Where and how are downstream steel products manufactured?
- Plate Mill
- Hot Strip Mill
- Billet Mill
The concept of upstream and downstream products stems from industries that require raw materials to manufacture their products. With that in mind, you’ll realize that technically, all of the businesses that buy-sell their own products have their own idea of what their upstream and downstream products are. When it comes to steel in the Philippines, the upstream products would be the base form of the many steel products that are out in the market. They are steel slabs, steel beam blanks, and steel blooms.
Finished products such as steel pipes, steel plates, and steel coils in the Philippines are created in different processes. In fact, there are 4 different types of steel mills that specialize in certain types of steelmaking. Each steel mill is capable of manufacturing at least 2 downstream steel products. Today, you will seldom see a particular mill alone. Most steel manufacturers keep the mills in one large area in order to maximize the steel making processes over all the manufactured products.
Keep in mind that the finished products of the upstream steel production process are now the raw materials for downstream steel production. The steel slabs are the most versatile, while both the steel beam blanks and the steel blooms are in line for more specific manufacturing. Without further ado, here are the production processes of downstream steel products based on which mill they are processed!
The Plate Mill
The creation of commercial steel plates happens in the factories of a plate mill. In this facility, steel slabs of the relatively same size, length, and condition are placed into a reheating furnace. These reheating furnaces can either be continuous or by batch. Once the steel slabs are reheated, they are placed into a machine that slowly flattens the otherwise rough and bulky steel slabs. Some mills make use of two kinds of machines, one is called the roughing mill which, contrary to its name, smoothens out the steel slab in order to make it easier to finish. The finishing mill then flattens and shapes the steel slab into the designated parameters.
After getting molded into the baseline of a steel plate, it is then inserted into a hot leveling machine. Leveling the steel plate is important to prevent problems in some machining processes such as cutting, profiling, pressing, and sheering. Once the steel plates are as levelled as possible, it then enters a controlled cooling machine in order to let the steel plate rest before undergoing a few processes in order to clean and normalize the whole steel plate. Once it passes all inspections, it will then get sheared into the approximate size and undergo final inspections before going out to the market!
The Hot Strip Mill
In essence, the hot strip has the exact same process of the plate mill. What makes them different is that the hot strip mill continuous to reheat and roll the steel slabs all the way until they’re at around 1/16 of an inch thin and roughly 800 meters long. It ultimately produces large steel coils composed of extremely thin but durable steel strips.
The process of hot strip mills focuses on the roughing mill. The steel slabs are pressed into the designated base condition, and then it goes through the roughing mill for a large number of turns. Once thin enough, the steel will be coiled for further processing. Afterward, it will be placed into a descaler in order to remove scales that would have probably reformed throughout the process. This is connected to both a strip cooling system and the finishing mill. The finishing mill then further reduces the thickness of the steel strip and the cycle repeats until the specified thickness is achieved. Once this is accomplished, the steel strips will then be coiled and shipped to the customers!
The Billet Mill
This mill is specialized in manufacturing round bars, deformed bars, wire rods, and square rods. It’s different from the former mills because they focus on simply flattening the steel slabs into the appropriate thickness. This, however, includes the use of blooms for the manufacturing of different steel bars. Steel blooms are often described as square steel slabs. They are then inputted onto a billet rolling thread which further shapes the steel into having a square cross-section or round cross-sections. Once ready, the steel billets go into either a wire rod rolling mill—which makes the billet into wire rods; or into bar rolling mills which produce round, deformed and square rods altogether. After the production, the products are put under further conditioning processes and heat treatments in order to improve their overall quality and form!
In actuality, there are many more than just these three steel mills. Just like how there’s a wide variety of steel products, there are also a number of other steel mills with different processes that are used to form other steel products!
Downstream steel products are composed of commercialized steel that are out in the market for the public, particularly contractors to see and buy. These undergo a lot of procedures—particularly processes in which shapes the very essence of that steel product. The production of steel in the Philippines is not something to underestimate. It takes hard work and precise calculations in order to get what the customer wants. Take time to appreciate the many processes that many steel bars, plates, and coils in the Philippines.