Industry Articles From Kaempf and Harris

20 Facts About Steel That You Probably Didn't Know


Steel is a low-carbon alloy that’s typically made of iron, tin, and carbon. With its ability to withstand corrosion (thanks to the inorganic compound chromium oxide), heat, and pressure, it’s one of the most popular metals in fabrication shops.

Download the Introduction to Sheet Metal Fabrication

So, why do we like steel in our fab shop? Check out a few of our fast facts:

Recyclability & Renewable Energy

  1. Almost 69 percent of steel is recycled in North America each year, which is more than paper, aluminum, plastic, and glass combined.
  2. More than 80 million tons of steel are recycled in North America every year.
  3. Steel is roughly 1,000 times stronger than iron in its purest form, and it can be recycled without loss of strength.
  4. Steel is the main material used in delivering renewable energy like solar, hydro, and wind power.
  5. Since World War II, the North American steel industry has reduced its energy use by 60 percent, which has contributed to a significant reduction in carbon dioxide generation.

Global Involvement

  1. In developing countries, steel companies are the most involved trade with the provision of healthcare services and community-wide education.
  2. The steel industry has an estimated $900 billion turnover, making it the second largest industry in the world after oil and gas.
  3. Steel is used in almost every industry, including energy, construction and housing (the largest consumer of steel), automotive and transportation, infrastructure, packing, and machinery.
  4. The United States is the third leading producer of steel behind Japan and China.
  5. The steel industry directly employs more than 2 million people worldwide -- and it’s growing.

Steel Projects

  1. Steel roofs last more than 50 years while traditional roofs last about 17 years.
  2. 75 percent of all major appliances are comprised of steel.
  3. The average computer is about 25 percent steel.
  4. Steel was first used for skyscrapers in 1884 with the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. Modern steel buildings, like The Empire State Building (1930) in New York and U.S. Steel Tower (1971) in Pittsburgh, are designed to easily assemble and disassemble.
  5. Because steel and iron expand when heated, the Eiffel Tower (1887), is about 6 inches taller in the summer than the winter.
  6. The first steel-made automobile was produced in 1918. Since then, steel seatbelts are required due to their consistent ability to withstand high-impact crashes.
  7. Steel bridges are four to eight times lighter than those built from concrete. The Golden Gate Bridge (1937) required 83,000 tons of steel whereas half of that amount would be required today.
  8. Two-thirds of all canned goods' packaging are made out of steel.
  9. More than 600 steels cans are recycled every second in the United States.
  10. Recycling a single steel can saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for almost 4 years.

Steel is undoubtedly the best metal for sheet metal fabrication shops. Among the many reasons to mass-produce steel, it’s easy to recycle, strong, and globally prosperous.

For more fast facts about tools, techniques, and local apprenticeship opportunities from Kaempf & Harris, subscribe to our monthly newsletter:

Subscribe to the Kaempf and Harris Blog

This blog was written with help from the World Steel Association; the American Iron and Steel Institute; Capital Steel & Wire, Inc.; and AIM Steel International.

Topics: Metals, Sheet Metal Fabrication

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent News

Download K&H's Metal Fabrication Techniques Cheat Sheet

Download K&H's Metal Fabrication Techniques Cheat Sheet

Download Kaempf & Harris' Metal Fabrication Techniques Cheat Sheet to learn about each metal fabrication technique.

Download the Cheat Sheet