Timeline of steel

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This is a timeline of steel, attempting to describe historic events related to the discovery, science and industrial development of the alloy.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
< 100 AD Steel has been produced on a small scale for thousands of years. Roman, Iberian and Chinese civilizations make early use of steel to construct weapons. However, these ancient civilisations had yet to master methods of producing steel and so its uses are limited and subject to very long production times.[1]
17th century Iron's properties become well understood, but increasing urbanization in Europe demands a more versatile structural metal.[2] Blister steel, one of the earliest forms of steel, begin production in Germany and England and is produced by increasing the carbon content in molten pig iron using a process known as cementation.[2]
18th century The Industrial Revolution leads to an increased demand for wrought iron, which is the only material available in sufficient quantity that could be used for carrying loads in tension. About the beginning of the century, coke produced from coal begins to replace charcoal as the fuel for the blast furnace; as a result, cast iron becomes cheaper and even more widely used as an engineering material.[3] By the late century, ironmakers learn how to transform cast pig iron into a low-carbon content wrought iron using puddling furnaces.[2]
19th century The growth of railroads in both Europe and America puts great pressure on the iron industry, which still struggles with inefficient production processes.[2] The amount of iron being consumed by expanding railroads provides metallurgists with the financial incentive to find a solution to iron's brittleness and inefficient production processes. The history of the steel industry in the modern times is initiated during the 1850s, with the development by Henry Bessemer of an effective way to use oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron.[4] In the late century, capitalists invest and make fortunes in the steel industry.[2] Britain produces about 30 million tons of steel each year by the end of the century.[5]
20th century Blister steel continues to be made on a small scale.[3] Since the 1950s in particular, flat-rolled stainless steel materials are used wherever high dependability, functionality and hygiene are required.[6] The cost efficiencies of oxygen steelmaking makes open-hearth factories uncompetitive and, following the advent of oxygen steelmaking in the 1960s, open-hearth operations begin closing.[2] After the 1980s, China grows strongly enough and becomes the largest producer of steel.[4]
21th century Today, the majority of global steel production —about 66%, is produced in basic oxygen facilities.[2] China is by far the largest producer of steel.

Visual data

Annual crude steel production, in millions of tons.

