The steel wire rod is a product with great versatility that offers a wide range in steel and alloys.
From ancient ships that sailed into the ocean, to the most modern spaceships that have reached millions of miles away from Earth, almost all devices, furniture, and objects require screws, staples, or fastening nails in their constructions.
However, even when we talk about historically and omnipresent pieces, few people know their source product: the steel wire.
Javier Avilés, sales manager of industrial steel wire in Ternium Mexico, considers the steel wire as a product with a wide range in steels and alloys, with low and high carbon content, and it can be mixed with other elements like boron, chrome, aluminum, and vanadium, which add different characteristics to the final product.
Steel wire is made by different added carbon levels, depending on the intended industry, that is why we have the following classification:
- High carbon
- Medium carbon
- Low carbon
What is the origin of the steel wire?
As with other presentations of steel, the origin of the steel wire is the combination of scrap, iron sponge, and alloying elements, which are melted and converted into a squared bar known as “steel billet” with a specific chemistry.
The steel billet is fed into a reheating furnace and when it is at the right temperature, the “bright red plastic mass” goes through a continuous hot rolling process to obtain diameters from 5.5 millimeters to 26 millimeters, and it results in a 2.5 tons steel wire rod.
After this process, our clients create wires by cold rolling the rod, meaning, the steel wire is cleaned by removing a small crust that is formed in the exterior. Then, it is straightened again, and it goes through a die that has two holes in each end, with a conic-like shape, so the diameter of the material is reduced, with the help of lubricants.
Each time that the steel wire is stretched, it hardens, and in some cases, it needs a heat treatment, so it can recover its malleability and it can continue being stretched.
This is a complex process, because it can take several steps to stretch the steel wire in order for it to have a density as fine as human hair, without compromising its resistance and functionality.
Once it has the right diameter, it is processed as required. In the case of screws, it is cut in small pieces that receive a series of hits in order to form the head. The thread is formed by a rolling process. Finally, the piece receives a quenching heat treatment, so it is harder, and in some cases, it can be galvanized for more corrosion resistance.
The fabrication process of steel wire is so specialized due the personalization of processes according to the intended industry, and it has a great versatility because it has a variety of applications for the automotive, miner, and construction industries.