Many people take steel for granted. They use it in their homes and businesses because it is very strong and durable. They buy steel plate from the hardware with hardly a thought about what it took to make it so easily accessible. Here are some basic facts about steel and steel plates that should give you a little more appreciation for it.
Steel has been around since the 17th century in the form of blister steel. It was less brittle than cast iron, but it took a long time to produce. Mass production of steel began in 1856 with the Bessemer process, which made the process more efficient and cost-effective. The open-hearth process replaced the Bessemer process in 1900. By 1901, the first of the big steel industries, US Steel Corporation, began production.
Experimentation led to the production of many types of steel. It depended on the amount of carbon, amount of impurities, and added alloys. The World Steel Association recognizes 3,500 steel grades, but there are four basic types based on their chemistry. These are carbon, alloy, stainless, and tool steel.
Carbon steel accounts for about 90% of the steel produced. Alloy steel uses a variety of other elements to make steel stronger, harder, more ductile, or more resistant to corrosion. Stainless steel contains up to 20% chromium, which makes it corrosion resistant. Tool steel contains tungsten, which makes it heat resistant and durable.
Steel has many applications, ranging from cooking pots to oil pipelines. Carbon steel accounts for most of the steel forms produced for industrial use. These include metal foil, sheet metal, and plate metal. The main difference among the three forms is thickness. The metal foil is not more than 0.03 mm, while sheet metal ranges from 0.03 to 6 mm. Steel plates are anything more than 6 mm.
Steel is a very versatile and useful material readily available in many types and forms. However, it took many refinements to make it so. The next time you buy steel plates for a project, keep these facts in mind.