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What are the factors that contribute to the quality of steel? How does it affect costing?

Steel is a manufactured product and the quality depends on multiple factors. Steel is an alloy manufactured from iron ore and scrap metal. They are melted down together to form pig iron which is a raw unprocessed form of iron. Steel is used for a variety of commercial purposes. One of the most common uses of industrial steel is the manufacture of construction materials like TMT bars and fabrication steel. TMT bars are used widely for various types of construction work. Here are the top factors that affect the quality of steel

Carbon Content

The percentage of carbon in steel decides the grade. Steel which is high in carbon is brittle with low weldability and ductility. A higher percentage of carbon increases the hardness and strength of steel but makes it prone to fracturing. Steel with a low carbon percentage of 0.10 to 0.25% is therefore preferred for construction or structural work. 

Chemical Composition  

Industrial steel contains traces of many other minerals such as silicon, sulphur, phosphorus and manganese. The right concentration of these materials can affect the quality of steel by increasing hardness, corrosion resistance, and strength, ductility and weldability. The presence of these materials results in smaller grain size which in turn makes for stronger steel. 

Heat Treatment 

The process of cooling steel is an important factor that plays a big role in how the final product turns out. The different cooling rates at which steel is quenched, the heat treatment applied, the holding times and temperatures all affect the strength and quality of steel. Faster cooling results in the containment of carbon atoms in the solution resulting in brittle steel. Slow cooling produces steel which is high in strength and more ductile. 

Steel cost depends on various factors such as the cost of raw materials, shipping cost, market maturity, energy prices, demand and supply. Therefore all the factors that affect the quality of steel also add to the pricing. The availability and price of the raw materials are one of the primary factors. Iron ore and scrap metal are what goes into steel. The former is only obtained by mining activities and the latter by the reprocessing of old available material. Energy is required for melting down the raw materials and also for shipping. Fuel prices are therefore central in deciding the price of steel. Then there is the added price of labour, transit time etc. Market maturity is another important factor. Materials that have been selling for a long period have more stable pricing as there is long-standing data that buyers and sellers can compare before purchasing. Steel prices per kg are also affected by the demand and supply. If there is a higher demand but a low supply then there is an instant elevation in prices. Steel price per kg is therefore hard to determine as it’s dependent on an array of variable factors.

28 Jun, 2021

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