Steel is the most important industrial material of our time. Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion tons of crude steel was produced in 2017. Steel is characterized by a number of very favorable properties. For example, it is relatively inexpensive to produce, but above all, it has very favorable mechanical properties for industrial applications, high ductility combined with good tensile strength - i.e. resistance to breakage. This is why steel can be machined and processed so well, for example, in bending, turning, welding, painting, or powder coating processes.
Steel is also a material with an extremely wide range of properties - and this makes it the first choice for many applications. There are "soft" and very strong steels, steels with special properties for machining, steels with very good forming properties, and many others. Currently about 2,500 different steels are produced and used.
The various steel grades are divided into three main grades according to European standard EN 10020:
- Non-alloy steels
- Corrosion resistant steels
- Other alloyed steels and alloyed stainless steels.
Unalloyed steels (often also called carbon steel or C-steel) contain, in addition to their main component iron, mainly carbon and only small amounts of other alloying elements (such as chromium, nickel, manganese or silicon). Corrosion resistant steels are steels with a mass fraction of at least 10.5% chromium and at most 1.2% carbon. "Other alloyed steels and alloyed stainless steels" includes all other steels.
Steels are often named according to the areas of application for which they are particularly suitable. Examples are structural steels (which account for over half of global steel production), tempered steel (good suitability for tempering, a heat treatment for hardening), tool steel (for making tools, dies or molds), and many others.
Its favorable mechanical properties, relatively low-cost production, and variety makes steel - measured by the quantity used - the undisputed number 1 industrial material.
Steel is produced in two main production processes called "routes". The most important industrial process is the "blast furnace route". In this production process, iron ore, together with coking coal and other resources, is reduced to pig iron at up to 1,600°C in a blast furnace. The recovered molten iron is then cleaned in the steel mill by adding oxygen to remove unwanted accompanying elements. This is how crude steel is produced.
The "electric arc furnace route" is the second main production process for steel. Steel scrap is melted into "new" steel at up to 3,500°C in an electric arc furnace. This process has become increasingly important over the past four decades.
A number of projects are currently being tested worldwide with the aim of significantly improving the CO2 balance in steel production - for example by completely abandoning the use of coal and relying on hydrogen.
The liquid crude steel obtained via these two routes is usually cast into a mold (preformed) using casting plants. This semi-finished product is called slab. The other (preliminary) products are produced from the slabs in forming processes: Sheets, tubes, bar and shaped steel, wire, and ingots for forging processes.
After the production process in the steel mill, the steel products are either processed directly by users (e.g. the automotive industry) or distributed via steel service centers and trading companies, depending on the respective kind of use.
Steel is an omnipresent material in our modern lives - whether in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the road, at work or in our leisure time. Steel is the standard material in many industrial sectors, such as mechanical and plant engineering and the construction industry. Other important areas of application are automotive and energy sector. In many areas of application, steel is in competition with alternative materials such as aluminum, plastics or fiber composites.
Steel is an extremely versatile material. The approximately 2,500 different steel grades currently being produced have a very broad range of properties. In summary, the advantages of steel are:
- Comparatively inexpensive production
- High stability values together with good tensile ductility
- Easy to process
- Very large variety of types and dimensions
- A lot of machining and process know-how available
- 100 % recyclable as often as required
On our platform, we offer steel sheets and coils in many different designs: Thin sheets DX51D, DD11 and DC01 as well as S355MC steel plates, among others.