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Present day country/region
4000 BC First evidence of use of iron.[7]
2000 BC Production Iron production begins in Anatolia. The earliest known steel is about 4,000 years old and was excavated in Turkey.[1] Turkey
10th century BC Consumption Iron working is introduced to Greece in the late 10th century BC.[8] Greece
6th century BC Facility Blast furnaces are developed in China.[2] China
6th century BC Technology Wootz steel is developed in India. Craftsmen in the southern part of the country use crucibles to smelt wrought iron with charcoal to produce ‘wootz’ steel.[9][10][11] India
500 BC Technology The technology of iron making reaches the western limits of Europe.[3] Europe
400 BC Technology The technology of iron making reaches China.[3] China
300 BC Technology Wootz steel making technique develops in India and Sri Lanka. The technique spreads across the Arabian peninsula.[7] India, Sri Lanka
300 BC – 1700 AD Technology Era of the legendary Damascus Steel.[1] Near East
206 BC – 25 AD Technology The Chinese during the Han dynasty can already produce heat-treated steel.[3] China
2nd century BC Production Early examples of high-quality steel are produced in China.[12] China
402 AD Product The Iron Pillar of Delhi is erected at around that time. It is the oldest surviving example of rust-resistant steel.[12] India
1100 – 1300 Technology Wootz steel comes to the attention of Europeans in the form of Damascus swords, which are extremely strong, shatter-ressistant and can be sharpened to a fine blade.[7]
12th century Production By the 12th century, Sri Lanka is the world’s largest supplier of crucible steel.[12] Sri Lanka
1336 – 1573 Product During the Muromachi period, Japan exports a large number of swords to Ming dynasty China.[13] Japan, China
1400 Product Cutlery made of steel begins to appear in Britain.[7] United Kingdom
1702 Coke is first used to smelt iron ore on a mass scale, replacing wood and charcoal which start becoming increasingly scarce.[12]
1712 Product English inventor Thomas Newcomen builds the first commercially successful steam engine.[12] United Kingdom
1751 Production Crucible steel is produced. English manufacturer Benjamin Huntsman develops techniques for production of high quality steel, when he establishes a steelworks at Sheffield, England, where the steel is made by melting blister steel in clay crucibles at a temperature of 1,500° to 1,600° C (2,700° to 2,900° F), using coke as a fuel.[3][7] United Kingdom
1783 Product English ironmaster Henry Cort invents the steel roller for steel production.[12] United Kingdom
1784 Technology English ironmaster Henry Cort develops puddling furnaces, which would be used by ironmakers to transform cast pig iron into a low-carbon content wrought iron.[14][15][2] United Kingdom
1794 Technology Welsh inventor and ironmaster Phillip Vaughan patents the design for the ballbearing to support the axle of a carriage.[12] United Kingdom
1810 Organization German steel manufacturer Friedrich Krupp establishes the Krupp AG company.[16][17][18] Germany
1821 Scientific development French engineer Pierre Berthier publishes the results of his studies into chromium alloys and ferro-chromium.[7] France
1856 Technology English inventor Henry Bessemer develops an effective way to use oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron. The Bessemer converter (so called because it converts iron into steel) blows air through molten pig iron, which removes its carbon, making it more malleable. The interaction of oxygen and carbon generates a heat which increases the temperature of molten iron, allowing steelmakers to avoid using additional fuel. The process developed by Bessemer becomes a major breakthrough, giving birth to the modern steel industry.[2][19][20] United Kingdom
1860 Production There are 3,400 puddling furnaces in Britain producing a total of 1.6 million tons of wrought iron per year, about half the world’s production.[3] United Kingdom
1860 Production Crucible steel starts being produced in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using a charge of wrought iron and pig iron.[3] United States
1860s Technology German engineer Karl Wilhelm Siemens further enhances steel production through his creation of the open hearth process, which produces steel from pig iron in large shallow furnaces.[2]
1860s Following the American Civil War, the United States' steel production grows with astonishing speed, led by Scottish-American industrialist, Andrew Carnegie.[12] United States
1867 Production The world production of steel is estimated at 22,000 tons during the year.[21]
1867 – 1884 Prices for steel rail drop more than 80% in that period, as a result of the new steel producing techniques, initiating growth of the world steel industry.[2]
1868 Technology British metallurgist Robert Forester Mushet invents tungsten steel.[12]
1872 Technology Englishmen John T. Woods and John Clark file for patent of an acid and weather resistant iron alloy containing 30-35% chromium and 2% tungsten, effectively the first ever patent on what would now be considered a stainless steel.[22][7][23] United Kingdom
