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Steel Applications

What is steel used for?

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Steel Applications

BHS steel was used to build the 2933m long Tokyo Gate Bridge.

Image: Tokyo Port Office, MLIT Kanto Regional Development Bureau. Courtesy Nippon Steel Corp.

Steel is both the most widely used and most recycled metal material on earth. From stainless and high temperature steels to flat carbon products, steel's various forms and alloys offer different properties to meet a wide range of applications. For these reasons, as well as the metal's combination of high strength and a relatively low production cost, steel is now used in countless products.

Steel applications can be divided into five sectors:

  1. Construction
  2. Transport
  3. Energy
  4. Packaging
  5. Appliances and Industry

1. Construction:

The majority of steel goes to the construction industry. Sustainable steel structures can be built quickly at a low price. Steel, in its various forms and alloys, can be designed to meet the requirements of unique projects, which allow it to be incorporated into infrastructure in all environments. Depending on the conditions that the structure is exposed to, steel can be alloyed or surface treated differently for protection.

The development of efficient steel production techniques at the end of the 20th century contributed to the growth of railways around the world as well as the advent of the high-rise building. Many famous historical structures, such as Empire State Building, contain steel as a primary construction material.

Steel can also be found in:

  • low and high-rise buildings
  • education and hospital buildings
  • sports stadiums, stations
  • reinforced concrete
  • bridge deck plates
  • piers and suspension cables
  • harbors
  • cladding and roofing
  • offices
  • tunnels
  • security fencing
  • coastal and flood defenses

2. Transport:

Engineering steels are wrought steels that are designed to have certain specific levels of elasticity, strength, ductility and corrosion resistance. They are used in the general engineering and manufacturing sectors, but the bulk goes to transport vehicles.

Steel accounts for over 50% the weight of an average car. Advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are used in vehicles; it is a lightweight material that requires less energy to produce and reduces CO2 emissions.

Different types of steel are used for the car body, doors, engine, gearbox, steering, suspension, wheel axles and interior.

Besides the automotive market, steel is found in transport materials such as:

  • trucks
  • transmissions
  • trains
  • rails
  • ships
  • anchor chains
  • aircraft undercarriages
  • jet engines components

3. Energy:

All segments of the energy sector, including nuclear, wind power, electric and natural gas, demand steel for infrastructure. Steel is also used for resource extraction, such as in offshore platforms, earth-moving and quarrying equipment, cranes and fork-lifts. Due to the demanding environments, carbon, micro-alloyed, high strength and stainless steels are all used in the production of offshore platforms and pipelines.

In addition to these, many other energy projects rely on large amounts of steel:

  • oil and gas wells and platforms
  • pipelines
  • electricity power turbine components
  • electricity pylons
  • wind turbines
  • transmission towers
  • electromagnets
  • transformer cores
  • electromagnetic shields

4. Packaging:

Steel packaging protects goods from water, air and light exposure, and is fully recyclable. This method of storage has been around for over 200 years.

Steel allows for high-speed filling and lightweight, easy to open packaging. Packaging steels are often made from low carbon cold-rolled steel strip and are surface finished. The steel is tin plated to prevent corrosion and then coated with polymer, lacquered and printed. The majority of steel packaging goes towards food and beverage container, followed by general line, aerosols, and closures (e.g. bottle caps).

5. Appliances and Industry:

About 75% of the weight of typical household appliances comes from steel. Steel is found in appliances like fridges, washing machines, ovens, microwaves, sinks, cutlery etc.

Steel also accounts of many industry goods like farm vehicles and machinery, storage tanks, tools, structures, walkways, protective equipment.

Sources:

The World Steel Association.
http://www.steeluniversity.org
The American Iron and Steel Institute. Steelworks: the Online Resource for Steel.
http://www.steel.org

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