The Industrial Revolution brought in a major transformation in not only our manufacturing processes but our society as well. The revolution began in Britain between 1760 and 1840 and then spread to Europe and the rest of the world.
This revolution brought on two key changes, the raw materials such as iron and steel, and the energy sources, obtained from fossil fuels like coal and oil. It turned out to be a global transition of the human economy towards a stable manufacturing process. We clearly relied on coal to a great extent.
Coal was created when massive trees from the Carboniferous epoch (345–280 million years ago) collapsed and were submerged in water, preventing the decomposition of the wood by oxygen and bacteria. Instead, the weight of the materials above them compacted them into ignitable rock that is black, carbonaceous, and dense.
This discovery led us to go from an unimaginable machineless world to a world we live in. This revolution acted as a catalyst to get us to where we are today. It also opened the job market wide open.
1 First Industrial Revolution
The first Industrial Revolution brought the ideas of special-purpose machinery, factories, and mass production to the forefront.
With the development of new materials like steel and new energy sources like steam, many new technologies were invented during this time. Before the revolution, people would make everything themselves at home.
2 Second Industrial Revolution
The revolution that occurred roughly between 1870 and 1914 allowed steel to be a popular material that suddenly became inexpensive.
Bessemer steel was utilized to construct railroads and ships by 1870. Given that it could support bigger and quicker engines and carriages, railways found it to be particularly helpful.
The development of mechanization during the period led to factories being more productive. The cost of resources was falling, machinery output was rising, and improved ship and rail transport enabled greater international trade. The economy was growing.
A durable material that was effortful to manufacture and played a major role in the Industrial Revolution was steel. Of course, we have developed materials that are more durable since the revolution but it is important to understand that steel’s durability was relied upon greatly back then.
Steel was manufactured in batch mode till around 1854. After that, a process known as Bessemer gained popularity. This process began in England before going over to the rest of the world.
The Bessemer principle involves the process of oxidation to remove impurities in molten iron. This was achieved by blowing hot air through the molten iron. It was the first low-cost industrial method of mass-producing steel from molten pig iron, and it came before the open-hearth furnace was created.
4 Steel through the years
The production of steel goes back to 4,000 years ago, to the very beginning of the Iron Age. The discovery of the iron ores aided the production of a metal that seemed better than bronze, the metal that was used before Iron.
Cast iron (2.5 to 4.5% carbon) is created when iron starts to absorb carbon at extremely high temperatures, lowering the melting point of the metal.
Pig iron is molten iron run out of the blast furnaces and cooled in the main channel and adjoining molds. The large, central, and adjoining smaller ingots resembled a sow and suckling piglets.
Cast iron is strong but suffers from brittleness due to its carbon content, making it less than ideal for working and shaping. Considering its weakness, more methods of production were experimented with to obtain a new material.
Ironworkers discovered how to use puddling furnaces to convert cast pig iron into wrought iron with a low carbon content by the late 18th century. The furnaces heated the molten iron, which the puddlers had to stir with long, oar-shaped implements, allowing oxygen to mix with and gradually eliminate carbon.
Iron has a higher melting point with higher carbon contents, thus as the carbon concentration lowers, more iron would condense in the furnace. The puddler would take these masses out and work them with a forge hammer before rolling them into sheets or rails.
The manufacturing of blister steel, one of the first types of steel, started in the 17th century in Germany and England and used cementation, a method of raising the carbon content of molten pig iron.
Wrought iron bars were heated while being stacked with charcoal powder in stone boxes as part of the cementation process.
The iron would begin to absorb the charcoal’s carbon after approximately a week. Blister steel was the end product after repeated heating that more uniformly distributed the carbon. Because it had more carbon than pig iron, blister steel was considerably easier to work with and could be pressed or rolled.
Blister steel manufacture evolved in the 1740s when English clockmaker Benjamin Huntsman discovered that the metal could be melted in clay crucibles and refined using a particular flux to remove slag that the cementation process had left behind.
Huntsman was aiming to create high-quality steel for his clock springs at the time. A steel crucible, or cast, was the result. Both blister and cast steel, however, were only ever employed in specialized applications due to the high expense of manufacture.
Cast iron produced in puddling furnaces therefore continued to be the dominant structural metal in industrialising Britain for the majority of the 19th century.
5 Bessemer principle and forward
In order to heat iron while allowing oxygen to be blasted through the molten metal, Bessemer created a pear-shaped container, or “converter,” which is today known as the Bessemer Process.
A purer iron would be created as the molten metal was passed through by oxygen, which would react with the carbon to release carbon dioxide. This method proved to be too efficient since it got rid of too much carbon leaving it with too much oxygen.
Around the same period, the British metallurgist Robert Mushet obtained and started experimenting with spiegeleisen, a mixture of iron, carbon, and manganese.
If the correct amounts of carbon were added to the spiegeleisen, manganese, which was known to remove oxygen from molten iron, would provide Bessemer’s difficulties a solution.
5.1 Open Hearth Process
The procedure made use of heated brick chambers beneath the fire to burn out extra carbon and other impurities at high temperatures. Later, regenerative furnaces kept the brick chambers below at a high temperature using the exhaust gases from the furnace.