1875 Scientific development Henri Aimé Brustlein from France details the importance of low carbon content in successfully making stainless steel. Brustlein points out that in order to create an alloy with a high percentage of chromium, the carbon content must remain below around 0.15%.[22] France
1876 Technology English inventor Sidney Gilchrist Thomas develops a solution to the phosphorus content (a deleterious impurity that makes steel brittle) by adding a chemically basic flux—limestone—to the Bessemer process. The limestone would draw phosphorus from the pig iron into the slag, allowing the unwanted element to be removed.[2][24][25][13] United Kingdom
1883 Product The Brooklyn Bridge –the first steel suspension bridge, is innaugurated in New York City.[12][26][27] United States
1885 Product The Home Insurance Building –the first steel skyscraper, is completed in Chicago.[12] United States
1888 Technology The Open Hearth process of steel production (which makes the industries to produce steel out of domestic iron ores) is first adopted by the steel industries in United States.[4] United States
1891 Organization German steel producer Thyssen is founded.[28][29][30] Germany
1895 Facility A small crucible steel works is started in Tokyo.[3] Japan
1895 Technology German chemist Hans Goldschmidt develops the aluminothermic reduction process for producing carbon-free chromium, thus prompting a major boost in the development of stainless steels.[22]
c.1900 Production Japanese state-run Yawata Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., outfitted with German engineering, begins the production of steel on a large scale, with Japan starting to import more iron, ore, and coke to feed the growth.[13] Japan
1901 Organization Carnegie's US Steel Corporation is founded. It would be the first corporation ever launched valued at over one billion dollars.[2] United States
1901 Organization Sumitomo Steel Works is established in Osaka, Japan.[31] Japan
1901 Organization Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau is established.[32][33] Brazil
1901 Organization Thw United States Steel Corporation is founded.[34][35][36] United States
1904 Scientific development French metallurgist Léon Guillet undertakes extensive research on many iron-chromium alloys.[22]
1907 Technology The first commercial electric arc furnace (EAF) is established in the United States. Today, almost all stainless steel is produced using the EAF method.[7] United States
1907 Organization Tata Steel is established in India.[37][38][39] India
1908 Scientific development Frederik Becket of the Electro Metallurgical Company at Niagara Falls, New York develops a low-carbon ferrochromium produced by reducing the chromium oxide with silicon instead of aluminum.[40] Over 80% of the world's ferro chrome today is utilized in the production of stainless steel.[41] United States
1909 Scientific development Metallurgist W. Giesen publishes an in-depth work regarding chromium-nickel steels.[22]
1909 Scientific development French engineer Albert Marcel Portevin and W. Giesen publish information on stainless steels that are roughly equivalent to modern austenitic, martensitic, and ferritic stainless steels.[7]
1909 – 1912 Scientific development Eduard Maurer and Benno Strauss at Krupp laboratories develop high-chromium nickel steels.[40] Germany
1911 Germans P. Monnartz and W. Borchers discover the correlation between chromium content and corrosion resistance, stating that there is a significant boost in corrosion resistance when at least 10.5% chromium was present. The pair also publishes detailed works on the effects of molybdenum on corrosion resistance.[22][42]
1911 Scientific development American metallurgist Elwood Haynes experiments with high-chromium steels to determine the effect of chromium on corrosion resistance, hardness, elasticity, and cutting qualities. In the same year, Christian Dantsizen of General Electric Research Laboratory also begins experimenting with high-chromium steels for possible commercial development.[40] United States
1912 Scientific development English metallurgist Harry Brearley, working in the Brown-Firth research laboratory in Sheffield, England, discovers a martensitic stainless steel while attempting to develop an erosion-resistant alloy for military applications.[43] In 1913 Brearley melts the first commercial chromium steel as a stainless steel for cutlery blades.[40] Harry Brearley is credited with the invention of stainless steel.[12] United Kingdom
1912 Scientific development Max Mauermann of Poland creates an early stainless steel.[22]
1913 Scientific development English researcher Harry Brearley creates a steel with 12.8% chromium and 0.24% carbon, argued to be the first ever stainless steel.[22] United Kingdom
1914 Scientific development Ludlum Steel Co. metallurgist P.A.E. Armstrong discovers chromium-silicon steels, when a small electric furnace is accidentally contaminated due to some silicon reduced from the asbestos cover on the electrode.[40] United States
1917 Scientific development Charles Morris Johnson of the Crucible Steel Company, begins investigating chromium-nickel-silicon steels, which are later patented under the name Rezistal.[40] United States
1919 Technoology American metallurgist Elwood Haynes obtains a patent on martensitic stainless steel.[7] United States
