The steel industry has a very colourful and not always very comprehensible vocabulary. Here is a handy primer to some of the strangest words you might hear in your next meeting.
Annealing: A heat treatment process in which steel products are reheated to soften them and/or make them more suitable for forming and bending.
Bar: A finished steel product, produced in two major types, merchant and special.
Basic Oxygen Process (BOP): Sometimes referred to as Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS). It is the most widely used method of steelmaking. Pure oxygen is blown into a bath of pig iron and scrap to make refined steel. Replaced open hearth steelmaking.
Billet: A semi-finished steel product with a square cross section up to 155mm x 155mm which is transformed by rolling to obtain finished products like wire rod, merchant bars and other sections.
Blank: Steel sheet of high dimensional precision, used principally for automobile body parts.
Blast furnace: A furnace used in integrated steelmaking in which coke and iron ore react together under a hot air flow to form liquid hot metal, also called pig iron.
Bloom: The range of semi-finished products bigger than 155mm x 155mm.
Coal: The primary fuel used by integrated iron and steel producers.
Carbon steel: A type of steel made up mostly of carbon with minimal traces of other elements.
Coated steel: Steel is coated by a heat process or through electrolysis with a layer of substance, such as zinc, that protects the metal base against corrosion.
Coil: A finished steel product such as sheet or strip which has been wound or coiled after rolling.
Coke: A form of carbonised coal burned in blast furnaces. Coke is produced in a coke oven. Undersized coke particles are called coke breeze.
Cold rolling mill: Equipment that reduces the thickness of flat steel products by rolling the metal between alloy steel cylinders. Cold means the steel is rolled at a temperature below the metal’s softening temperature.
Continuous casting: A process for solidifying steel in the form of a continuous strand rather than individual ingots. Molten steel is poured into open-bottomed, water-cooled moulds. As the molten steel passes through the mould, the outer shell solidifies.
Crude steel: Steel in the first solid state after melting, suitable for further processing or for sale. Synonymous to raw steel.
Direct reduction: A family of processes for making iron from ore without exceeding the melting temperature. No blast furnace is needed. Also called cold reduction. Sponge iron or Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) is produced by this process.
Electric Arc Furnace (EAF): A furnace for scrap-based steelmaking. Once the furnace is charged and covered, graphite electrodes are lowered through holes in the roof. The electric arc between the electrodes and the metal generates intense heat, which melts the scrap.
Flat products: Plate, sheet and strip products produced by rolling. The two major flat steel product categories are thin flat products (1-10mm thick) and plates (10-200mm thick).
Galvanised steel: Produced when hot or cold rolled sheet or strip is coated with zinc either by the hot-dipping or electrolytic deposition process.
Hot rolling mill: Equipment on which solidified steel is preheated to a high temperature and continuously rolled between two rotating cylinders.
Ladle metallurgy: The process whereby conditions (temperature, pressure and chemistry) are controlled within the ladle of the steelmaking furnace to improve productivity and the quality of the final product.
Long products: Rolled from billets. Used mainly in construction and engineering industries.
Minimill: A small non-integrated or semi-integrated steel plant, generally based on electric arc furnace steelmaking. Minimills produce rods, bars, small structural shapes and flat rolled products.
Open-hearth: A process for making steel from molten iron and scrap. The open-hearth process has been replaced by the basic oxygen process in most modern facilities.
Plate: A flat rolled product from slabs or ingots of greater thickness than sheet or strip.
Pig iron: High carbon steel made by the reduction of iron ore in a blast furnace.
Refining stand: A stage in the process of making crude steel, during which the crude steel is further refined (i.e. most residual impurities are removed). Other metals may be made before it is cast.
Sheet: A flat rolled product over 12 inches (4.7cm) in width and of less thickness than plate.
Sintering: A process in which iron ore is crushed, homogenised and mixed with limestone flux and coke breeze and then cooked (“sintered”) to form sinter which is the main ferrous component of blast furnaces.
Slab: A semi-finished steel product obtained either by rolling ingots on a rolling mill or through a continuous caster and cut into various lengths. The slab has a rectangular cross section and is used as a starting material in the production process of flat products.
Slag: Impurities produced during the melting process of blast furnace and steelmaking operations. Flux is added to coagulate slag, which can then be skimmed off.
Strip: Flat steel coil products, with widths of less than 600mm for hot rolled products and less than 500mm for cold rolled products. The wider flat products are called wide strips.
Structural shapes: Rolled flange sections, sections welded from plates, and special sections with at least one dimension of their cross-section three inches (1.2cm) or greater. Included are angles, beams, channels, tees and zeds.
Thin strip continuous casting: Casting technology that takes liquid steel and casts it into solid strip in one step, thereby eliminating the need for a continuous slab caster and hot strip mill.
Tin coated: Cold rolled sheet, strip or plate steel coated with tin or chromium.
Wire: Drawn and/or Rolled: The broad range of products produced by cold reducing hot rolled steel through a die, series of dies, or through rolls to improve surface finish, dimensional accuracy and physical properties.