Although the process itself was much slower, by 1900, the open-hearth process had primarily replaced the Bessemer process.
Carnegie’s US Steel Corporation, founded in 1901, was the first corporation ever launched and valued at over one billion dollars.
5.2 Electric Arc Furnace
In order to produce exothermic oxidation and temperatures as high as 3272°F (1800°C), Paul Heroult’s electric arc furnace (EAF) was built to send an electric current through charged material.
EAFs were first utilized for the production of specialized steels, but as they gained popularity, they were being utilized to create steel alloys by World War II.
5.3 Oxygen Steel Making
Basic oxygen furnaces are faster at charging than open-hearth processes because they can blast oxygen into enormous amounts of molten iron and scrap steel.
Large vessels can complete the conversion to steel in less than an hour and can carry up to 350 metric tonnes of iron.
5.4 Electric Steel Making
Small electric-arc furnaces that could melt a tonne of steel were invented around 1900. These took the place of crucible steelmaking and were principally employed to create tool steels. The capacity of the furnace had grown to 30 tonnes by 1920.
Three graphite electrodes were supplied through the ceiling and connected to a three-phase, 7.5 megavolt-ampere electrical supply.
Arcs formed between the electrodes and the charge in the hearth. By 1950, electric power had grown to 20 megavolt-amperes and furnace capacity to 50 tonnes.
Britain built its first steel-based railways in the 1860s. The US was initially opened up thanks to this innovation that made its way there.
During the Industrial Revolution, when farming grew more automated, a large portion of the equipment—including the combine harvester, developed in 1865—was made of steel.
The first steel-reinforced skyscraper, a ten-story structure, debuted in Chicago in 1883, and the Brooklyn Bridge, a steel-wire suspension bridge, debuted in New York the same year.
During the decades between the 1950s and 1960s, the variety of steel-made household appliances greatly expanded, and customers raced to acquire them.
A new age for steel is being created by producers today. Through collaboration on innovative production technology, they hope to save costs and boost productivity.
Additionally, 100% of steel may be recycled without losing quality. In recent years, it has risen to the top spot among materials that are recycled globally.
7 Secondary Steel
The continuation of refining the ladle after the steel had been tapped from the furnace was a significant advance following World War II due to the requirement for enhanced characteristics in steel.
The first innovations, produced between 1950 and 1960, were blowing an argon stream into the liquid in the ladle to agitate it.
7.1 Micro-alloyed Steel
The creation of more easily weldable steel compositions for plates and sections was a significant advance soon following World War II.
The term “micro-alloyed steel” was first used in 1962 to describe mild-steel compositions that contained 0.01 to 0.05 percent niobium. Vanadium-containing steels of a similar design were also made.
7.2 Stainless Steel
A notable development immediately after World War II was the development of steel compositions for plates and sections that were easier to weld.
Mild steel compositions containing 0.01 to 0.05 percent niobium were the first to be referred to as “micro-alloyed steel” in 1962. Similar-looking steels containing vanadium were also produced.
In order to address the demands of the chemical industry for high strength coupled with corrosion resistance and wear resistance, duplex stainless steel was created in the 1950s.
These alloys are composed of 25% chromium, 5% nickel, 3% copper, and 2% molybdenum, and have a microstructure that is roughly split between ferrite and austenite.
Undoubtedly, though, the biggest breakthrough in steel history came in 1856 when Henry Bessemer developed an effective way to use oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron: The modern steel industry was born.
Other than Bessemer, we have Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist who single-handedly expanded the steel industry just because he saw potential.
Through his partnerships and investments, Carnegie acquired a controlling stake in a number of different companies. He had a stake in Keystone, a number of ironworks that supplied Keystone, sleeper cars used in the railroad, an oil firm, and a steel-rolling plant.
Carnegie consolidated his holdings through vertical integration because he believed that iron would serve as the foundation for connecting all of his enterprises.
The majority of people lived in tiny, rural settlements before the Industrial Revolution, where farming was their primary occupation. The typical person’s life was harsh; they had little earnings, and diseases and malnutrition were widespread.
People made their own tools, food, clothes, and furniture to sustain themselves without the help of machines.
New manufacturing techniques were used as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The emergence of the industrial system, new chemical and iron production, machine tools, steam and water power, and urbanization all aided in the process.
Precision ironworking is now feasible because of the development of machine tools. Enhanced railroads, rivers, and roads were among the other modifications.
Moving raw materials and finished goods might be done faster and cheaply than ever before. With better mobility, ideas, and information may go with people to new locations. The process of globalization began at this time.
For the first time ever, both the population and the per capita income increased in the same time period. The life expectancy of youngsters has significantly increased. Famines, war, and sicknesses have decreased dramatically, which has resulted in a sharp fall in the death rate.
The Industrial Revolution, one of the times of greatest changes in history, was primarily fueled by the manufacturing of steel. Industry, globalization, and urbanization were all aided by steel.
The majority of the labor force prior to this era consisted of landowners, tenants, or farmworkers. Workers started migrating away from working on farms and into urban areas as industries grew.
Instead of a noble elite, the Industrial Revolution also gave rise to a middle class of professionals, including physicians, attorneys, and business people.