We can say that the “steel age” began around 700 years ago and looks unlikely to end. Currently, steel is synonymous with modernity and progress. It is fundamental in both developed and developing countries.
In developing countries, the use of steel is essential for industrial growth and the well-being of the population. First, the basic infrastructure is needed, then housing and finally consumer goods.
In developed countries, steel is a material with a broad horizon in innovation, new chemical compositions are tested daily, and its microstructure is studied at ever more detailed levels.
We can see how the most innovative and technological sectors continue to be based on steel as their material of choice.
What are the main reasons for the success of steel?
1.- Its low cost taking into account the uses and properties that it provides.
2.- The versatility of the material as the possibilities for customising it according to its purpose are almost infinite. Currently, there are more than 5,000 types of steel catalogued. It is evident that depending on this specialisation, the manufacturing costs will vary, but their planned use will set the characteristics necessary and therefore the costs that can be assumed.
3.- The speed of its manufacturing process. It does not require curing time or long resting periods. This agility enables the industry to correct deviations and achieve the best performance in short periods of time.
4.- Its ease of transport. Although the transport costs are not cheap, the material does not require special care for transport.
5.- Its mechanical characteristics are unique. Steel is resistant at the same time as being elastic, tenacious and ductile, malleable, highly resistant compared to its weight, weldable, etc.
6.- It can be customised. Depending on the purpose it is possible to reinforce the characteristics required for manufacture in each case, by means of its chemical composition.
7.- It is uniform in time. The properties of steel do not change substantially over time if it properly maintained.
8.- It allows electrical conductivity.
9.- Steel is environmentally sustainable. We have a permanent resource because it can be recycled.
What are the most common applications of steel?
Steel is probably the material with the widest range of applications currently used. The possibility of combining different compositions, its mechanical properties and different forms make it an ideal solution for manufacturing a multitude of products, large and small, technologically advanced or very simple, specialised or for common use.
We just have to look at our surroundings; we are surrounded by steel. We shelter under structures made of steel and our mobility depends on it, whether we travel by bicycle, car, train or aeroplane.
In this video “A world of steel” you can see an example of this reality.
In the food industry it is essential. Thanks to John Deere, among others, modern agriculture would not exist without the use of steel. During the whole process through which food reaches our table, steel has been used continually.
Food and drink packaging would be very different if this material did not exist. Have you ever thought about how many drinks cans are consumed daily in the world?
Every day, we use equipment manufactured in steel, from computers to washing machines, from telephones to keys. Even something as fundamental as energy largely depends on materials made of steel for their production and distribution.
Of course in the last 700 years have changed many things, and steel has been an accomplice to these changes. Without doubt, it is going to keep driving the development of the future and the many changes that are still to come.
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