Gratings Expectations

by Michael Shade, IQS Editor

Michael Shade Author Pic

What does a metal grate have in common with a Charles Dickens novel? If you said, “Their weight,” you’d be a smart aleck. What you probably didn’t say, but what you will soon realize, is that they have a special distinction in common: that of Thing that Many People Don’t See as Important but that Actually is Quite Important, or TMPDSIAQI. Industry and literature boast proud collections of them. I studied literature, but I have to admit that independent of the context that classes create, I wouldn’t have chosen to read Dickens (or many of the other 1000 page novels forced upon me). But having been exposed to them, I can’t help but appreciate them. I know what they mean for our language, and I know that whether or not a majority of English speakers have read them, they are important to everyone. The same is true, at least on some levels, for pieces of hardware like gratings and the purposes they serve. It’s a pragmatic argument, but the analogy is there, at least in one of those “Well, when you put it that way…” kind of ways.

Grating & Book Weight

Photo courtesy of Ohio Gratings, Inc.

“Great Expectations” public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons

Consider the mind-bending task that gratings accomplish: they are there, and they are not there. They are characterized by their presence as much as they are by their absence, and both qualities are equally important. Gratings have to be selective in their allowance of things that get passed them. Some of them have to support the weight of a person, car or piece of machinery while simultaneously allowing air, water or other things to get through. Many gratings, perhaps even a majority of them, are designed as floor gratings. In every commercial, industrial and consumer context, gratings of varying construction and composition (metal gratings, plastic gratings and fiberglass gratings) are keeping people from slipping and liquids or debris from collecting. Because gratings find themselves in such a diversity of settings, each one must be designed in a way that is appropriate for its application.

Expanded Metal Grates

Photo courtesy of Ohio Gratings, Inc.

Somehow, all of these different kinds of grates need to get made. Depending on the grate construction material, manufacturing processes differ from each other. Expanded metal grates, which often take on a diamond pattern, begin as metal sheets and are slit and expanded by machinery; as the metal expands, the slits become holes. In other cases, metal sheets are perforated using an industrial hole-punch. The former option can be more popular because almost none of the material is wasted during production. In other cases, metal rods, bars or planks are welded or otherwise connected at angles; this method usually produces the sturdiest grating and is frequently used in settings where load-bearing is an important consideration. Still more techniques are involved when making grates out of non-metal materials.

Extruded Fiber Glass Stairs

Photo courtesy of Ohio Gratings, Inc.

Adding fiberglass (a bunch of interwoven, extruded glass fibers) to a resin in the plastic production process increases the strength, durability and heat-resistance of the final plastic product. For this reason, fiberglass reinforcement of plastic gratings that will be subject to frequent wear is almost universal. Similarly, metal gratings that are subject to demanding conditions are often galvanized, which means that they are strengthened through a chemical reaction and heat treatment (a quick dip in some molten zinc oxide is often standard galvanizing procedure). Every time you drive over a retractable bridge, every time you walk up a flight of outdoor stairs, every time you enjoy air conditioning or heating in your office, you’re experiencing the functions of a greatly underrated TMPDSIAQI. Still not impressed? I suppose I can’t say that even I am impressed. Maybe what I should have asked was, “Appreciative yet?”

Road Made of Gratings

Photo courtesy of Ohio Gratings, Inc.

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