Steel and iron are essential parts of our everyday lives. They make up the buildings in which we work, the appliances we use, and the cars we drive. Without steel and iron, modern life would look a lot different. Last year, the international steel industry produced 1,864 million tons, the equivalent of over 5100 Empire State buildings!
So, how does this essential aspect of daily life transform from rocks in the ground into one of the strongest structural materials in the world? Let’s take a look.
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The steelmaking process starts with the processing of raw iron ore. The rocks that are mined containing iron ore are ground and the near-elemental iron is extracted using magnetic rollers. This fine iron ore is then processed into clumps that can be put inside of a blast furnace. At the same time, coal is cleaned of impurities in a furnace. This results in an almost elemental form of carbon, called coke. This coke is then mixed with the iron ore clumps and heated together in a blast furnace. This process produces molten iron, or pig iron, from which steel is made.
Different manufacturers often add additives to the molten steel, like chromium, nickel, titanium, and a variety of others to produce desired traits. Adding these elements creates different alloys of the steel.
At this point, the molten iron, sometimes referred to as molten steel, passes through continuous casters and is formed into its final shape to cool. Steel production is essential to the modern world, but its overall process isn’t really that difficult to understand.