Steel is all around us as it is used for major constructions like bridges, railways, roads, commercial buildings and skyscrapers, as well as smaller things like bolts, nails and screws. Steel actually has an interesting history, and what is even more fascinating is how it has developed into an essential part of everyday life. We have taken a look at the history of steel and how it has impacted our lives.
If you didn’t already know, steel is an alloy which is composed of between 0.2% and 2.0% of carbon and the balance of iron, and it is the carbon content which gives it its hardness. However, it is possible to create an alloy with a lower carbon content; this is known ‘wrought iron’. Wrought iron is softer, but is also less capable of standing up to the rigours of use. Similarly, ‘cast iron’ is an iron-carbon alloy with a higher percentage of carbon which is hard, brittle and will easily crack or shatter when struck with a heavy blow. While both are still produced and have their uses, it is steel that provides the most useful alloy. It is hard to believe that making steel is a relatively new process.
When going back to pre-100 AD, steel had already been produced on a small scale for thousands of years. The earliest records of steel are about 4,000 years old and were unearthed in Turkey, Roman Iberian and Chinese civilisations, where they used steel to construct a number of weapons. However, they had not yet mastered any methods to produce steel, and so its uses were extremely limited.
Steel production never really reached its full potential until 1855 when the Bessemer Process was created. Sir Henry Bessemer, a British metallurgist, discovered that molten iron could be combined with oxygen. By blasting air through the molten iron ore, the carbon content was reduced. At first, the carbon content was reduced too much, and further experimentation led to the addition of spiegeleisen, a compound of iron, manganese and carbon. The manganese helped remove the excess oxygen in the form of manganese oxide, and the carbon that was left behind was at the appropriate level to produce steel. Along with plastic injection moulding, the Bessemer Process was one of the most important manufacturing developments of the modern era.
In 1950, the Bessemer Process and other steelmaking processes that had been developed alongside it became outdated as there was an introduction of basic oxygen steelmaking. This limited impurities and made it available to process old scrap metal into steel, which lowered waste and increased efficiency. Today, this process accounts for the majority of steelmaking processes in the industrialised world.
The construction industry relies heavily on the production of steel as well as several other industries. Steel itself is vital for just about everything we use. Whether it is buildings, clothes, chemical, cars, lamps or drinks cans – all depend on it at some point. In recent articles, it seems like the world is producing too much steel, and in the UK, it is thought that steel production is going to be reduced greatly and imported from elsewhere. With whatever is going on the world, it is known that we will always require the use of steel, so the industry doesn’t look like it is going to slow down anytime soon.
Here at ANY Weld, we strive ourselves on customer service and quality of work, so, if you require structural steelwork, Devon, please do not hesitate to contact us.