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Steel - Then and Now


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#1 Wuzak

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 02:53

I have a friend who claims that steelmakers cannot produce steels today with the strength, hardness, etc, of steels made 50-80 years ago.

He works for a restorer of Allison V-1710s, and both claim that the steel of the crankshaft is superior to what could be had today, and that the steel used in the crankshaft cannot be replicated today. He sites the loss of open hearth furnaces (in the US) as a reason why.

A second example he uses is the armour plate used in the Iowa class battleships - like the USS Missouri. But as far as I can tell that was made from a common grade of steel that is still common (in the US).

In both cases he emphasises the material's resistance to rust/corrosion as an example of their superiority. I've always thought that to be a byproduct of one or more of the alloying elements, rather than an indicator of strength.


So, can a steel of yesteryear be successfully recreated, given the composition? Are the older steels superior or is it just that lower grades are used in similar situations today on cost grounds?



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#2 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 06:07

From my metalurgist cousin. Modern steels and alloys are far stronger and durable than the old stuff of 50-80 years ago. Or even 20 years ago and at 60 he has seen a lot. Though was scared a little on his trip to China with intentions of spending a year thewre.
Saying that I am using 60 y/o axles in my classic speedway car that are near bullt proof but do still break and fatigue.And the aftermarket jobbers cannot make stronger ones from moly steels.

Personally I think what manufacturers use is the cheapest material that is acceptable. And remember most of this stuff is far lighter now than of yesteryear.

As for cranks most are 40% lighter and stronger now than in the past. I believe the Merlins used in the racing'historic' aircraft are modern billets, as are the rods, pistons, valves etc.So the old one were probably not stronger or better!!
During WW2 the volume of parts made would have been overengineered to blazes to compensate for the rush to which they were made.One can bet there is plenty of flaws in those components as it was rush rush rush to get planes in the air. On both sides of the pond

In cars 40 and 50s cranks often fail, modern ones seldom ever fail. And again they are a LOT lighter.

Talking to a repairer last night and he was saying less and less head shops around these days as they no longer have a stockpile of heads to weld from cracks or corrosion. Or even just to do valve jobs on.

#3 johnny yuma

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 06:37

Two things happened post WW2 affecting the production of steel which may have led to the perception steel is now inferior.One was the use of oxygen instead of plain old air to blast the steelmaking from the 1950s.One would not expect this would lead to inferior strength but anything's possible in this complex field I guess.

The other was atmospheric nuclear weapons testing which meant Low Background Steels could not be made free of radiation contamination as atmospheric dust would enter the process,so one source of low background steel became warships made before WW2 eg German ships scuttled in Scapa Flow, or American warships made before the Cold War weapons testing era.This bit of information could have been expanded into gossip about steel made in the good old days being stronger.

Edited by johnny yuma, 09 May 2012 - 06:40.


#4 Grumbles

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 09:33

In some ways the world of 50 years ago was a markedly better place - there were no such things as hip-hop, or facetube or Microsoft for a start. But I find it very very hard to believe that the steelmaking process has gone backwards. And if it has, how do you explain the fact that back in those days you'd need a valve job every couple of years while todays valves generally last the life of the car. Could the valvesprings of an NHRA ProStocker have been made 50 years ago?

#5 Wuzak

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:11

As for cranks most are 40% lighter and stronger now than in the past. I believe the Merlins used in the racing'historic' aircraft are modern billets, as are the rods, pistons, valves etc.So the old one were probably not stronger or better!!
During WW2 the volume of parts made would have been overengineered to blazes to compensate for the rush to which they were made.One can bet there is plenty of flaws in those components as it was rush rush rush to get planes in the air. On both sides of the pond


I believe the racing Merlins still use standard cranks - but they would use the postwar 600 series (civilian Merlin) cranks where possible. Actually they would probably start with a 600 series if they could - a lot of strengthened components in them.

The rods tended to be Allison G-series rods. Not sure if that still is the case.

One thing that has changed over the years is better understanding of loads and stresses, and far better simulation tools for optomising components. For example, in developing the 100 series Merlins Rolls-Royce put a Merlin 66 on the test bench tried to run it at max power for 100 hours (+18psi boost, 3000rpm ~1700-1800hp). When a component broke, they would check it out and strengthen it if it wasn't due to a defect. Bythe end of 1943 they achieved a non-stop test of 100 hours at max power (normally that was a 5 minute limit).

