The Metal Industry Around the World

Metal has, for thousands of years, been an essential material for the construction of tools, weapons, and more. In fact, a number of neolithic periods were named after the common metals used at the time, such as the Iron Age, Copper Age, and Bronze Age. Iron and steel are particularly useful, and ever since the Middle Ages, forges have created steel for many different uses. At the time, steel was often used for the armor and swords of knights, and in Japan, steel was used for the katanas of samurai warriors. By the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution was well underway, and steel, aluminum, and more were produced and used on a massive, unprecedented scale. Pioneers such as the Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie led by example, producing vast amounts of steel for making buildings, cars, and more. Stainless steel, thin aluminum strips, thin metal sheets, and combined metals and more were and still are produced. These thin aluminum strips might be useful for smaller construction or hobby projects, and a person’s local hardware store might have thin aluminum strips available. And it’s not just thin aluminum strips; alloys are out there too, engineered composite metals for specialized work.

Making The Metal

A vast amount of bars, strips, thin steel sheets and rolls, and more are made every single year for industrial use. The United States, Canada, Germany, and China are known for producing a lot of steel in particular, and trading it across the globe along with copper and brass and others. The United States is an especially generous producer and importer of steel in particular, getting a lot of its imported steel from China and Canada in particular. The United States is Canada’s single biggest trading partner, and that includes exported Canadian steel, too. Naturally, this leads to a large industry, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that the metal fabrication industry will probably grow 9% from 2016 to 2026. Predictions also say that this industry may add 12,000 jobs or so in that same time period. And around the world, the industry is also seeing growth, and it’s expanding at an average of 4.09% from around 2018 to 2022 according to estimates.

This supports plenty of work in the United States, and as of 2016, some 138,900 sheet metal workers were employed and this metal makes up $30 billion in American revenue. Purchased metal often takes the form of either aluminum bars, tubes, sheets, or plates, or hot or cold rolled steel. In foundries, molten steel will have its impurities removed, and this molten metal can be forged into any shape desired. In forged, alloys may be made from two or more metals for specialized work. Some alloys are highly resistant to heat or cold, while others can endure constant exposure to salt water or extremes of pressure. What is more, metal is rigorously recycled, and many old steel items such as cars, shipping containers, and even the metal roofs found on houses can and often are recycled for later use. Steel enjoys a recycle rate close to 90%, more than other materials such as paper, plastic, glass, or wood.

Making the Metal

There’s more than one way to make metal, and a finished product may take one of several different forms by the time the producer is ready to ship it all to wholesale buyers such as car plants or construction companies. Rolls of steel may be either hot or cold rolled. Hot rolled steel is made faster and for a lower price, and involves moving steel sheets through rollers in a highly heated environment. This produces a product slightly irregular in dimensions and measurements, but that’s acceptable in industries such as railroad tracks where ultra-precise dimensions aren’t needed.

By contrast, cold rolled steel is produced at room temperature, being cold in contrast to hot rolled steel. In this case, steel rolls will have very precise measurements and dimensions, and such steel is used for industries where that’s an important factor. Cold rolled steel has a glossy finish that’s durable, and this is attractive to buyers. Shippers will have to take extra caution when delivering it, though, to ensure that cold rolled steel is not compromised during transit to its buyers. Hot rolled steel doesn’t typically have this problem.

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