Bessemer Day 2016

Materials World magazine
1 Dec 2016

The Bessemer Lecture was hosted in the steel-producing area of South Wales this year, as Ellis Davies reports.

Bessemer Day, the annual event held by IOM3 and the Iron and Steel Society, took place on 13 October at the new Bay Campus at Swansea University, UK, in collaboration with the South Wales Materials Association (SWMA). The day consisted of a Master Class during the day, the Bessemer Lecture and the Iron and Steel Society awards, including the presentation of the Bessemer Gold Medal by IOM3 President Mike Hicks, and the Bessemer/SWMA dinner. 

The highlight of the event was the Bessemer Lecture, delivered by the winner of the Bessemer Gold Medal, or Bessemer Laureate. This year’s winner, Professor Alan Cramb, President of the Illinois Institute of Technology, USA, began his venture into the steel industry at Ardrossan High School, Scotland, after the rector told him that his plan to study psychology at university was ‘absolutely ridiculous.’ From there, he studied metallurgy at Strathclyde University, UK, which at the time had a focus on steelmaking, and afterward continued his studies in the USA, where he has lived since. Cramb has worked in the American steel industry and embraced continuous casting since its early days. He became an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, USA, and travelled the world teaching steel technology at steel plants. 

In keeping with Sir Henry Bessemer’s dedication to technological development, Cramb presented the lecture, Steel Processing Technology: Potential Futures. Starting with a brief history of his career, Cramb then delved into steel’s past. Searching for the oldest example of steel, he came to the conclusion that this would have to come from outside the planet, in the form of an iron nickel meteorite. He continued with examples dating back more than 5,000 years, including an iron bead and later a dagger taken from the tomb of Tutankhamun. 

The lecture continued with further examples of early iron and steel making, including the move to liquid metal production, the beginning of cast iron and, finally, Bessemer’s method for making steel quickly, with the Bessemer converter in 1856. Looking forward, Cramb posed the question – what is the future for steel processing? 

First, he proposed options for change. The ability to produce liquid cast iron in volumes smaller than 500,000 tonnes per year, carbonless low-temperature methods of reducing iron oxide to form controlled size distribution iron powder and the ability to form steel products by 3D laser sintering from oxide powders were among the possible changes Cramb mentioned. 

He also covered disruptive issues to the global steel industry, with alumina reduction by carbon to form liquid aluminium, development of composite material with comparable properties to steel with lower density at a similar price, car fuel economy regulations, greater CO2 penalties and low-cost electric power featured. 

Cramb posited three future projections for the steel industry. In the USA, 65% of steel tonnage comes from scrap metal. ‘The USA is the only country that has more recycled production than it has integrated production, and that has to be the future for everyone because, as you look at the cycle time for steel, you have a lot of scrap that must come back,’ Cramb said, pointing to China as an example of a country that is going to see an enormous amount of scrap metal from the automotive industry in the future. The first of these centred on increasing worldwide steel recycling using electric furnace steelmaking. 

The possibility of using steel plants as a waste recycler was also broached, using waste material such as plastics, paper and wood as fuel, as well as hazardous materials such as biohazards, food and organic waste, broken down when exposed to high temperatures. Steel plants used in this way could be a source of direct power, a material recycling option and a concentrator of volatile waste. 

For his second prediction, Cramb presented a decline in integrated steelmaking by limiting primary production to specific geographic locations. ‘Europe? Australia? The USA? I think it’s hard to see that you would ever build a new integrated production facility there at all, because of China,’ he speculated, suggesting that facilities are more likely to be built in India and Africa. Many ore processing countries could decide to roll in these new locations, with micro-mills enabling smaller production quantities. 

Finally, an increased interest in additive manufacturing (AM) could lead to time-efficient means of producing a prototype from a concept, as well as creating the opportunity to make low-volume products without a large initial investment. This would need to be supported by increased interest in in-situ alloy development using metal powders and mixtures. Cramb also speculated that casting extremely thin ultra-low carbon strips could be a platform for solid-phase alloying. 

In summary, Cramb billed steel as a global product, noting that its future would rely on a mixture of primary production, recycling, forming and rolling closer to the customer and increased manufacture from powders using AM, claiming, ‘This is the time for innovators, this is the time for another Bessemer.’

The Bessemer Lecture concluded with a vote of thanks from Richard B Davies, Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University.

Thanks are due to our sponsors - Harsco Metals and Minerals, Primetals Technologies and Tata Steel – and to Swansea University for generously hosting the Bessemer Master Class and Lecture.

Winners of the Iron and Steel Society awards:

The Hadfield Medal and Prize
John Beeley MSc CEng FIMMM, Outokumpu

The Dowding Medal and Prize
Professor Pierre Montmitonnet, Paristech

Stokowiec Medal and Prize
Andy Backhouse CEng FIMMM, Outokumpu

The Colclough Medal and Prize
Adam Bannister CEng, MIMMM,
Tata Steel

The Thomas Medal and Prize
Dr David Anderson, Tata Steel/British Steel

Adrian Normanton Medal
Dr Julian Steer, Cardiff University

Frank Fitzgerald Medal and Travel Award
Dr David Penney, Swansea University

The full list can be found at