#6 Kelpiecross

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 11:35

From my metalurgist cousin. Modern steels and alloys are far stronger and durable than the old stuff of 50-80 years ago. Or even 20 years ago and at 60 he has seen a lot. Though was scared a little on his trip to China with intentions of spending a year thewre.
Saying that I am using 60 y/o axles in my classic speedway car that are near bullt proof but do still break and fatigue.And the aftermarket jobbers cannot make stronger ones from moly steels.

Personally I think what manufacturers use is the cheapest material that is acceptable. And remember most of this stuff is far lighter now than of yesteryear.

As for cranks most are 40% lighter and stronger now than in the past. I believe the Merlins used in the racing'historic' aircraft are modern billets, as are the rods, pistons, valves etc.So the old one were probably not stronger or better!!
During WW2 the volume of parts made would have been overengineered to blazes to compensate for the rush to which they were made.One can bet there is plenty of flaws in those components as it was rush rush rush to get planes in the air. On both sides of the pond

In cars 40 and 50s cranks often fail, modern ones seldom ever fail. And again they are a LOT lighter.

Talking to a repairer last night and he was saying less and less head shops around these days as they no longer have a stockpile of heads to weld from cracks or corrosion. Or even just to do valve jobs on.


I have to agree. I know from personal experience of working on old Minis or 50 to 60 year old Jags that you have to be very careful not to snap off head studs or bolts etc. in general. It seems that breaking a stud etc. on a modern car never (or very rarely) happens.




#7 mariner

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 14:57

I am not sure about the specific steel in Merlin aero engines . but I am not sure they were quite as robust as legend has it.

In his wonderful autobiography " It was Fun" Tony Rudd descibes his engineering training at Rolls Royce and his work in WW2 on Merlin engine reliablity. He helped improve matters a lot via analytical reporting. His data in 1943 on the 1,100 engnes per month coming for repair showed over 300 were defective , so 30% "failure" rate. Engines were classified as defective if they didn't meet the specified life.

"Bomber " Harrris, head UK bomber Command told R-R senior managers that Merlin failure rates were limiting his bombing capacity. Tony Rudd did an analysis and concluded " Bomber was more nearly right than R-R management" as some bombers had developed 9 engine failrues in 6 months.

Now any wartime reliabilty needs caution, aircrew could " fault" a plane to abort missions and many problems were poor fieid mainatianence related. R-R did also dramatically improve Merlin reliabilty whilst raising its power output a lot but it suggests that older materials etc were maybe not so perfect as even R-R couldn't build bullet proof equipment.

#8 Fat Boy

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 15:32

I have a friend who claims that steelmakers cannot produce steels today with the strength, hardness, etc, of steels made 50-80 years ago.


He is incorrect.

#9 desmo

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 17:01

One can easily track the modern development of steel through the production of high end bicycle tubing which has always been close to state of the art. Present day high end tubing is definitely somewhat better than the stuff used on racing bikes in the '30s and '40s although I wouldn't say the improvements are huge. Similar story with Al alloys, which are incrementally better than WWII era stuff but again probably not hugely. Of course that's essentially a subjective characterization.

#10 carlt

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 17:25

I believe the racing Merlins still use standard cranks - but they would use the postwar 600 series (civilian Merlin) cranks where possible. Actually they would probably start with a 600 series if they could - a lot of strengthened components in them.

The rods tended to be Allison G-series rods. Not sure if that still is the case.

One thing that has changed over the years is better understanding of loads and stresses, and far better simulation tools for optomising components. For example, in developing the 100 series Merlins Rolls-Royce put a Merlin 66 on the test bench tried to run it at max power for 100 hours (+18psi boost, 3000rpm ~1700-1800hp). When a component broke, they would check it out and strengthen it if it wasn't due to a defect. Bythe end of 1943 they achieved a non-stop test of 100 hours at max power (normally that was a 5 minute limit).


A friend of mine rebuilds Merlin engines for the Battle of Britain memorial Flight
They have to use Only components that have full time approval
this generally means No new type parts
they can't just 'bung in' a new billet crank
it needs thousands of hours of testing to get flight approval [air worthyness ?] for a new type/specification of component
the cost to do this means only components made to the original specification , and made by certificated companies are used, otherwise the engines can't be signed off

It is apparently not the case in USA - so as a consequence the Merlin engines they get that have been built in US are considered largely scrap


#11 Fat Boy

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 20:59

One can easily track the modern development of steel through the production of high end bicycle tubing which has always been close to state of the art.


