a point where the Boron was known to be 1.9 millimeters thick and was wrapped inside multiple layers of mild steel. This Boron was thicker than a quarter.

Lessons Learned

Results have shown cutter failures and successes. Some of the lessons learned:

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