Steelmaking, and Steels, Getting Better and Better all the TimeFebruary 1, 2008
This issue’s cover design evokes the excitement surrounding today’s steelmaking industry. And, my article that appears inside (pages 28-34) reveals just how dynamic that industry has become. In the last few years numerous steel types have been introduced to the market. What’s cool is that steelmakers have been developing their new products working hand in hand with automakers to ensure that the steels fit specific requirements of their customers. A look back at the history of steelmaking reveals that this has als been the case.
While steel was accidentally discovered by iron craftsmen around 200 BC, it wasn’t until 1740 when a British clockmaker named Benjamin Huntsman stumbled onto a process for producing small batches of what he called crucible steel. This material was only slightly stronger than iron, however. Next came the development of wrought iron, made by the reheating of cast iron. But, what was really needed at the time—primarily for construction and armor—was a stronger iron alloy.
In 1854, looking for a to make a stronger steel needed for the manufacture of a new type of gun barrel he had patented, the famed British inventor Henry Bessemer went to work and, within a few years, perfected his Bessemer blast furnace, ushering in the modern steelmaking industry.
Jump ahead to today where automotive designers work with a large palette of steels so that they can match a unique steel type to each application in the vehicle. As Ron Krupitzer, vice president, automotive applications at the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), puts it, “Due to evolving requirements from automobiles in terms of safety and fuel economy, steel needs to reinvent itself on a regular basis in order to survive competition from other materials.”