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HURST Jaws of Life, Inc., an industry leading global manufacturer of rescue tools, is leading the industry in keeping ahead of the challenging demands of high strength steel in automobiles.

“When hydraulic tools first came to the fire service in 1972, vehicle construction was roughly four percent high strength steel,” said Bruce Johnston, director of marketing and product management for HURST. “Nine years ago, it was 12 percent. Through the FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) program, the number increased to 33 percent. Since the technology is only getting more advanced, we’ve created tools that meet or exceed these demands. With our continued focus on developing tools with greater power and speed, we’re more than ready for what’s next.”

The FSV program was a three-year initiative that developed fully engineered, steel-intensive designs for electrified vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The strongest steel (purple in the frame image below) is located in essential areas where firefighters would make relief cuts or remove roofs or B-posts during rescues. This metal is more than twice as strong as what was used in many 2007 models (700 MPa vs. 1,500 MPa).

Advanced high strength steel (AHSS) is found in many new vehicles and new predictions theorize the third generation of AHSS will be 33 percent stronger than it are now (by 2020). This jump in technology is faster than many predicted, but HURST has been able to stay ahead of the curve. For example, for wider diameter cuts, cutters need more force to be able cut and crush at the same time. HURST has four models that rise to this challenge (marked with the HSS designation): S 700E2, S 700, S 510 and JL-500.

“We are constantly hearing from firefighters that they want stronger and lighter tools,” said Tammy Horne, engineering manager for HURST. “To keep up with the high strength steel technology demands and fulfill the firefighters’ needs, we’re always looking for materials and/or processes to advance our innovative designs and continue leading the industry with the best tools.”

These technological innovations mean HURST keeps three critical goals in mind when designing new tools:

  • Power and capability – Tools need more brute force in both cutting and spreading to deal with the unprecedented metal strength.

  • Speed – Rescues are increasingly requiring more relief cuts, so cycle speed and speed under load as well as fast deployment are critical.

  • Innovation – Automotive steel technology is advancing faster than fire department budgets can address, so designing tools that reach further into the future is vital.