crucible process


crucible process

Technique for producing cast or tool steel. It was invented in Britain c. 1740 by Benjamin Huntsman, who heated small pieces of carbon steel in a closed fireclay crucible placed in a coke fire. This was the first process used in Europe in which the temperature (2,900°F, or 1,600°C) was high enough to melt the steel, producing a homogeneous metal of uniform composition. After 1870 the Siemens regenerative gas furnace replaced the coke-fired furnace. Capable of producing even higher temperatures, the Siemens furnace had a number of combustion holes, each holding several crucibles, and heated as many as 100 crucibles at a time. All high-quality tool steel and high-speed steel was long made by the crucible process. In the 20th century the electric furnace has replaced it in countries with inexpensive electric power. See also wootz.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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