Stainless steel expansion joints are a type of metal bellows that are often used in construction projects to help relieve the stress that regular movement places on building materials. When pieces of a building or structure move, metal expansion joints ensure that the materials are not compromised.
These high pressure expansion joints reduce movement stress caused by things like seismic events, live or static load deflection, thermal expansion and contraction due to temperature changes, and even sway caused by the wind. In effect, stainless steel expansion joints are used to maintain building assembly functions while allowing the individual parts to move without problems.
Bridges are structures that heavily rely on stainless steel expansion joints for proper function. Bridges experience a lot more movement than people realize, and they need to be properly supported. For instance, temperature changes can cause movement in large structures such as bridges. A bridge will expand and contract as the seasons and temperatures change. If the deck of the bridge is not fitted with expansion joints, its integrity could be compromised as soon as the summer heat warms up the metal.
Stainless steel’s melting point is about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and iron ore’s melting point is about 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit. That means metal expansion joints can not only handle the pressure from the movement of the bridge, but they can also handle the intense summer heat too.
The same goes for when the temperature drops in the winter. Before expansion joints were used, bridges, railway lines, and similar structures would warp in the summer sun. Then, when winter came, workers would have to go along the lines and hit out the chocks so the lines would not serpentine. However, when metal bellows expansion joints are installed in the bridge, the structure can cope with these seasonal changes.
Another way expansion joints protect bridges from destruction from movement is by allowing the bridge to move under intense weather conditions. A bridge can handle movement caused by an earthquake or hurricane because the expansion joints can withstand the pressure. Without expansion joints, the structure would crack under the pressure.
In short, metal bellows expansion joints take on the pressure that metal and concrete bridges cannot, and as a result countless people are kept safe every day. Because many bridges have to support high volumes of traffic, they need to be sturdy enough to stand up to anything Mother Nature can throw at them. Stainless steel expansion joints allow bridges to effectively handle pressure and movement without compromising structural integrity.