Steel, Master of Them All

November 15, 2011

Gold is for the mistress

Silver for the maid

Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade,

“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

“But Iron- Cold Iron – is Master of them all.”

-Rudyard Kipling

Full poem here

In 1910 when Rudyard Kipling wrote this verse,  the USA produced about 24 million tons of steel. That amounted to roughly 482 pounds for each of the 92.2 million americans counted in the census that year.

In 2010, the US produced 88.5 million tons- down 13% from 2008 and down 18% from 2006 and 2007. That 88.5 million tons- amounted to about 575 pounds for each of the 308 million Americans alive that year.

That’s an increase of about 20%  per person over a period of a hundred years?

Only 20%?

What amazes me is that all of our devices using steel have diminished the mass of the steel needed to do the same job.

This 1910 Case tractor probably weighed in around 3000 pounds and delivered no more than 20 horsepower.

This 2010  production single cylinder Kohler (iron cylinder) engine equipped Cub Cadet also rated at 20 horsepower:

I don't think this one weighs 3000 pounds...

Steel truly  is the master- in this case the master of doing more with less.

Buckminster Fuller describes this decreasing of mass but increasing of capability as “ephemeralization.”

Its something my kids have seen growing up as they observed our communications technology:

This is what a cell phone was when my kids were born in the 1980's.

Cell phone today:

Oh the one in the 1980's didn't bring me my newspaper or have a virual assitant or play movies either. It was ...just...a ...phone!

Steel may be the Master of Them All, but  it is Engineers, and Machinists and other manufacturing craftsmen who are the real masters – we make the stuff that makes our modern world- Modern.

Case tractor photocredit: Thanks Big Red!

Cub Cadet photocredit:

Motorola Brick

Apple iphone 4s


2010-Banner Year For Global Steel Production

February 1, 2011

In 2010, worldwide crude steel output totaled 1.4 billion metric tons, a 15 percent increase over 2009 and a new record for annual global steel production, according to the World Steel Association.

We're talkin STEEL!

In the United States, crude steel output rose to 80.6 million metric tons in 2010. This is an increase of 38.5 % over 2009. Imports of finished steel increased almost 34% to 18.9 million net tons in 2010 over CY2009. Finished steel import market share continues to maintain levels above 20 percent. (AISI)

According to WorldSteel, steel output from China, the world’s largest steel producer, reached 626.7 million metric tons in 2010. This represents a 9.3% increase over 2009. this level represents a decline of about 2.4% in China’s global production share.

We expect that steel prices will remain strong in light of the continued  U.S. and global financial recovery. Most news items that could develop- such as  the latest major flooding in Australia’s Coal Mining areas- will be bellwethers for higher prices.

Photo credit

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Killed Steel

July 20, 2010

Some things you want to have bubbles, some you don’t.

Usually, Bubbles are good.

In beermaking, yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and convert them into CO2 gas bubbles- carbonation.

In steel making the main reaction is the combination of Carbon in the melt with Oxygen to form a gas. At the high temperatures involved, this gas is very soluble in the molten bath.

If the Oxygen that is available for this chemical reaction isn’t completely removed before the steel is cast the gases will continue to be forced out of the melt during solidification, resulting in porosity in the steel.

Bubbles and where the gas goes can be important in your steel part.

In order to control the evolution of gas, chemicals called deoxidizers are added to the steel. These chemicals, Silicon or Aluminum, Vanadium, Columbium, Niobium scavenge the available oxygen in the molten steel, react chemically to form solid oxide particles dispersed throughout the steel, rather than bubbles of Carbon Dioxide.

The amount and type of deoxidizer added determines the type of steel. If sufficent deoxidizers are added, no gas is evolved from the solidifying steel, and the steel is said to be “killed.” The ingot drawing labelled number 1 shows a fully killed (deoxidized) steel showing only a shrinkage cavity, and no bubbles or porosity. ( This shrinkage cavity would be cropped off in normal rolling practice.)

Because gas is still evolving, this beer is NOT KILLED.

Killed steel has more uniform chemical composition and properties than rimmed, semi-killed, or non-killed steels, and generally less segregation. The uniformity of killed steel and and its freedom from porosity makes these steels more suitable for critical components and for applications involving heat treatment.

Killed steels generally contain 0.15-.35 weight percent Silicon as a deoxidizer, and may contain  some of the other elements as mentioned above. These other elements may be used as deoxidizers or as grain refiners.

Steel grades with a Carbon maximum of 0.30 weight % and above, and all alloy steels are typically provided as “killed steels.”

Free machining steels such as 12L14, 1215, and some 11XX series steels are not “killed” with Silicon, Aluminum, etc., due to their deleterious effects on tool life and machinability. The high amounts of Manganese  in these steels form Manganese Sulfides to promote machinability, and also the Manganese scavenges excess Oxygen, preventing  evolution of CO2.

Killed steel is specified so your critical parts won't have bubbles in them.

