Think of the smallest zipper on a pair of trousers, and then compare that to the tallest skyscraper in your city. What do both of these have in common? The answer? Steel. Steel is a part of just about everyone’s life, just about everywhere.
Steel makes up such a large portion of the modern world because of its durability, strength and low maintenance. And because of all these characterizing elements, it can be used for a broad range of applications. And the best part? Steel can be recycled too.
You may be surprised to discover that there are many different kinds of steel. In fact, there are more than 150 various forms of this industrial material. These include, but are not limited to, sheets of steel, steel bars, tubes, and plates. All are used for both industrial as well as domestic environments. In the industrial sector, you will find steel being used in the automotive, construction and many other industries.
What are the Most Common Uses of Steel?
Most stainless steel fabricators know that steel is such a versatile material, and can cater to every industry. There are many uses for steel, but these are the top 5 most common uses for this effective material:
1. Construction and Architecture
The first signs of steel being used as a material are from the art-deco period. This was when steel began to steal the show in construction. In a famous move, the Chrysler building constructed its upper part entirely from stainless steel.
The most sought after qualities in a construction material are strength, durability, and resistance. All of these qualities are characteristics of steel. Therefore, you will see steel being used in a variety of applications throughout modern-day construction and architecture. For buildings, steel makes an excellent material to use on the exterior. This is because it is resistant to corrosion and can form an excellent protective layer. When we move to the interior of a building, we see steel being used in a variety of places including door handles and door knows to hand railings and backsplashes.
Another characterizing aspect of steel is the fact that it is easy to work with. Steel can be welded with ease and can be finished to a clean and aesthetic pleasing model. Few materials offer such an attractive package. Easy to maintain, strong, durable, attractive and recyclable? It’s almost too good to be true.
Because of its attractive appearance, you will also see steel as a prominent material in the construction and architecture of many modern buildings, including iconic structures as the Eurostar Terminal (located in London’s famous Waterloo Station), Trade Centers and Singapore’s modern construction, the Helix Bridge.
Where is the world moving in terms of architecture? Sustainability. Not only is it a current trend, but sustainability is being recognized as more of a necessity. Therefore, we are seeing an increase in the usage of stainless steel, which, in many cases, is a 90% recycled material. For buildings that want to utilize natural light, stainless steel that has been given a grain finish or stainless steel that has been polished can assist in both bringing in and making the most of natural light.
2. The Transportation and Automotive Industries
In the 1930s, we see that stainless steel was introduced as a material in the automotive industry. Ford Motor Company broke the boundary and used this material for many of its concept cars, and started a trend that would become entrenched as a norm.
In the modern day of automotive and transportation, we are seeing more and more companies using stainless steel. Initially, it was used for trim, grills, and car exhausts. However, due to the need for more environmentally responsible and sustainable construction, more are using stainless steel in the structure of the actual motor vehicle itself.
Moving away from the car industry, we see that container ships, refuse vehicles and even road tankers make use of steel. Furthermore, steel is one of the safest and effective materials that can be used for the transportation of liquids, foods, and chemicals. What makes steel an even better option is the fact that it is so strong, and therefore thinner containers can be made. This, in turn, lowers the costs of transportation and, because it is highly resistant to corrosion, lowers the costs of maintenance as well.
3. Medical Industry
The most important factor to consider for the medical industry is cleanliness. Medical containers need to be sterilized and hygienic. Stainless steel is utilized in the medical industry because it can be sterilized simply and easily and because corrosion does not occur so easily. We also see the use of stainless steel as a material to construct dental equipment and other surgical equipment too:
- MRI scanners
- Kidney dishes
- Operating dishes
- Steam sterilizers
And many others.
It is such a versatile material that it is also used in the operating room as well, and not just in the instruments. Hip replacements use stainless steel to implant artificial hips. In the case of broken bones, pins and plates made from stainless steel are used.
4. Energy and Heavy Industries
The construction and automotive industries are not the only ones to use steel. The gas, oil, and chemical industries are also in need of steel. For these industries, there is often association with dangerous toxic substances and extremely high levels of heat. To provide a safe material for these industries, a particular grade of steel is used. These special steel grades are created and manufactured specifically for these industries, and to handle the toxic substances and extreme heat. Even though stainless steel is, by nature, highly resistant to corrosion, these special grades of steel have been specially manufactured to be even more resistant to corrosion due to the nature of materials they are working with. These high grades of stainless steel are a key component for many areas in the chemical, gas and oil industries:
- Used in the making of storage tanks
– Various other components for storage and transportation of dangerous and volatile substances
Another type of steel is the Super Duplex Steel. This grade of steel is manufactured to be especially strong and durable. Its characterizing strength is what makes this grade of steel unique and sought after for many industries requiring such strength. Super duplex steel can also be manufactured into large sheets, which in turn reduces the amount of welding needed, and maximizes the integrity of the structure. Another benefit of using this grade of steel is that it can reduce construction costs because of the following:
– Minimizes the requirement for structural support
– Minimizers the requirement for extra supporting foundations
Offshore oil rigs also make use of stainless steel, and is, in fact, an essential component of the process. Because of the highly corrosive nature of crude oil, high alloyed steel is necessary for the construction of modern oil rigs. High alloyed steel is both durable and lightweight.
In other modern industries, we see steel being used in the manufacture and construction of renewable energy technologies such as hydro, wind power, geothermal and solar. Again, the steel is used because it is highly resistant to corrosion which can result from exposure to the sea and aquatic situations.
5. Catering and Food Industries
Aside from the large-scale industries, stainless steel is also used in the food and catering industries. Just open your kitchen cupboards and take one look inside; you will see a variety of applications where stainless steel is being used. Your cookery, cutlery, and other kitchen utensils are made from stainless steel. Furthermore, even the accessories used to sharpen your knives are made from steel. Have you ever wondered how shapes such as pots and pans, grillers and saucepans are made? Well, a highly ductile type of steel is used.
Steel is so bountiful in your kitchen that you don’t even have to open your cupboards; your fridge is usually finished with stainless steel as well as your freezer, dishwasher, and even some countertops.
In the food production sector, we see how stainless steel is the perfect material. Stainless steel is the ideal material for the food production and the food storage sectors because of a variety of factors, one being the fact that it does not have any effect on the flavor, taste or smell of a food or food product. And, once again, the fact that steel is an anti-corrosive metal is perfect when used for orange juice and other acidic substances. Because it is so easily cleaned, stainless steel is also a hygienic material to be used. Furthermore, stainless can tolerate the use of strong antibacterial substances, the like of which are often used on applications that are used in the production of ice creams and other like products.
As you can see, steel is one of the most versatile materials of the modern world. From skyscrapers to your teaspoon, or from the handrail at your workplace to the fridge door that you reach for after a long day at the office, we see stainless steel is used throughout our daily lives.