MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What factors are considered in the steel industry?

Date: Sun Jan 17 20:43:43 1999
Posted By: Bob Novak, Other (pls. specify below), Sr Process Research Engineer, Carpenter Technology
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 915827019.Ch

Hi Chris, 

What is the goal you want to consider factors for?  Are you asking what 
resources are used to make steel?  In the specialty steel companies and at 
the mini-mills the raw material is scrap.  The method of transportation 
depends on the location and preferences of both the producer and the 
customer.  In the basic steel industry the energy of chemical reactions is 
used to reduce iron ore to iron.  Electric arc furnaces are used to melt 
and refine scrap.  Gas fired furnaces are commonly used for reheating and 
heat-treating.  Environmental issues effect decisions on maintaining, 
replacing or even adding new equipment and processes.   Environmental 
permitting can take months to years.  Economics is global rather than 
national.  Emerging countries often consider steel production key to 
building economic growth.  

The answer to the second question, What steps are taken from research to 
plant production, has almost as many answers as there are research 
projects.  The method of implementation depends on the type of project.  
Examples include the introduction of a new product or alloy, the 
development of a new process, or a modification or improvement to an 
existing process, improved methods for measuring and controlling a 
process.  The first step in introducing a new alloy is to market it to a 
customer.  This often involves sending sample quantities for the customer 
to evaluate.  When an alloy has special production requirements, the R&D 
department can assist in developing production methods.  The interaction 
between the customers, R&D and production sometimes leads to suggestions 
for improving the alloy and the process starts again.

New processes are usually developed in the laboratory.  It is difficult 
and costly to take existing equipment out of production for 
experimentation.  A pilot plant or small-scale production facility is 
often used during the transition from R&D to production.  Recommendations 
for the type of equipment needed and how it should be operated are passed 
on the production department.  

Modifications to an existing process are often done by experimenting with 
existing production equipment.  The potential gain in quality, reduced 
cost or shortened production time must exceed the cost of lost production 

New measurement and control systems can often be run at the same time as 
existing process controls.  The advantage is a direct comparison of the 
two methods and minimal impact on production output.

Research involves doing or developing something that no one else has done 
before.  Each project is by its very nature unique.  The key to successful 
implementation of a research project is the return on investment it 
provides to the corporation.  Projects which improve the profitability of 
a corporation are more likely to be implemented that the ones which are 
technically interesting.

Bob Novak
Specialist  Process R&D

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