What is Steel and How is it Made?
Steel is essentially purified iron. Iron ore is a natural element mined from the earth, which then gets blasted and melted down at extremely high temperatures to remove any impurities — a process known as smelting. The end result here is a raw material known as “pig iron,” which is then alloyed with carbon to produce a very strong and resilient metal: steel.
While steel has been around for centuries, these technologies are constantly improving all the time. In fact, since 1972 the amount of energy required to produce one ton of steel has decreased by 34%, and it is about 30% stronger than it was just a decade ago — and more dent-resistant.
What’s the Difference Between Regular, Stainless, and Galvanized Steel?
Basic carbon steel is an alloy of iron and a small (usually less than 1%) amount of carbon.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, is about 70 to 80% iron and 20 to 30% chromium. The reaction between chromium and oxygen in the air produces a protective film that makes this metal incredibly resistant to rust and corrosion.
Galvanized steel, on the other hand, is regular steel that is dipped in a protective coating of zinc, which also helps prevent rust and corrosion. Galvanized metal is often a more cost-efficient alternative to stainless steel.
What Happens to it After Use?
Somewhere near 69% of all steel in North America is recycled every year. After serving a long life as a part of buildings, bridges, tools, or other materials, it can be melted down again and put to other uses.
Which Type Do I Need?
That all depends on your purposes and applications. Stainless steel is often used in the medical industry and other areas where sanitation is a necessity. On the other hand, galvanizing is a much more affordable option for large-scale projects like bridges and construction, though it still offers a very high level of protection from corrosion. Regular carbon steel is great for internal structure applications or machine parts.
No matter your needs, the metallurgy process ensures that every type of this metal is strong and durable.