Making Steel: A 3-Step Process

Steel is one of the most durable and reliable materials available. You can find steel used in almost every industry across the world.

All steel must be manufactured from ore before it is suitable for commercial or industrial use. Learn more about the three-step process by which steel is made so that you can better appreciate this versatile material in the future.

1. Oxidation

All steel and steel alloys consist primarily of iron. The iron ore that is mined from the Earth contains carbon levels that are too high for steel, so the ore must be smelted and oxidized to begin the steel-making process.

The iron ore is melted down to its liquid form. Oxygen is then bubbled through this molten ore. Introducing oxygen helps to create equal oxidation throughout the iron ore. The oxidation process also helps to vaporize any impurities that may exist within the melted ore. Only after iron ore has been oxidized is the carbon content suitable for steel.

2. Refining and Alloying

Once the oxidation process is complete, a steelworker will begin the process of refining the iron ore. Surface impurities are removed from the ore through a process known as de-slagging. Eliminating surface impurities helps to create a more consistent and predictable base material.

Alloying occurs after de-slagging is complete. Various unique elements can be added to refined iron ore to create steel alloys that have very specific properties. Steelworkers know how much of each element must be added to achieve the proper mineral ratio for each desired alloy.

3. Finishing

The steel finishing process takes place in a foundry. The liquefied steel is cast into various shapes and patterns using specialized casters. Sheets, billets, bars, wire, and pipes are all common forms into which steel is cast. Sometimes a foundry will hot or cold-roll the steel during production. These processes change the appearance of the steel in preparation for commercial use.

Heat treatments are also used by foundries to shape the way a steel alloy will behave once it is put to use. Common heat treatments include annealing, quenching, and tempering. The final phase of the steel-making process is to cut, spool, or bundle the steel before it leaves the foundry for the retail market.

Transforming iron ore into steel and steel alloys is a process that must be done with care. Any mistakes during the production process could compromise the tensile strength and integrity of the resulting steel.

For more information on steel, contact a company near you.