I was thinking the same thing. As far as the upper end of something that a consumer can easily get their hands on, this is pretty much it.

#12 Greg Locock

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 21:59

I suspect that the reason is that the modern part maker is not prepared to pay, in real dollars, what the 1940s part makers were prepared to pay for steel.

I know that one overhyped issue is the increasing presence of metallic alloys in the basic steel stock, due to recycling.

#13 desmo

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 22:05

Where else in the consumer realm will people gladly pay over $100/lb. for simple steel shapes? Well there's the knifemakers. Most of the claims made in both areas are pure hype though. The real world functional differences between the most exotic, expensive steels in the world and common and ancient 4130 CrMo or 440C stainless are in most cases pretty minimal. Same with Al- again. The most exotic (non-Be) Al alloys are mechanically similar to cheap 6061 T6 which they make pedestrian bridges (and airplanes) out of. And has probably been around since your parents were born.

Use the old cheap stuff and make your sections a tiny bit thicker unless you have some very specialized requirements, are racing F1 or trying to put up an orbital payload with it. Or trying to justify boutique prices for lumps of common metals. In which case, polish it to a mirror gleam just to close the deal.

#14 Wuzak

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 09:36

I found the steel that was used for armour plate in US WW2 battleships, like the Missouri.

It is called Special Treatment Steel.

The composition, according to Wiki is 1.75-2% chromium, 3-3.5% nickel, and 0.35-0.4% carbon.

Anybody know of a similar steel composition today?

#15 Greg Locock

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 11:18

I found the steel that was used for armour plate in US WW2 battleships, like the Missouri.

It is called Special Treatment Steel.

The composition, according to Wiki is 1.75-2% chromium, 3-3.5% nickel, and 0.35-0.4% carbon.

Anybody know of a similar steel composition today?


and welcome to matweb

http://www.matweb.co...tionSearch.aspx

better than nookie with a nun, or so I've heard



#16 Magoo

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 11:28

I found the steel that was used for armour plate in US WW2 battleships, like the Missouri.

It is called Special Treatment Steel.

The composition, according to Wiki is 1.75-2% chromium, 3-3.5% nickel, and 0.35-0.4% carbon.

Anybody know of a similar steel composition today?


Aka deck plate, was known historically as Krupp steel. Rail track was a very common civilian application.

Steel alloys today are more specifically formulated. Hard to say how many nickel chromium alloys are commonly produced today -- dozens, hundreds?





#17 Wuzak

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 11:32

and welcome to matweb

http://www.matweb.co...tionSearch.aspx

better than nookie with a nun, or so I've heard


Thanks for that Greg.

ASTM A543 Steel, Grade B has the Nickel and Chromium required, but is lower in carbon.


Carbon, C <= 0.230 %
Chromium, Cr 1.50 - 2.0 %
Iron, Fe 92.3 - 95.1 % As Balance
Manganese, Mn <= 0.40 %
Molybdenum, Mo 0.45 - 0.60 %
Nickel, Ni 2.60 - 4.0 %
Phosphorous, P <= 0.020 %
Silicon, Si 0.20 - 0.40 %
Sulfur, S <= 0.020 %
Vanadium, V <= 0.030 %


#18 Wuzak

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 11:53

Found one

Latrobe Lescalloy® 35NCD16 VAC-ARC High Strength Alloy Steel


Carbon, C 0.40 %
Chromium, Cr 1.80 %

Iron, Fe 92.57 %
Manganese, Mn 0.45 %
Molybdenum, Mo 0.45 %
Nickel, Ni 4.0 %
Silicon, Si 0.30 %
Vanadium, V 0.030 %

#19 MatsNorway

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 16:36

So we are talking about Re: 1550N/mm`2

Anyone higher?

Leave Rmax out.. its not commonly a design parameter. Except for armor plates perhaps.

Edited by MatsNorway, 10 May 2012 - 16:39.


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#20 bigleagueslider

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 00:16

I have a friend who claims that steelmakers cannot produce steels today with the strength, hardness, etc, of steels made 50-80 years ago.

He works for a restorer of Allison V-1710s, and both claim that the steel of the crankshaft is superior to what could be had today, and that the steel used in the crankshaft cannot be replicated today. He sites the loss of open hearth furnaces (in the US) as a reason why.

