Editorial – May 2023
The special steels sector is really special in the big umbrella of iron & steel industry. As we know, the iron and steel industry comprises of many sub-sectors like mining, sponge iron making, melting. rolling, etc. based on the process and also likes of special steels, stainless steels, high speed steels which are based on composition and applications.
More than 75% steel produced in the country belongs to mild steel category and is mostly used in infrastructure and construction sector. With only carbon as the alloying element and absence of other alloying elements like chromium, manganese, silicon, boron etc. the metallurgy of these steels is comparitively simple. Also as they are mostly used in infra and construction where strength is the most important parameter, requirement of specific mechanical properties is also not very stringent. This is not the case with special steels. There are thousands and thousands of grades and specifications which produce different metallurgical and mechanical properties. This in turn makes special steels useful in variety of applications, right from automobile gear parts, flanges to the springs used in railways. Alloy addition is done during the melting and is the most delicate as well as important part in special steel making. Any error in this process will alter the chemistry and whole heat may become off grade. This will naturally result in huge commercial losses as in many cases such off grade heat has to be recycled and re melted. Thus a chief metallurgist of a special steel plant plays a very crucial and decisive role in running of the plant in a viable way, something similar to a specialty food restaurant.
Conventionally around 50% of special steels were used in automobile industry and the remaining in various industries like power, infra, engineering, etc. Now in last few years, due to a great forward leap by Indian automobile sector, their share in the total special steels production has increased to around 65% Also the new sector which has emerged as a big consumer of special steels in Defense. As you know, now a days, a lot of emphasis is being given to indiginization of defense equipment. Further India has also started exporting defense equipment. All this has given a big boost to special steels sector and today defense consumes around 25% of special steels in the country.
Thus with consumer industries like automobile and defense progressing well, the future of special steels in the country looks secured and bright!