From the ancient craftsmanship of iron artifacts made in 1500 BC to ultra-modern steel technology, India’s steel saga symbolizes human creativity and development. India’s proficiency in metallurgy is evidenced by its famous Wootz steel and the historical importance of the Delhi Iron Pillar. The Indian steel market continues to grow substantially and has become one of the important players in world steel. The complex production procedure of high-quality ss steel and a unique pattern of development of Indian steel industries.
In this article, let’s walk through the journey of steel from ancient times to modern times & a lot more.
India’s Ancient Steel
India’s steel history includes the renowned Wootz steel, a high-grade steel developed over two millennia ago. It is an exceptionally crafted material that is used to make Damascus swords. Faraday’s analysis and early metallography studies in Europe heightened interest in Wootz, known for its high carbon content and super-plasticity.
Evolution Of Steelmaking Process
Let’s have a look at different steelmaking processes and how they have evolved:
- Bessemer Process: In 1856 Henry Bessemer’s patented process was called the Bessemer Process. The Bessemer process enabled mass steel production economically, marking it as a second industrial revolution. Despite its advantages, the process faced challenges such as high oxygen content and the inability to remove sulfur and phosphorus.
- Thomas Process: The Thomas process emerged in 1879 as a better method than the Bessemer revolution, incorporating basic oxides for slag formation. In 1950, the Linde Oxygen Separation process led to the popular LD steelmaking. With time steelmaking technologies evolved, giving rise to the Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) processes.
- Secondary Steelmaking Process: Last 50 years, secondary steelmaking has become integral to the production of sophisticated steel grades with varying steel prices. Ladles once used for deoxidation and minor alloying, now function as reactors for processes like degassing, desulfurization, and reheating. Secondary steelmaking is now a complementary method of primary steelmaking.
- Casting Process: Casting emerged in the 1960s as a significant development. This process allows the direct casting of liquid steel into billets resulting in improved efficiency and production processes. Nowadays 96% of the world uses the casting process.
Let’s have a look at the recent developments in the steel industry:
- India: India showed remarkable growth, with key milestones including establishing major steel plants such as Tata Steel and forming Hindustan Steel Ltd. (now SAIL).
India was the 2nd largest producer of crude steel with an output of 33.2 Million tons in January-March 2023, showing a yoy growth of 3.0%. The country accounted for 7.2% of the world’s crude steel production during the first quarter of the calendar year 2023.
- Worldwide: Mini Steel Plants (MSPs) and Integrated Steel Plants (ISPs) make up the global steel sector. China remained the leader in world crude steel production with an output of 261.6 Million tons in January-March 2023, registering a growth of 6.1% yoy.
Japan was the 3rd largest producer of crude steel with an output of 21.6 mt in the January-March 2023 period, down by 6.0% yoy.
How Stainless Steel Is Made?
Stainless steel i.e. ss steel, known for its durability and resistance to corrosion, is a vital material used in various applications. The process of stainless steel making is explained below step by step:
- Melting: Raw materials including iron, chromium, nickel, and other elements are placed in a furnace, typically an electric furnace, and heated to their melting point, which can take several hours.
- Decarburization: Removal of carbon from the material known as decarburisation. The amount of carbon removed determines the final grade of stainless steel, with lower carbon content leading to improved corrosion resistance and weldability that also lead to fluctuations in ss steel prices.
- Stirring & Tuning: In this process, molten metal is agitated and dispersed to remove the impurities. This fine-tuning ensures the final product meets specific requirements.
- Forming: The steel goes through many shaping operations as it cools. The initial process is hot rolling, which moulds the steel into rough shapes like billets or blooms. Cold rolling might come next for even more shaping and exact measurements.
- Cutting & Shaping: After heating the metal and allowing it to cool slowly i.e. annealing, the steel is cut and shaped to its final form. Different cutting and shaping techniques are used, such as mechanical shearing for large plates and CNC punch or laser cutting for complex designs, depending on the desired result.
- Surface Finishing: Many finishes can be used to provide the desired surface qualities and appearance. One of the popular methods for smoothing surfaces and eliminating contaminants is grinding.
- Quality Control: The Steel Industry analyzes each product by modelling different stress and environmental conditions using tools like Finite Element Analysis, this ensures the finest stainless steel (ss steel) before final manufacture.
Factors Impacting Steel Prices
There are many grades of ss steel, which is commonly used in heavy-duty applications and everyday goods. Location, taxes, and storage expenses are a few examples that might affect the steel price of different grades.
The country’s average GDP grew by about 26%, which is predicted to increase slowly until 2023 in India. The rise in the price of raw materials is due to these factors among many others such as the high demand for vehicles globally coupled with continued fighting between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, there has been a slowdown in India’s domestic demand.
India produced 45.39 million tons of crude steel and 43.01 million tons of finished steel as of FY24. In FY23, the amount of steel consumed per person was 86.7 kg. By 2030–31, it is expected that the yearly output of steel will surpass 300 million tons.
The development of steel technology reflects human innovation and efforts over the centuries. India is a global player in the steel market and steel price because of its rich history and expansion goals. As technology continues to advance, steel and its products like ss steel, and mild steel will remain a cornerstone of industrial development.