The history behind structural steel production is one full of innovation and hard work. Our modern structures have come a long way from the Iron Age. As a team of top-notch structural steel fabricators for Michigan projects, Sanilac Steel knows all about the industry. Since 1967, we’ve worked to be among the top steel fabrication companies in the state. Today, we’ll conclude our epic trilogy on the history of steel. While not as entertaining as intergalactic space battles, steel structure design and construction represent a steadfast part of our modern society. Using the right company for your job can help to get the project done safely, on time, and under budget!
The Electric Era
A French scientist named Paul Héroult entered the 20th century with work that would change the world of steel production. He discovered that passing a current through charged metal created an exothermic reaction that both oxidized and reached a suitable temperature. Known as an electric arc furnace (EAF), this electronic method was established in the US in 1907. While initially intended for specialty use with machine tools and springs, EAFs saw widespread use for the production of steel alloys during WWII. However, it wasn’t until after the second World War that electric steel saw widespread use. The low cost of production per ton and operation demands made the use of EAF mini-mills an ideal solution for helping to rebuild war-torn Europe.
The advantage of electric arc furnaces comes from their ability to create steel from 100 percent scrap metal, requiring less energy for creation. The use of EAFs has been increasing steadily for the last half-century and now makes up for about a third of the world’s steel production. This is due to the electric arc furnace’s ability to effectively create long, sturdy products while the more popular style of steel production provides large, flat products.
The remaining two-thirds of today’s steel production comes from basic oxygen steel (BOS) production. Referred to as basic because of the type of refractories being used (calcium oxide and magnesium oxide), the BOS process was created to separate oxygen and nitrogen. Essentially, a refined version of the Bessemer converter is used to blow oxygen instead of regular air. Utilizing a mixture that is 99 percent oxygen created big changes in the smelting world. The result is a process that reduced operational costs, smelting time, and labor inefficiency. Amazingly, the labor requirements to produce one metric ton of steel dropped from three hours of employee effort to just 0.003!
Productivity was the biggest advantage of using BOS production. While open-hearth furnaces required up to 12 hours to produce a large quantity of steel, basic oxygen production got the job done in little more than 30 minutes. The 1960s saw a huge increase in BOS steel production while the open hearth was simultaneously phased out.
Today, structural steel fabrication is done with an efficiency that is pushing the limits of possibility. From bridges to cars, tools, and more, modern steelwork helps to build a stronger, more eco-friendly society. Sanilac Steel is here to make the most of our advanced technology and techniques. Since 1967, our structural steel fabricators have provided Michigan projects with quality products on time, every time. If you are in need of a steel company, contact Sanilac Steel today to receive a quote on our comprehensive services!