Killed steel- for critical parts. Non-killed beer for critical  after work down time.

Cheers!

Beer Bubbles Photo Credit

Ingot scan from a handout in my files originally after Making Shaping and Treating of Steel.

 Beer Head Photo Credit

Bread with Holes

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Materials Prices Increase-Through The Roof

April 8, 2010
6 of 7 materials we track up 44-114%

6 of 7 materials we track up 44-114%

Prices of raw materials used to make precision machined products are up substantially,  ranging from 44% to 114%  from March 2009- March 2010 for 6 of the 7 materials we track.

 Low inventories, increasing demand, idled production facilities, are among the factors involved here in North America.

As are the historic iron ore agreement  and continued high demand in China. 

We think this trend will be around for a while...

Fuel price increases also impact freight, which is an important factor in our business.

We will not be shocked to see monies paid for steel in May to be $80 per ton higher than they were in April based on already announced price increases and the current price on  #1 busheling which determines surcharges.

Read more and download the .pdf report  here.

Photocredit.

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Manufacturing Recovery 7 Months and Counting!

March 10, 2010

11 industries reported expansion in February. The Precision Machined Products Industry, a sub industry of Fabricated Metals, serves 7 of these  industries showing the greatest recovery.

Here are the sectors that reported expansion that precision machining serves:

  1. Machinery; 
  2. Computer & Electronic Products;
  3. Miscellaneous Manufacturing;
  4. Transportation Equipment;
  5. Electrical Equipment;
  6. Appliances & Components;
  7. Fabricated Metal Products;

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in February for the seventh consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 10th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

The PMI index for February was 56.5 down 1.9 percentage points from January. Because the PMI is above 50, the manufacturing economy is expanding.

How can they run out of vanilla?

According to ISM  steel, stainless steel, and aluminum are increasing in price.

Anecdotal data from our conversations with members confirms the ISM numbers, and points out that the metals named above are both more expensive and in short supply.

You know business is improving when they are out of plain vanilla.

Photocredit.

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3 Actions To Minimize Cracks In Our Shops

July 29, 2009

Paying attention to draft, chemistry, and steel melt source processes can help you minimize the potential for cracks at your customer after cold work operations.

After a crimping, staking or swaging operation, cracks can develop. This is because the cold work needed to swage,  stake, crimp, etc. was greater than the material’s available elasticity. This is the case in the part photographed here.

Cracks can develop after cold work is performed on machined parts.

Cracks can develop after cold work is performed on machined parts.

In order to minimize cracking during or after crimping, or thread rolling, or other substantial cold work, take the following steps:

  1. Specify non-renitrogenized material;
  2. Inform your supplier of your cold work application. They can consider reducing cold draft, or changing suppliers of the hot roll to get basic oxygen process, low residual, low nitrogen steel;
  3. Ask the customer to consider changing the grade. Resulfurized steels are capable of being somewhat cold worked, but their high volume fraction and weight percent of nonmetallic inclusions (What makes them cut so well!) is also what works against successful cold work.

To minimize the occurrence of cracks  that are not a result of cold work, try this:

  • Assure that adequate stock removal is taken in machining;
  • Buying from reputable sources whose quality systems employ rototesting and eddy current testing;

When cracks are discovered in your shop, what actions do you take?

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Steel and Aluminum Shipments Down 43% 2009 YTD

July 21, 2009

The current service center destocking will mean shortages and delays when manufacturing recovers. This makes raw material price increases inevitable. MSCI Report

Steel: US and Canadian first-half steel shipments totaled 14.8 million tons, down 43.9% year-over-year. US steel inventories at the end of the month were reported to be  5.98 million tons; down 44.4% from  last year. Canadian steel inventories at the end of June totaled about 1.05 million tons, 33% below last year.

Aluminum: First-half shipments of 524,600 tons of aluminum were down 43.2% year-over-year for US Service Centers.  US inventories  at the end of June totaled 269,800 tons, a reduction of 44.1% from a year ago.

According to The Metal Service Center Institute-In Canada, first-half aluminum shipments totaled 65,100 tons, a decline of 26.4%. Month-end inventories totaled 31,700 tons, a decline of 15.7% from a year ago.

Sensemaking: Beware the “at current shipping rates, months  of shipments fallacy” in the MSCI press release. This is simple arithmetic, not critical thinking.  When demand recovers, “today’s current shipping rates ” are not going to be relevant at all.

The fact is these inventories are lowest since the early 1980’s, and when business resumes just a little bit, there will be nothing in the cupboard.  And weeks and weeks of lead time to refill the pipeline.

The current service center destocking will mean shortages. Shortages will mean delays and raw material price increases. Delays and raw material price increases will mean  higher prices for precision machined parts for finished products. You can bet dollars to donuts that the spotlight will be on you  and your shop as you try  to recover these increases- You’ll be called “Greedy business men fueling inflation!

So much for sensemaking.

Have a nice day!

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