1919 Organization Chinese steelmaker Shougang Corporation is founded.[44][45] China
1919 – 1923 Product Cutlers in Sheffield, England start regular production of stainless steel cutlery, surgical scalpels and tools. Early stainless tableware such as dishes and bowls also start to appear at this time.[7] United Kingdom
1922 Brand The NIROSTA (from the German nichtrostendender Stahl – non-rusting steel) brand of stainless steel, is registered in Germany.[6] Germany
1926 Technology A stainless steel having 18% chromium and 8% nickel is introduced into surgical implant applications.[7]
1929 Technology Luxembourgish metallurgist William Justin Kroll discovers precipitation-hardening stainless steel.[7]
1930 Technology Avesta Ironworks from Sweden produces duplex stainless steel for the first time, with he microstructure of the alloy consisting of both ferrite and austenite.[7] Sweden
1930 Technology The Chrysler building is completed in New York City. It is the first to feature stainless steel roof cladding, which still shines like on its first day.[6] United States
1931 Organization Novolipetsk Steel is founded in Russia.[46][47][48] Russia
1931 Product The Pioneer, built by Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia, is the world's first stainless steel aircraft.[7]
1935 Technology Sinks made of 18-8 stainless steel begin to be installed in new houses, instead of porcelain-enamelled cast iron sinks.[7]
1940 Organization American steelmaker Nucor is established.[49][50][51] United States
1948 Organization Chinese state-owned steelmaker Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation is established.[52][53] China
1950 Technology Basic oxygen steelmaking (BOS) is introduced, limiting impurities and even processing old scrap metal into steel, lowering wastage and increasing efficiency. The BOS process would make the Bessemer Process and other steelmaking processes that developed alongside obsolete. These days, BOS accounts for the majority of steelmaking processes in the industrialized world.[1]
1950 Organization Nippon Steel is established in Japan.[54] Japan
1951 Technology The last heat producing blister steel takes place at Newcastle upon Tyne, England.[3] United Kingdom
1953 Organization Hyundai Steel is established as Korea's first steelmaker.[55][56][57][58] South Korea
1956 Technology Wilkinson Sword in England introduces the first stainless steel razor blades.[7][59][60] United Kingdom
1958 Technology Stainless steel is adopted in Japan for railway carriages.[7] Japan
1967 Organization The World Steel Association is founded in Brussels.[61][62][63] Belgium
1967 Organization The British Steel Corporation is established as the merger of the 14 largest domestic producers of steel in Britain.[64][65][66] United Kingdom
1968 Technology The first commercial argon-oxygen decarburization (AOD) process vessel for refining stainless steels is placed in operation at the Fort Wayne, Indiana plant of Joslyn Manufacturing and Supply Company.[67] United States
1968 Organization South Korean steelmaker POSCO is founded.[68] South Korea
1960s Technology A method to separate oxygen from nitrogen on an industrial scale is developed in the decade. This would allow for major advances in the development of basic oxygen furnaces.[2]
1970s Production Nippon Steel Corporation reaches its peak, producing 47 million tons of steel per year, and passing the United States Steel Corporation as the world's largest steelmaker.[13] Japan
1970 – 2010 Consumption Global annual demand for stainless steel increases tenfold from three to 30 million tons in that period.[6]
1975 Organization Steelmaker Jiangsu Shagang Group is incorporated in China.[69][70][71][72] China
1977 Consumption Per-capita steel consumption in the United States peaks. From then, it would fall by half before staging a modest recovery to levels well below the peak.[73] United States
1987 Production Nippon Steel, The largest commercial steelmaking enterprise, is responsible for producing 26 million tons in the year.[3] Japan
1989 Technology Ferritic stainless steel is first used as a large scale roofing material.[7]
1992 Technology The last open-hearth furnace in the United States closes.[2] United States
1999 Organization Steel producer ThyssenKrupp is incorporated as the result of the merger of Thyssen AG and Krupp.[74][75][76] Germany
2001 Technology The last open-hearth furnace in China closes.[2] China
2006 Organization ArcelorMittal is created through the merger of Arcelor and Mittal Steel.[77] Luxembourg
2006 Production China becomes the biggest stainless steel producer in the world.[7] China
2008 Organization Hesteel Group is founded in China.[68][78][79] China
2008 Organization Shandong Iron and Steel Company Ltd. is incorporated in China.[80][81][82] China
2012 Organization Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation is created by the merger of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal.[54] Japan
2016 Organization China Baowu Steel Group is created by the merger of Shanghai-based Baosteel Group and Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation.[83][84][85] China

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See also

External links


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