SMA’s 21st Century Steelmaker member companies represent a growing and dynamic segment of North America’s manufacturing base, and are among the most competitive steelmakers in the world. They utilize a raw material feedstock almost entirely composed of recycled ferrous scrap. This material is melted in electric arc furnaces (EAFs), generating world-class steel products and hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout North America’s economy.
The steelmaking process starts with ferrous scrap metal arriving by rail, truck or barge that is unloaded by overhead cranes. The “scrap” is loaded in a charge bucket and taken to a melt shop where it will go through a melting process.
Electric Arc Furnace
Melting begins when the scrap is unloaded from the charge bucket into an EAF. The EAF uses electric power to heat the scrap to over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and melt it into liquid form. In the process, slag forms floating to the top of the molten steel impurities being removed
Molten steel is transferred to the Ladle Furnace, where the steel is analyzed and adjusted to the chemical composition, temperature and characteristics for the desired grade of steel to be produced.
The molten steel is then transferred to a continuous caster. Here, the steel is poured into molds, cooled and shaped forming a long bar called a billet.
As the billets move through the continuous caster, they are cut by torches into desired lengths.
Finished billets are used for rolling mill feedstock or sold for use by other steelmakers.
The hot rolling process begins by reheating the previously created billets in a reheat furnace to make them more malleable.
Reheated billets exit the reheat furnace and go to the water cooled rolling mill which compresses and lengthens the billets in order to finish them into the desired product shape.
The formed product is transferred to the cooling bed where it is allowed to cool before it is cut and bundled for shipping.
The final bundled product is placed in warehouses and I prepared for shipping.
The EAF share of domestic production has continued to grow, from 10 percent in the 1960s to over sixty percent today. North America is unique among major steel producing regions in that regard, as almost three-quarters of steel worldwide is produced from iron ore and other virgin materials.
The recycling of steel scrap reduces the burden of disposal in landfill facilities and prevents the accumulation of otherwise abandoned steel products. It also plays an important role in the conservation of energy, as scrap-based steel production requires far less energy than other forms of production.
SMA’s members are committed to continuous technological improvement, as well as to an entrepreneurial spirit to deliver high-quality steel quickly and at competitive prices. They are characterized by lean, flexible operations. Decision-making is pushed down to the shop floor, and production employees have the authority to make decisions and obtain the resources necessary to improve operational procedures and efficiency.
EAF producers have also pioneered the usage of various forms of iron to upgrade the quality of steel products, positioning them for expansion into critical finished market applications. They have rapidly moved up the steel mill product value chain, with product lines that have expanded to include heavy and light structurals, rail, plate, sophisticated special-bar-quality products, as well as hot-rolled and cold-rolled sheet, wire rod, galvanized, and stainless sheet steel, used by the most demanding customers.
The drive to improve and innovate has played a crucial role in allowing SMA’s members to succeed despite extremely challenging global economic conditions. The SMA and its 21st Century Steelmaker member companies are poised for continued growth.