Swedish Steel

Swedish Steel - More than 2000 years of development!

Swedish steel is renowned all over the world for its superior quality. The success story of Swedish steel may be attributed to two main factors: Early adoption and development of steelmaking technology as well as the unique geology of Swedish mining sites.

It is well-known that Swedish steelmaking firmly rests on many centuries of history, in some cases dating back to the age of Vikings. However, recent archeological findings show that not only steel,
but also axe heads and knife blades have been produced in Sweden in significant quantities and from local resources for much longer. These archeological findings have been dated by radiocarbon analysis to originate from 200-50 B.C., making them more than 2000 years old [1]. Adding on to this rich history, Europe’s oldest known blast furnace, a hallmark technology of large-scale iron- and steelmaking, is situated in Lapphyttan in Sweden and is dated to the end of the 12 th century [2].

Further down the path of history, Swedish steelmakers have adopted technological innovations and shown the necessary endurance to succeed. As an example, the world-first successful industrial adoption of the Bessemer steelmaking process by Göran Fredrik Göransson led to him being acknowledged as the founder of the Swedish steel industry [3]. His legacy lives on through the continuous operation of the company Sandvik AB, which he founded in 1862. The Swedish steel industry has historically ranked among the top four producers in the world in terms of produced tonnage of steel [2]. Sweden is still today a global player, accounting for 90% of the ore produced in Europe and currently occupying 11 th place with regards to globally produced volumes of iron ore [2]. In addition, Swedish iron ore is known for its very high content of iron, up to a staggering 70 % [2], and the steel made from it is subsequently known for its premium quality and very low level of impurities.

This shift from high-volume mass production of steel to smaller volumes and focus on premium quality and innovation is related to the total mining economy, where the ore type and its placement in the crust is of significant importance. Todays’ largest producers, Australia and Brazil, operate vast open pit mines, efficiently extracting 60 % (about 1.26 billion tonnes) of the globally produced iron ore, albeit with a comparatively low iron content [2]. In contrast, the worlds largest iron ore underground mine is located in Kiruna, Sweden. Its roads and pathways form a total length of 500 km, all underground, the annual ore production accounting for 0.9 % of the global total [2]. Innovative at heart, Swedish metallurgists took part in founding Falu Bergsskola already in 1819 [4], the embryo to what is today the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Researchers from this department pioneered the use of computer models during the 1980’s to significantly cut down on the necessary number of experiments, and thus a major part of the cost, during development of new steel alloys. The usefulness of this approach was unquestionably proven by the efforts in developing the highly successful Sandvik SAF 2507 super-duplex stainless steel, where the computer modeling already mentioned was one of two key factors in its development [5]. 

The computer models allowed for efficient and fast exploration of various alloy compositions and the associated production processes, making it possible to design the properties of a material, rather than relying on guess-work and extensive trial and error. This approach was and still is the foundation of most of the work performed in, e.g., The Materials Genome Initiative (https://www.mgi.gov/), first initiated by the former US president Barack Obama.

Today, Swedish steel is still world-renowned, owing its premium quality to centuries (if not millenia) of active development. Coming back to doctor blades, the steel grades that are a part of the products offered by PrimeBlade represent the current peak of this development, with tailored microstructures and properties, relying on the expertise and knowledge of countless past generations. 

PrimeBlade Sweden AB, located in Värmland, is ideally situated geographically. Close to Munkfors, where a steel mill has operated since the latter parts of the 17th century, and at the heart of the industry in the town Sunne, known as Sweden’s Graphic Valley [6]. PrimeBlade is also a proud market leader in innovative treatment of steel doctor blades for the flexible packaging industry with our unique Nano range of products. Thus, the story of Swedish steel and its development continues, also in Sunne and at PrimeBlade Sweden AB!

References

[1] C. Bennerhag, L. Grandin, E. Hjärtner-Holdar, O. Stilborg, K. Söderholm. (2021). Hunter- gatherer metallurgy in the Early Iron Age of Northern Fennoscandia. Antiquity, 95(384), 1511- 1526. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2020.248

[2] A. Hallberg, D. Larsson, L. Norlin, P. Åkerhammar, P. Westrin. Mineralmarknaden 2018 – Tema: Järn och stål. Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU). Periodiska publikationer 2019:1. ISSN 0283-2038. In Swedish.

[3] National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm. Article series on Swedish inventors. https://www.tekniskamuseet.se/en/learn-more/swedish-inventors/goran-fredrik- goransson-steel-industry/ – Accessed 2022-02-23

[4] Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. https://www.mse.kth.se/sv/b200/bergsskolans-historia – Accessed 2022-02-23

[5] Sandvik Materials Technology. A Short History on the Origin and Development of Stainless Steel. https://www.materials.sandvik/se/materialcenter/expert-columns/archive/2020/01/a- short-history-on-the-origin-and-development-of-stainless-steel/ – Accessed 2022-02-23

[6] Å. Rydin. Graphic Valley/Broby Grafiska: en studie av det grafiska innovationssystemet i Sunne. (2007) Centrum för forskning om regional utveckling, Karlstads universitet. http://www.intra.kau.se/dokument/upload/82F3188A1b96f27F9FGKFE569076/Graphic%20Valley.pdf

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