How Steel Has Shaped Our Society


Steel plays an integral role in our modern lives, no matter what part of the world you live in or what industry you are involved in. All you have to do is look out a window to see that everything from buildings, to cars and even the device you may be using to read this are all produced with varying types of steel sourced through the likes of metal plate suppliers. There is a direct and mutually sustainable relationship between the steel industry and the other industries it serves.


In this article we will outline some of the history of steel and how it has become such a fundamental part of our lives, as well as a few of the main industries that steel is associated with.


The History of Modern Steel


Steel has had an important part to play in our daily lives for thousands of years. Ancient steel has been found in artefacts in Anatolia Dating back over 4,000 years. Steel production was prized in Sri Lanka and was the foundation of armour and war machines during the warring states period in China. Quenched-hardened steel wrought with cast iron was produced as early as the 1st century AD during Han Dynasty.


Modern steel and metal plate suppliers have their making has its roots in the 17th century when blast furnaces were used to smelt iron. This process was originally done using coal, however, modern steel producers have found that coke is a far more economical alternative. Coke is a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content, derived from coal.


As a result of industrialisation, steel has become one of the pre-eminent products of our modern age. Providing infrastructural and overall economic development for countries across the globe.


The steel industry has blossomed in the past fifty years as a result of the recent industrial boom. However, the heart of steel has certainly migrated since the turn of the 21st century. In the 1980s steelworkers numbered over half a million in the United States. By 2000, this number had halved.


China on the other hand has had a massive peak in steel production, providing upwards of 6% of the globe’s steel demands between 2000 and 2005. This partly due to increased productivity of metal plate suppliers. Indian steel companies have also risen in popularity since the turn of the century. Some of the major players in China and India include, Tata Steel, Boasteel group, Shagang Group and ArcelorMittal.


In 2008, steel began it’s future as a trading commodity on the London Metal Exchange. However, the Global Financial Crisis led to a sharp downturn that led to many cut-backs in the industry. The result was that many companies sold steel at well below cost to make money to float new steel plants. This hit metal plate suppliers particularly hard.


Contemporary Steel And Sustainability


Steel is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet. Over 60% of steel is recycled globally. In the United States, this rate was set at 83% according to the United States Geological Survey.


The process of recycling is known as ‘ferrous metal recycling’. The process involves taking 25-35% recycled steel to make new steel as form of basic oxygen steelmaking.


The majority of contemporary steel is either carbon steel or alloy steel.


Carbon steel is primarily composed of simply iron and carbon, this type of steel is roughly 90% of all steel produced globally. New regulation by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulatory board have led to the development of a new type of carbon steel known as Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS). This type of steel is both stronger and more ductile than typical steel. Carbon steel is typically galvanised, through a hot-dipping or electroplating process that adds a thin layer of zinc to protect from corrosion.


Alloy steels are not as common as carbon steel, and are any type of steel that has a minimum 11% of some of element. Stainless steel for example is 11% chromium, with added nickel, which helps it corrosion resistant.


Tool steels are made using tungsten and cobalt. Other steels may include weathering steels, which corrode on the outside without affecting the durability of the underlying structure.


In 2016 a breakthrough in Steel was made by researchers at Pohang University of Science of Technology. By adding trace amounts of nickel, the result was a strong light steel alloy that was as strong as Titanium at almost 10% of the cost. Trial production is expected to be rolled out by POSCO, a Korean steel manufacturer and metal plate suppliers.


Steel is typically used in the construction and transport industries. A variety of types of steel mentioned above are involved in these industries.


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