How Induction Furnaces Melt Steel

Metal has long stood as a major material for construction throughout history. Anything from battle armor and swords to tools were made from metal in times past, and today, swords and helmets are traded for cars, skyscrapers, home appliances, and more. But metal is not ready for use straight out of the ground. Rather, many different alloys are made from metal such as steel, copper, nickel, aluminum, and more for specialized use. Meanwhile, an induction furnace will be central to any modern foundry for melting steel to become usable items. Induction melting is an efficient and low-risk way to handle steel. What is more, similar forges such as a copper melting furnace foundry or a gold melting furnace may be found across the United States, too. In any proper foundry, an induction furnace must be kept in good shape to properly melt steel down, and induction furnace inspections and repairs may sometimes be needed to keep a foundry running smoothly. How big is today’s steel industry, and how does an induction furnace fit into all this?

Steel Today

Steel has existed since the Middle Ages, and knights’ armor and swords were often made from this metal. But steel as we know it today was first mass produced during the Industrial Revolution, such as with Andrew Carnegie’s steel factories in the late 19th century. Today, American steel has grown into an enormous industry, and steel is used for the automotive industry, making appliances, buildings, and much more. The United States produces, imports, and uses a lot of steel every year, giving it a place among the world’s leaders of steel. China and Canada are two major exporters of steel to the United States. About 17% of all steel imports coming into the country comes from Canada, and a lot comes from China as well. Canada makes big business exporting its steel to its southern neighbor; Oxford Economics has determined that nearly 88% of Canada’s exported steel went to the United States in 2016, for example.

Overall, the United States is the world’s single largest importer of steel, and this metal can be prepped, melted, and used in all sorts of ways. In 2017, for a recent example, the United States imported an impressive $27 billion worth of this metal. The United States’ uses of steel often reflects steel use around the world. Close to 50% of the world’s steel is used for construction, for example, and another 13% of it is dedicated to the automotive industry. The United States, Japan, and Germany are some of the giants of the automotive industry, so those nations have a lot of need to produce and import this metal. How can this preparation be done?

An Induction Furnace

The days of blacksmith forges are over. Today, foundries are large facilities that can melt and refine steel on a large scale, and this is commonly done with an induction furnace. Such furnaces use tough electrodes and heating elements to effect induction melting on metal, such as steel. This is clean and energy-efficient work, and can be used on large loads of steel at a time. What is more, no arc or combustion is used on the steel being melted, so the metal is not heated any more than it needs to be. This can help preserve alloying elements in the metal. No external fuel source is used for this heating, so there is no risk of contaminating the metal.

Melted steel can also be used for forging alloys if so desired. An alloy is a composite of two or more metals, and alloys are designed and produced with specific jobs and work environments in mind. Steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, nickel, and more rank among the most popular metals for this work, and the exact ingredient metals and ratios will vary. Some alloys may have under 1% of its contents made from a certain metal, but in some cases, this is all that is needed. Some metals can endure very high temperatures, and can be used for metal bellows, for example. Other alloys can resist chemical or salt corrosion, making them ideal for use as underwater pipes in the ocean or as pipes or valves in a chemical plant. The wrong metals may degrade quickly in such settings.

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