Highly resistant to small-arms fire, Quardian can mostly be found cladding armoured personnel vehicles, but can also be encountered on the sides of cash-intransit cars and protective windows and doors. Its origins, however, were purely accidental.
"Quardian has quite a similar production process to the wear-resistant plates we manufacture," explains Antoine Héger, the global business manager for the product at NLMK Europe. One client used this wear-resistant steel on their shooting range. The product didn't need to protect against ballistics - after all, there were no people behind the targets - but the metal proved surprisingly resistant to small-arms fire.
"They said to us, 'Look, your material is quite amazing. When we shot your material, we saw a faster deformation than your competition but we could shoot 20% more bullets before it got perforated,'" recalls Héger.
Realising then that it had all the tools available to create dedicated ballisticresistant steel, NLMK Europe began formulating Quardian at its rolling mill in Clabecq, Belgium, where Quard - wearresistant plates - and Quend - high-yield strength plates - are also produced.
Quardian's resistance to ballistics derives in large part from how it is produced. "The rolling process is special at Clabecq," explains Héger. "First, the steel is rolled on the quarto, before reaching its final thickness in a single pass through four stands, which bestows specific characteristics to the steel. By doing so, you have less stress in the plates, better overall consistency in its mechanical properties, and an enhanced surface aspect."
By combining this with best-in-class quenching and tempering line - Clabecq's being "the most modern in Europe so far," according to Héger - they can reach the levels of hardness and mechanical properties needed in this type of plate with light chemistries which will guarantee good weldability and bendability to all Quardian grades.
Available in thicknesses of between 3.6mm to 40mm and hardness levels of 400-600HB, Quardian is easily spotted cladding armoured personnel carriers, cash-in-transit vehicles and sentry posts, in addition to ballistics-resistant door and window frames. As such, Héger and his colleagues are busy expanding Quardian's support network for its global customer base. "Now, we have a central inventory in the port of Antwerp [Belgium]," he says. "We also have another in Dubai, and we're building new inventories in South Africa and Brazil to facilitate quick deliveries across both continents."
Héger is heartened by the positive reviews he consistently receives from happy NLMK Europe customers. "Thanks to our many participations in specialised fairs - IDEX, Eurosatory, DSEI, LAAD, AAD and so on - all over the world and to our extended sales network, we receive weekly samples requests for qualification from new customers. And their feedback is always positive" he says. "It's been really great to see how many people are interested in our material."