Steel has been an essential metal for production ever since the Middle Ages, when knights’ armor and swords were made from this metal at blacksmiths, and the samurai of Japan also made use of steel swords (katanas). Today, no one is making suits of armor for battle, but steel is used in a wide variety of applications today, from the automotive industry to construction to home appliances and more. The Industrial Revolution launched mass production of steel in England and the United States, pioneered by such businessmen as Andrew Carnegie. Whether in the late 1800s or today, steel has many uses, and steel suppliers are in big demand. Hot or cold rolled steel is imported and exported around the globe, especially in steel-heavy nations like Canada, the United States, Germany, and China. A steel sheet pile may sit in a steel mill, ready for cold rolling or some hot rolling first. A steel sheet pile may then be loaded into a shipping container for transit. What might sheet piling companies and rollers offer?
The Industry of Steel
One may first consider the sheer scale of steel consumption and production around the world today. Steel ranks among the four most common metals used in the American construction industry today, whether in carbon steel or stainless steel form (along with aluminum and copper). Steel also stands as the world’s most readily recycled material, and up to 90% of it is recycled steel. Old cars, shipping containers, construction leftovers, and more may be melted down for their steel and recycled to boost resource efficiency. Steel may sometimes be mixed with alloys to create new metals with new properties, and alloys may have high resistance to temperature or corrosion or pressure, depending on their intended work.
How much steel is being produced? A lot. Back in the 1920s, the United States had its peak of steel success, with that nation producing around 40% of the entire world’s supply of steel and iron at the time. Today, there is more competition, but a lot of steel overall is being produced in the United States and elsewhere. In 2017, for an example, the United States produced a total of 82 million metric tons of this metal, and this figure may very well grow in the future. The United States generously both imports and exports steel, and China and Canada together supply most of the steel that the United States imports from abroad. Natively in the United States, steel is huge, and this industry employs nearly 142,000 people, involved in all phase of its production, from working with steel sheet piles to cold rolling it. How do processes like steel sheet piles and cold rolling affect this metal before it’s shipped to consumers?
Processing That Steel
What does it mean to hot roll or cold roll some steel? If steel is being hot rolled, then it is being roll-pressed at a temperature over 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature high enough to recrystallize the steel, which makes the steel easier to form and easier to work with in later applications. A large sheet of steel is flattened, and then it is rushed through heated rollers to reach this temperature and pressure. Construction and railway projects make the most use of hot rolled steel, since the steel’s dimensions may warp slightly as it cools back down. This makes hot rolled steel a poor choice for very precise applications, but a solid option for less precise work.
By contrast, cold rolled steel is rolled at room temperature, and it may have been hot rolled prior to this. Re-rolling the steel sheets at this lower temperature allows manufacturers to create a product with more precise dimensions, and this is valuable in certain applications. This cold rolled steel will also have a better quality finish and well-defined edges and squares. Such steel will need some stress-relieving processes done on it before cutting or welding, though, to ensure that it does not warp during this work. The added stress of cold rolling may lead to some unexpected changes in the metal if this de-stressing is not done. Such steel is more pricey than hot-rolled steel, and has to be stored just right before transport to maintain its quality.