Modern structural steel pushes the limits of human ingenuity. From efficient production processes to product strength and sustainability, this metal has been an integral part of developing this great country and the rest of the modern world. Our last blog focused on our humble beginnings, from the dawn of the Iron Age to the utilization of spiegeleisen. Today, we’ll continue this journey with further advancements that have helped us reach today’s top-notch metalwork. Anyone seeking structural steel fabricators in Michigan for their upcoming project will be happy to work with Sanilac Steel. Since 1967, our techs have specialized in a wide range of skills, from ornamental metal work to structural steel design, fabrication, and installation. When you need reliable delivery, prompt service, and quality products, be sure to contact Sanilac Steel!
The latter half of the 1800s saw a major increase in steel production. However, a chemical element named Phosphorus remained in the mixture, providing enough impurities to keep steel both strong and brittle. Countries like Sweden were able to supply phosphorus-free metal ores in order to avoid this, yet the need for a larger scale of production was out of reach until 1876. That year, Sidney Thomas, a British inventor, introduced limestone to Bessemer’s production process. This flux pulled phosphorus out of the molten iron and into the slag, allowing for easy removal. Once this advancement was tested and approved, the global price of steel dropped significantly. Being able to create steel from iron ore mined from any location across the globe equated to a larger supply of usable iron, giving architects and builders more power to utilize steel in their designs. While useful for creating quality metal at a decent rate of speed, the Bessemer process was limited by its output efficiency. As the demand for steel rose dramatically, so did the need for a larger, more streamlined process.
Open Hearth Efficiency
Due to steel’s high melting point, the production process required a high amount of fuel and space to effectively succeed. The 1860s saw the introduction of the open hearth process. Created by Sir Carl Siemens, a German-born engineer who thrived in his craft in Britain, the open hearth utilized a batch process with heated chambers composed of bricks to create consistent steel. Once the hearth is charged with waste metal and other light scrap, the furnace is lit with gas and brought to a high temperature. Heavier scrap, along with the essential pig iron, is added and melted down at this point. Agents such as limestone are then added to remove impurities. While much slower than the Bessemer process, the open hearth method created a lot more metal per batch. The slower heating time also allows for more control in the process, giving users the ability to stop the process once the right level of carbon was achieved.
A Booming Industry
The dawn of the 20th Century saw a major boom in the steel industry. Technological advances created a cheaper, more consistent, higher quality product that provided structural steel for buildings, railroads, and more. Upcoming steel barons like Andrew Carnegie began investing more time and resources into the industry, pushing the limits for structural steel fabrication and building design. By taking advantage of low wages, efficient processes, and the high demand for steel, Carnegie and his now-famous steel company were able to capitalize on the next major advancement in our society.
They say that all good things come in threes, which coincidentally lines up with our trilogy of blogs on the history of structural steel. Next time, we’ll look at the last century of innovations and how these advances have shaped the modern steel industry. Anyone looking for top-quality structural steel fabricators in Michigan will be love the results that Sanilac Steel can provide. Our experienced team has worked to provide the best services in the industry for 50 years. Contact us today to receive a quote on your project!