A Brief History of the Steel Industry
Before the 1800s, steel was an expensive raw material used solely for the production of weapons and cutlery. Since it was expensive and rare, bigger metal projects used cast iron. It was a lot cheaper and easier to find. In contrast to cast iron, steel is a mix of 0.2% to 2.0% carbon and iron forged together. The process can either start with pure iron that needs to be infused with carbon through the cementation process or wrought iron, which has more carbon than it needs to make steel so you can take out the excess carbon. If you have ever wondered about the history of the steel production industry, here is some information.
A Brief History of the Steel Production Industry
Steelmaking was most popular in Sheffield, Britain in the 1860’s. The factories there were the ones the supplied the American and European markets. What made steel more accessible to the masses is the introduction of two processes, Bessemer, and open hearth. Both these advancements were made in England.
The Bessemer process first became popular in the 1850s. It involves converting molten pig iron to steel by blowing air through it once it’s taken out of the furnace. During that time, there was a need for a stronger alternative to the wrought iron used as train tracks. When they found out that the steel made out of the Bessemer process was more durable, therefore able to handle heavier and faster trains, more steel factories using this process opened. It made the price for steel more competitive, and it also encouraged companies to find alternative ways to make steel.
Open Hearth Steelmaking Process
Eventually, the widely popular Bessemer process was upgraded to the open-hearth steelmaking process. This change started in the 1860s in Germany and France and finally became mainstream in the 1890s. The difference from its predecessor lies in the control makers have over the composition of the steel they’re wreaking. With this process, they could easily add a substantial amount of scrap.
Crucible Process and Electric Arc Furnace
At this time, it was still using the crucible process to make the high-quality steel alloys. However, by the 1900s, the electric arc furnace was introduced and later, around the 1920’s, it fully replaced the crucible process. That is largely thanks to the lower cost of electricity.
Usually, the demand for steel grew as different countries became more industrial or entered into wars. Steel was a good option to use for factories, railways, ships, and artillery. The countries that produced it also became more diverse — from it’s more centralized production in the Sheffield to tons of steel coming from the US, Germany, France and many other countries.