The Steel Story
13th century BC Invention of steel - iron and charcoal come together Early blacksmiths discovered that iron became harder and stronger when left in charcoal furnaces.
3rd century BC Wootz steel: Born in ancient India As early as the third century BC, the craftsmen of southern India used crucibles to smelt wrought iron with charcoal to produce ‘wootz’ steel – a material that is still admired today. Detail of India from Ptolemy's world map Detail of India from Ptolemy's world map
Roman Era With war comes progress Imperial armies, including those of China, Greece, Persia and Rome, were eager for strong, durable weapons and armour. The Romans learned how to temper work-hardened steel to reduce its brittleness. Roman Armour - statue of Germnanicus in the Lateranmuseum in Rome Roman Armour - statue of Germnanicus in the Lateranmuseum in Rome
3rd century AD China steels the show Chinese craftsmen manufactured high-quality steel, likely having something similar to the Bessemer process (which was only developed in Europe in the 19th century) as early as the second century BC. Chinese puddle and blast furnace Chinese puddle and blast furnace
4th century The Iron Pillar of Delhi: Oldest surviving example of corrosion-resistant steel The iron pillar of Delhi Video The iron pillar of Delhi
11th century Magic metallurgy The process of the location of iron production on the raw-material base began to be realised in the 10th-13th centuries. Brevarium Grimani Brevarium Grimani
11th century Damascus steel developed in Middle East Damascus steel was a term used in Western culture from the Medieval period onward to describe a type of steel created in India and used in swordmaking from around 300 BC to 1700 AD. Mughal-Original Damascus swords Video Mughal-Original Damascus swords
12th century Land of the crucible In the 12th century, the land of Serendib (Sri Lanka) seems to have been the world's main supplier of crucible steel, prior to its further development as late as 1740 by English inventor Benjamin Huntsman. Spilbergen meeting king Vimaladharmasoorya of Kandy Spilbergen meeting king Vimaladharmasoorya of Kandy
16th century On his metal In 1540, Vannoccio Biringuccio publishes first systematic, detailed volume on metallurgy.
18th century Sweden leads production Steel was now recognised and well established as a valuable material. During this time, expensive steel was produced in limited quantities by artisans, and expensive was also used in applications other than armour and weaponry. Sweden led the way during the 18th century - new techniques began to emerge, which improved quality and consistency. VIDEO
1709 Coke on the go Coke is first used to smelt iron ore - wood and charcoal, which were becoming harder to obtain, are gradually replaced. Iron bridge Iron bridge
1712 Steam on the move English ironmonger Thomas Newcomen builds first commercially successful steam engine - steam and steel combined are increasingly the key drivers of the Industrial Revolution. 3685 horsepower steam locomotive Video steam locomotive
1740 Out of the melting pot The crucible steel technique is developed by English inventor Benjamin Huntsman. Higher quality steel is sought, due to its prevalence in clock springs. Crucible steel Video crucible steel
1769 Newcomen device Scottish inventor James Watt perfects Newcomen device and patents first efficient steam engine. Boulton & Watt steam engine Video Boulton & Watt steam engine
1779 Steam reaches mills Early mills had run successfully with water power, but by using a steam engine a factory could be located anywhere, not just close to water The first steam engine working The world's first steam engine working
1783 Rolling, rolling, rolling… Englishman Henry Cort invents the steel roller for steel production. Puddling furnace Puddling furnace
1794 Ball bearing A ball bearing is a type of rolling-element bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between the bearing races. How it's made ball bearings Video How it's made ball bearings
1813 Bessemer born English engineer Henry Bessemer, was born on 19 January 1813, at Charlton, in Hertfordshire. Throughout his life, Bessemer was a prolific inventor, but his name is chiefly known in connection with the Bessemer process for the manufacture of steel, by which it has rendered famous throughout the civilized world.
1837 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, ...
