Steel Testing Services

Steel is a man-made alloy of iron and carbon that is many times harder and stronger than iron itself.  Steel is the most important and versatile engineering and construction material used in modern industries.  

Products made from steel are all around us.  Buildings, roads and bridges, cars and ships, railroad tracks, pipelines, appliances, bolts and nails, tools and surgical instruments and even jewelry can be made from steel.  There are over 3,500 different specialty grades of steel available today, depending upon the various alloying agents added during the steel making process.  The manufacture of steel on an industrial scale is not that old.  After the adoption of the Bessemer process in the mid to late 1800’s for steel production is when steel could be manufactured on an industrial scale.  Before steel, there was iron and iron has been smelted and shaped by humans for thousands of years.  

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The production of iron is the first step in making steel.  Iron is produced from the smelting of iron ore, limestone and metallurgical coke in a blast furnace.  The raw materials are heated to approximately 1800 °C to drive off the oxides and impurities to form two layers in the furnace – molten metal which goes to the bottom of the furnace and a layer slag (impurities) which rises to the top of the furnace.  The molten iron can be poured into molds to make pig iron or it can be loaded into special railcars and transported within the mill to a basic oxygen furnace (BOF) where oxygen is blown through molten alloy to further reduce the carbon content creating low-carbon steel.

The other primary method for producing iron in order to make steel is the use of the electric arc furnace (EAF).  EAF’s use electrical current conducted through large graphite electrodes to melt scrap and/or direct reduced iron (DRI) to produce the molten iron needed to make steel.

Regardless of the process, in order to make the various grades of steel, the carbon levels must be controlled and the appropriate alloys added to make the desired grade of steel.  After tapping from the primary steelmaking furnace, molten steel for high quality or specialty applications is subjected to further refining in a number of alternative processes collectively known as secondary steelmaking or more commonly as ladle metallurgy, as they are performed in large industrial ladles.  It is in this process that the various metal alloys are added to produce specialty steels.  For example, stainless steel will need the addition of ferrochrome and a source of molybdenum such as ferromolybdenum or molybdenum oxide to make the desired grade of stainless steel.

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The production of modern specialty steels is an exact science which demands the complete compositional control of the raw materials, fluxes, and various ferroalloys.  It was this exact control over material composition that our founder, Andrew S. McCreath pioneered in 1870 while working as a chemist for the Pennsylvania Steel Company and is still the backbone of our analytical work at McCreath Laboratories.  

Many of the integrated steel mills have closed their raw material testing departments and as a result have lost both the knowledge and equipment in order to verify the quality of the raw materials being used.  Since 1877, McCreath has maintained and perfected both the knowledge and equipment for the inspecting and testing of these critical raw materials. Contact or call our team to learn more.