A second example he uses is the armour plate used in the Iowa class battleships - like the USS Missouri. But as far as I can tell that was made from a common grade of steel that is still common (in the US).

In both cases he emphasises the material's resistance to rust/corrosion as an example of their superiority. I've always thought that to be a byproduct of one or more of the alloying elements, rather than an indicator of strength.


So, can a steel of yesteryear be successfully recreated, given the composition? Are the older steels superior or is it just that lower grades are used in similar situations today on cost grounds?


Wuzak,

Sounds like your friend is just a bitter old engineer. :evil: The principles of chemistry and metallurgy have not changed in the past 60 years. But what has changed are the analytical and design tools available to chemists and metallurgists. It's silly to think that any steel alloy produced 60 years ago could not be reproduced today if there was a need to do so.

The most impressive examples of how far metallurgy has come in the past 60 years are the high temp alloys used in turbine engines and the ultra-clean steels used for rolling element bearings. The metallurgists of the 1940's could only dream of such materials.

Regards,
slider


#21 Wuzak

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 01:37

Wuzak,

he principles of chemistry and metallurgy have not changed in the past 60 years. But what has changed are the analytical and design tools available to chemists and metallurgists. It's silly to think that any steel alloy produced 60 years ago could not be reproduced today if there was a need to do so.

The most impressive examples of how far metallurgy has come in the past 60 years are the high temp alloys used in turbine engines and the ultra-clean steels used for rolling element bearings. The metallurgists of the 1940's could only dream of such materials.

Regards,
slider



Slider, that's what I think too.

Trying to find an equivalent to the armour steel that he has sited as a superior steel. There doesn't seem to be a direct equivalent, and if you search for armour plate in matlab you get only a couple of steels, with a few aluminium and titanium alloys.

But, if someone came along and asked for enough of the same steel I'm sure any number of manufacturers could replicate it. So long as they had a composition to work to or a sample to analyse.



#22 bigleagueslider

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 03:42

Wuzak-

Here's a good reference for this class of steel plate:

http://www.cliftonst...rmor-plate.html

One primary requirement for these steels is ease of welding.

slider

ps. I've actually stood on the deck of the USS Missouri (it was covered in teak planking) and I've crawled inside the forward main gun turret and looked thru the 16" gun's optical sights. If I remember correctly, the turret looked more like it was cast rather than being made from welded plate. It had a rough, irregular exterior surface, and I was told it was something like 18" thick. If true, I can't imagine the turret being welded from plate.

#23 Wuzak

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 06:19

Interesting story about a "crack" in the Missouri's armour plate.

http://www.navweaps....ch/tech-037.htm


I've never been on the Missouri, but I did have a look around the Wisconsin in Norfolk, but that was basically only on deck (not allowed inside or up top).

And some infor about ww2 battleship armour plate

http://www.navweaps....prpsept2009.htm

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 14:33

You do hear some good stories...

A while back a member of another forum made a claim about poor quality steel in France in the sixties, saying that they were importing cheap Russian steel and that made car bodies more prone to rust etc.

He based this on a website that stated something along the lines that the percentage of iron in the ore extracted in French mines was quite low. Which doesn't make sense to me.

#25 bigleagueslider

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 02:56

Interesting story about a "crack" in the Missouri's armour plate.

http://www.navweaps....ch/tech-037.htm


I've never been on the Missouri, but I did have a look around the Wisconsin in Norfolk, but that was basically only on deck (not allowed inside or up top).

And some infor about ww2 battleship armour plate

http://www.navweaps....prpsept2009.htm


How about the early Soviet Alfa-class subs of the late 70's that had welded titanium hulls. After a couple deep dives the welds started cracking, and the first ones built had to be scrapped. The designers had to start over, creating new titanium alloys and welding processes to solve the problem.


#26 rory57

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 12:22

Don't these stories originate because the (for example) 1940's aircraft specification materials are simply no longer available?

They were originally specified in the light of the best possible practice in that industry at that time. Since there is no longer a significant commercial reason to produce these materials they and their production techniques have lapsed into history.
This is not at all the same as "nothing that good is made anymore"
Problems only arise because sometimes a part needs to be qualified for "legal reasons" as per the original but the processes and structures no longer exist to produce the part in the original way and to qualify it to the original standard.
Modern techniques and procedures could I am sure, produce something better in every engineering way when permitted.