1837 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. Batteuse 1881 Batteuse 1881
1855 Read it and reap The reaping machine (created in 1834 by American inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Cyrus McCormick) enters into wide usage, and was most extensively used after the American Civil War (1861–1865). The combine harvester was also invented in this year by Hiram Moore. The Bessemer process Video The Bessemer process
1855 Bessemer begins The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. The Bessemer process of steel making The Bessemer process of steel making
1865 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... The Siemens-Martin oven in Brandenburg, Germany The Siemens-Martin oven in Brandenburg, Germany
1860s 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. 1895 map of the southern railway 1895 map of the southern railway
1860s 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. Yorktown artillery Yorktown artillery
1868 Tungsten steel arrives Robert Mushet is the inventor. Tungsten metal Tungsten metal
1873 Wire fence in the American West Barbed wire played an important role in the protection of range rights in the U.S. West. Barbed wire Barbed wire
1876 Workers unite Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (AA) formed in US - a labour union of skilled iron and steel workers that was deeply committed to craft unionism. However, technological advances were already reducing the number of skilled workers in both industries. Columbia building Columbia building
1883 Reach for the sky First skyscraper (ten stories) in Chicago and Brooklyn Bridge in New York City (first steel wire suspension bridge) open. Skyscrapers of New York Video skyscrapers of New York
1901 20th century global expansion During the 20th century, there was significant growth and nationalisation of steel production due to the demands for military equipment. Transport (rail and shipping) developed closed borders in World War I, but opened them during World War II. Lenin monument in All-Russia exhibition centre Lenin monument in All-Russia exhibition centre
1901 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... U.S. steel tower U.S. steel tower
1912 Steel goes stainless The invention of stainless steel, which was officially 100 years old in May 2012, is normally attributed to one Harry Brearley from Sheffield Chrysler building detail Chrysler building detail
1914-18 War again World War I weaponry consisted of various types of steel weapons standardised and improved over the preceding period together with some newly developed types using innovative technology and a number of improvised weapons used in trench warfare. Military technology led to important innovations in weaponry, grenades, poison gas, and artillery, along with the submarine, warplane and the tank. IMAGE GALLERY
1939-45 More war The 20th century's two world wars had huge consequences for steelmaking. Like other heavy industries, steelmaking was nationalised in many countries due to demands for military equipment. Steel was required for the railways and ships that carried troops and supplies. Steel plates proved vital in the development of shipping and other forms of transport, as well as for obvious military uses. The drama of steel - 1946 educational documentary The drama of steel - 1946 educational documentary
1950s-60s Steel for comfort and lifestyle In the 1950s and 60s, significant developments were made in steel processes, which allowed production to move away from military and shipping to cars and home appliances, which brought a huge growth in the range of steel home appliances that were made available to consumers. Post-war EU trade was also an important factor in the search for resources and the sales of finished goods IMAGE GALLERY Steel mills: To each other, 1943 Video Steel mills: To each other, 1943
1951 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. IMAGE GALLERY VIDEO
1950s Electric arc furnace (EAF) develops During the 19th century, a number of men had employed an electric arc to melt iron. Electric arc furnace Video EAF (Electric Arc Furnace)
1950s 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. Continuous casting Video Continuous casting
1950s Ship to shore Adopted by US military in the late 1950s, shipping containers, which were large reusable steel boxes used for intermodal shipments, helped standardisation. Container ship 1950s Container ship
1959 From blast furnaces to mini mills Mini mills provided the latest technologies (arc, continuous casting, water-cooling) in smaller plants, which private companies could afford to operate. The rise of mini mills concides with an increase in the availability of scrap. From blast furnaces to mini mills
1967 World of steel The World Steel Association founded as the International Iron and Steel Institute (IISI) in Brussels, Belgium on 19 October 1967. worldsteel video worldsteel video
1969 Mini mill revolution When Nucor - which is now one of the largest steel producers in the US - decided to enter the long products market in 1969, they chose to start up a mini mill, with an Electric Arc Furnace as its steelmaking core, a move that was soon followed by other manufacturers during the 1970s. Nucor - Electric Arc Furnace Video - Nucor - Electric Arc Furnace
1970s Innovation in the East – Japan Decline in the West Duplex stainless New duplex stainless steel grade New duplex stainless steel grade
1990s Berlin Wall falls The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union during the 1990s – Russia had previously been the world's biggest steel producer. The fall of the Berlin wall The fall of the Berlin wall
2000s ArcelorMittal arrives ArcelorMittal is first global steel company in 2006 from the takeover and merger of Arcelor by Mittal Steel; at the time of its creation, it was the world's largest steel producer. Arcelor Mittal Dofasco behind the scenes Arcelor Mittal Dofasco behind the scenes
2010s Large mergers take place In 2011, Nippon Steel merges with Sumitomo Metal to become NSSMC. In 2016, Baosteel Group merges with Wuhan Group to form China Baowu Group, which is to become the second largest steel company in the world. Steel industry cuts CO2 emissions Steel industry cuts CO2 emissions
Today & tomorrow Forging a new era for steel To reduce costs and increase competitiveness, many large steel producers are collaborating on the improvement of production technologies.
The future 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 ...
Circular economy Circular economy
What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)? What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
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