From The Iron Age To Electric Furnaces – How The Steel Industry Was Born

electric arc furnaceThe development of steel the world’s most highly used metal can be traced back some 4000 years to the beginning of the Iron Age. Initially iron was proved to be significantly harder and stronger than bronze and as such, tools and weaponry began to appear made from iron instead of its more expensive counterpart. For the next 2000 years or so iron was the main component used in everything from utensils through to industrial equipment, however the quality depended very much on the production methods and the ores available at the time.

The birth of the railways

At it’s height in the early to mid 19th century industrial mechanisation and the growth of railways across Europe and the United States meant that iron was being produced in vast quantities. However it was the expansion of the railways which consumed hundreds of thousands of tonnes of iron that threw up a major flaw. Although iron is incredibly strong, it’s also very brittle. This meant that iron rail tracks only had a shelf life of around two years. To add to this, the processes used to produce it were slow and inefficient at cialis 10mg daily best. This prompted metallurgists to find a solution to the problem and in 1856 Henry Bessamer came up with the answer.

The birth of steel

Although a crude form of steel production known as blister steel had been used since the 17th century in Europe, it was still an incredibly time consuming and labour intensive process. This all changed with the invention of the Bessamer process. Using a pear-shaped receptacle Bessamer found a way of blowing oxygen through heated iron. This removed both carbon and silicone from the molten metal. In addition by adding limestone to the metal it eradicated phosphorous which was responsible for making iron brittle. The result was a metal which was as strong, but far more malleable than iron. It also meant that iron ore from anywhere in the world could now be melted down and turned into steel. As a result the modern day steel process was born. Between 1867 and 1884 easier methods of steel production meant that costs decreased dramatically by more than 80%. Steel was becoming both easy and cheap to produce.

Electric Arc Furnace

At the turn of the 20th century Paul Heroult’s Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) was designed to pass electricity through the metal resulting in a process known as exothermic oxidation This melted the component to a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius very quickly. As such modernised versions of EAF’s can be stopped and started quickly and efficiently with very little cost, making the whole steel production process extremely cost-effective. Nowadays EAF’s account for around 33% of all worldwide steel production.

The evolution of the steel process now means that it can be cut, moulded and shaped into pretty much anything. As a result specialist fabricators such as Metro Steel are very much in demand. If you have a building project or are after bespoke steel fabrication then why not contact us on 07 3204 1000 to see just how we can help.