4th century. The Iron Pillar of Delhi
The Iron Pillar is a 7 metre column in the Qutb complex, notable for the rust-resistant composition of its metals. The pillar has attracted the attention of archaeologists and metallurgists and has been called 'a testament to the skill of ancient Indian blacksmiths'.
The process of the location of iron production on the raw-material base began to be realised in the 10th-13th centuries. Metallurgy was a key component in the system of craftsmanship of the early Middle Ages and already in this time progress in many areas of economy began to depend on it. Approx. 250 iron works existed in the 13th-16th centuries in Bohemia, for example.
Coke on the go
Coke is first used to smelt iron ore - wood and charcoal, which were becoming harder to obtain, are gradually replaced. There is also a rise in the demand for high-quality steel. Europe’s industrial revolution gains momentum, creating heavy-duty applications, with a substance as strong and flexible as steel needed to withstand the pressure and force of steam-driven engines. Steel is used increasingly to satisfy the needs of a growing number of applications, as the Industrial Revolution spreads to the US.
A ball bearing is a type of rolling-element bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between the bearing races.
The purpose of a ball bearing is to reduce rotational friction and support radial and axial loads. Because the balls are rolling they have a much lower coefficient of friction than if two flat surfaces were sliding against each other.
Deere ploughs ahead
John Deere was an Illinois blacksmith and manufacturer. Early in his career, Deere and an associate designed a series of farm ploughs then, in 1837, Deere designed the first cast steel plough that greatly assisted the Great Plains farmers. The large plows made for cutting the tough prairie ground were called 'grasshopper plows'. The plough was made of wrought iron and had a steel share that could cut through sticky soil without clogging. By 1855, John Deere's factory was selling more than 10,000 steel plough per year.
Where there's muck... there's steel
Both in Europe and the US, farming gradually becomes mechanised, employing machines that rely on the strength of steel. Agriculture goes industrial, particularly in the virgin land of the US, where the steel plough greatly accelerates agricultural development, joined later by steel reapers and the the combine harvester. Steel is also used for irrigation, planting and harvesting.
The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. Independently discovered in 1851 by William Kelly, the process had also been used outside of Europe for hundreds of years, but not on an industrial scale. The key principle is removal of impurities from iron by oxidation with air being blown through the molten iron - the oxidation also raises the temperature of the iron mass and keeps it molten.
Open-hearth process brings steel in bulk
Sir Carl Wilhelm Siemens developed the Siemens regenerative furnace in the 1850s, and claimed in 1857 to be recovering enough heat to save 70–80% of the fuel. This furnace operates at a high temperature by using regenerative preheating of fuel and air for combustion.
In 1865, French engineer Pierre-Émile Martin took out a license from Siemens and first applied his regenerative furnace for making steel. Their process was known as the Siemens-Martin process, and the furnace as an 'open-hearth' furnace, in which excess carbon and other impurities are burnt out of pig iron to produce steel. The open hearth process overcame the insufficient temperatures generated by normal fuels and furnaces, enabling steel to be produced in bulk for the first time.
Railways open up US
In the first moves from rural to urban existence, steel rails, which the foundation of railways, begin to open up the US. In addition, steel begins to replace iron in buildings - steel framing and reinforced concrete ‘curtainwall’ architecture, such as skyscrapers, possible. Steel also replaces iron in shipbuilding, which brings huge cost and weight savings.
War and peace - American Civil War and Andrew Carnegie
In the years after the Civil War, the American steel industry grew with astonishing speed as the nation's economy expanded to become the largest in the world. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, and was also one of the most important philanthropists of his era.
Wire fence in the American West
Barbed wire played an important role in the protection of range rights in the U.S. West. Although some ranchers put notices in newspapers claiming land areas, and joined stockgrowers associations to help enforce their claims, livestock continued to cross range boundaries. Fences of smooth wire did not hold stock well, and hedges were difficult to grow and maintain. Barbed wire's introduction in the West in the 1870s dramatically reduced the cost of enclosing land.
US Steel founded
The U.S. Steel Recognition Strike of 1901 (which failed) was an attempt by the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the AA) to reverse its declining fortunes and organize large numbers of new members following the foundation of US Steel by American financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector J.P. Morgan, who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time.
In 1892, Morgan had arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. After financing the creation of the Federal Steel Company, he merged with the Carnegie Steel Company and several other steel and iron businesses, including Consolidated Steel and Wire Company owned by William Edenborn, to form the United States Steel Corporation (US Steel) in 1901.
A Community comes together
The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is formed following the Treaty of Paris (1951) by 'the inner six': France, Italy, the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) and West Germany. The common market was opened on 10 February 1953 for coal, and on 1 May 1953 for steel. During the existence of the ECSC, steel production would improve and increase fourfold. The ECSC helped deal with crises in the industry and ensured balanced development and distribution of resources.
Electric arc furnace (EAF) develops
During the 19th century, a number of men had employed an electric arc to melt iron. Sir Humphry Davy conducted an experimental demonstration in 1810; welding was investigated by Pepys in 1815; Pinchon attempted to create an electrothermic furnace in 1853; and, in 1878–79, Sir William Siemens took out patents for electric furnaces of the arc type. Initially, 'electric steel' was a specialty product for such uses as machine tools and spring steel - while EAFs were widely used in World War II for production of alloy steels, it was only later that electric steelmaking began to expand. Mills were quickly established in war-ravaged Europe.
The die is cast
Continuous casting, also called strand casting, is the process whereby molten metal is solidified into a 'semifinished' billet, bloom, or slab for subsequent rolling in the finishing mills. Prior to the introduction of continuous casting in the 1950s, steel was poured into stationary molds to form ingots. Since then, continuous casting has evolved to achieve improved yield, quality, productivity and cost efficiency. It allows lower-cost production of metal sections with better quality, due to the inherently lower costs of continuous, standardised production of a product, as well as providing increased control over the process through automation. This process is used most frequently to cast steel (in terms of tonnage cast).
Innovation in the East – Japan
The rise of Asia, particularly Japan. Many innovations in products and technology arrive from Japan, but the country is restricted by its lack of resources however and must import.
Decline in the West
The western steel industry sees its first decline in Europe (particularly UK steel) and in the US.
Duplex stainless steels developed that resist oxidation.
From an environmental viewpoint, the industry remains a notable emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for between 7 and 9% of global direct emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Efforts are being made to tackle this through the research of innovative steelmaking technologies. During the past 50 years, the energy required to produce a tonne of steel has fallen by a dramatic 60%.
Steel is 100% recyclable with no downgrading in quality, which makes steel the most recycled material in the world. But steelmaking is not isolated - it is governed by many laws, rules, regulations and restrictions. Therefore, as we look to the future, governments and society must make informed decisions, using a life cycle approach, on where and how to sensibly add extra rules and restrictions. Successful steelmaking must operate within these frameworks and continue to explore new sustainable ways forward into the future.
Steel – the permanent material in the circular economy
As a permanent material which can be recycled over and over again without losing its properties, steel is fundamental to the circular economy. In the sustainable future, new economic models will maximise the value of raw materials by encouraging practices such as reuse and remanufacturing. The weight of many steel products will be reduced, losses will be minimised, and the already high recycling rate for steel will increase, resulting in more recycled steel to make new steel products.
Pre-consumer recycling from the steelmaking and manufacturing processes will decrease due to increased process efficiencies and collaboration between steelmakers and their customers to reduce yield losses. For society the benefits will include durable products, local jobs, reduced emissions, and the conservation of raw materials for future generations.