How Alloy Steels came to serve the Engineer
The meeting will be followed by the Branch Annual General Meeting
World production of alloy steels increased rapidly from the 1890’s, reaching 3.85% of world steel production in 1920. This expansion resulted mainly from the mechanisation of warfare and the demands of the 1st World War. It was was based on foundations built in the 19th Century and these are explored in this lecture.
By 1800, many of the major alloying elements used in steelmaking had been identified and some were becoming available, through the work mainly of geologists and analytical chemists. Alliances of scientists, steelmakers and steel users began to look at their potential.
At this time the primary use of steel in industry was for the essential operation of cutting. Crucible steelmaking allowed production of a reliable high hardness carbon steel in small sections, albeit only of limited toughness and ductility and with poor tempering resistance. From 1820 onwards the work of people across many disciplines, including Faraday, Fischer, Sorby, R.F. Mushet, and Hadfield, provided new steels and understanding of the fundamental processes governing their treatment and behaviour.
With parallel developments in steelmaking technology allowing bulk production of alloy steels, larger high strength components could be made. They contributed to new industries requiring steels with specific properties such as resistance to wear, corrosion resistance and strength at elevated temperatures. These included electrotechnology, chemicals manufacture and the production of high performance internal combustion engines.