The Steel Making Process

Published: 17th May 2011
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We see and use steel every day. We use it in the form of cutlery to eat with, we drive cars that are made with materials including steel, we wear watches with steel in them and we may even have steel furniture. Steel is also one of the most widely used materials in construction, and used to build anything from houses to skyscrapers and bridges. But how is steel made?

The process of making steel is long and complicated and compromises of many different stages. The exact steel making processes varies across different Steel Suppliers, but this article explains the basics of turning Iron Ore into Steel ready to be made into a product.

The Blast Furnace

The first stage of the steel making process is to create Coke. This is done by heating Coal in a Coke Oven, thus turning it into the Coke product. The next stage is inputting the Coke into a Blast Furnace. Also put into the Blast Furnace is Limestone, Sinter and most importantly, Iron Ore. In the Blast Furnace this is all heated to around 870 Degrees Centigrade (1598 Fahrenheit). During this process impurities including Carbon are oxidised and flout out of the Iron Ore into a slag. This is removed from the steel making process leaving the Molten Iron that continues to be used for the eventual creation of steel.

Basic Oxygen Furnace

Next the Molten Iron is put through the Basic Oxygen Furnace. First, though, Lime and Scrap pieces of metal are added to the Molten Iron. The Scrap Metal can come from recycled products, which have both financial and environmental benefits. The Molten Iron, Lime and Scrap Metals are added to the Basic Oxygen Furnace, with Oxygen added. This oxidises unwanted materials including remaining Carbon.

Vacuum Degassing

Next is the Vacuum Degassing stage. During this stage the Molten Iron that leaves the Basic Oxygen Furnace is placed in a vacuum which removes still existing excesses of Hydrogen and Carbon. This removes any imperfections that would otherwise affect the quality of the metal.

Slab Caster

The left over Molten Iron, Lime and Scrap Metal are next fed into a Slab Caster. This has the job of solidifying these materials into a single material. This turns it into hot strips, also known as Coils.

Tempering Machine

A piece of machinery called a Tempering Machine is then used to toughen the metal. The Steel Coils are fed through the Tempering Machine which uses hot rolls to transfer martensite or bainite into a combination of ferrite and cementite. After this the material has become a cold rolled steel product.

The above is the basic process of making steel. Much of the steel making process involves removing impurities from iron and scrap metal. What is done with it from this point on varies depending on its final use.

The steel making process is much more machine based than it used to be. This makes the whole process much cheaper (and therefore cheaper for consumers further down the line) and it means steel is made into a more consistent product.

Andrew Marshall (c)

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