Matière, a family-run company based in Arpajon-sur-Cère, France, was initially established in 1932 as a pipe-laying business. In 1983, the company introduced their first pre-cast reinforced concrete structure known as the ‘Conduit Matière.’ Ten years later, Matière acquired a plant in the south-west of France and began making large metallic bridges. Their innovative Unibridge® solution, constructed with ArcelorMittal heavy plates, has been installed in over 1000 locations in 35 countries around the globe.

Meet the Unibridge®

“When Matière began producing metallic bridges in the 1990s, it gave our customers a choice between concrete and metal for the first time,” says Hervé Blanc, Deputy General Manager of Matière. “And it also led to the development of the Unibridge® in 2004.”

While the introduction of the Unibridge® was the beginning of Matière’s success story, Hervé Blanc points out that “every Unibridge® is also a human success story. They can cut a journey that normally takes a day, to just an hour. This dramatically changes the way people in remote areas live and interact.”

Thanks to their modular nature and ease of construction, the Unibridge® is particularly popular in remote regions where materials and skilled workers are hard to find. The solution uses ArcelorMittal’s S355K2+N and S460M high strength steel plates which are known for their durability, giving the Unibridge® a 100-year design life.

Forms of the Unibridge® include temporary, permanent, railway, emergency, rental, rural and feeder road access, flyover, footbridge, marine access, military, and mining bridges.

Guaranteeing the best level of service for Matière

“The close cooperation between ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products and Arcelor Mittal Projects, together with the quality of the plates produced in ArcelorMittal’s mill in Gijón, Spain guarantees the best level of service for Matière,” says Michaël Regal, Account Manager for Matière at ArcelorMittal Projects.

Since 2018, heavy plates from Gijón have been successfully delivered to Matière and their subcontractors in France, Belgium, and Portugal. “When a very short lead time is required, we are in the position to offer a delivery in less than a week at any Matière yard thanks to our own stock of plates, beams, and tubes,” says Michaël Regal.

One of the key advantages of ArcelorMittal’s steels is that they don’t need a lot of maintenance as Hervé Blanc explains: “ArcelorMittal’s steels are very tough! The bridge simply needs a fresh coat of paint every 15 to 20 years to protect it.”

The simple design of the Unibridge® ensures ease and efficiency of transport. As such, Matière wanted to keep the weight of the transport container below 25 tonnes. “Thanks to the use of ArcelorMittal grades such as S460M, weight is not an issue,” says Hervé Blanc. “In the beginning we constructed the entire bridge from S355, and a typical box girder weighed 12 tonnes. Today we are using more S460M, and the average weight is 10 tonnes, a saving of almost 20 percent. Now we are looking at replacing the S355 with S460M from ArcelorMittal to achieve even greater weight savings. That will reduce the cost of transporting and installing the bridges.”

Matière continues to expand

In 2017, Matière expanded with the acquisition of two new metal factories. They now operate three plants in France and one in Belgium. All of the plants produce components for Matière’s bridge business. The company has 12 permanent locations around the world in Algeria, Australia, Belgium with the Belgian subsidiary of Matière® MBB, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Philippines, and Senegal.

Matière has 500 employees across 18 subsidiaries, and around 65 percent of their bridges are exported outside Europe.