Steel, produced from Iron by reducing its carbon content to less than 1.6%. Historically, the availability of high-manganese spathic iron ore, charcoal and water power were the natural prerequisites for the production of excellent quality steel in Austria. When pig mould furnaces were introduced in the 16th century, special reduction processes had to be developed. Steel grades from Styrian and Carinthian fining ovens for tools, such as Scythes, knives, springs, wire etc. were highly esteemed throughout Europe, in the Levant and as far as India. One early method for refining steel from decarburising hearths consisted in packing several steel rods into bundles which were then forged to achieve a uniform grain. During the first half of the 19th century the crucible steel process was introduced from England. One of the leading 19th century experts in European steel metallurgy was P. von Tunner.
Industrialisation began in 1830/40 with the introduction of the puddling process, which allowed the use of Austrian sub-bituminous coal. The transition from wrought iron to ingot steel, and thus to rimming steel production was enabled by the Bessemer process, which was first introduced in Austria in the Turrach plant, Styria, in 1863. From 1870 onwards, yet another steel-making process was available: the Siemens-Martin (open-hearth) process. High-grade steel production is inseparably linked with the development of the electric steel furnace (first one in Austria operated at Judenburg, 1907). Special steels are given their specific properties by alloying. The most important developments in this field were stainless steel by M. Mauermann (1913) and high-speed steel by F. Reiser (1900).
As regards the production of rimming steel, the most important 20th-century development was initiated in Austria. After a number of trial runs, the first steel plants using the LD Process, or basic oxygen process, went into operation at Linz (VOEST) in 1952 and at Donawitz (Oesterreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft) in 1953. Major quality improvements in special and high-grade steel production were achieved by the Böhler-Werke at Kapfenberg with the introduction of large-scale ladle technology, the Electroslag Remelting process and the B.E.S.T. process for the treatment of cast ingots since the 1960s. The Corex-Process was developed in the late1980s. Due to the Nationalisation Act of July 26, 1946, the largest Austrian steel companies were for several decades part of the Nationalised Industry. The steel industry went through a major restructuring process in the 1990s in the wake of a number of privatisation measures. VOEST-ALPINE STAHL AG, VA Technologie AG.
Literature: L. v. Bogdandy and W. Krieger, Strukturwandel in der österreichischen Stahlindustrie 1974-1986, in: Berg- und hüttenmännische Monatshefte, 1987.
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