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If you live in a Midwestern city, you’ve probably seen a flatbed truck driving down the road carrying a single coil of rolled steel.
While steel mills are not as common in places like Gary, Indiana, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as they once were, the Midwest still has a significant amount of steel production, much of which is steel coils that are used in the railroad, auto, and construction industries.
Hot Rolled Steel vs Cold Rolled Steel
Rolled steel coils are long, flat sheets of steel that are rolled up into a coil for simpler transport. These steel coils are used in stamping plants, such as those that make auto body parts, industrial steel sheeting, and other popular steel products.
There are two processes used to make steel coils: Hot rolled steel and cold rolled steel.
As the name implies, hot rolled steel is heated to a temperature of more than 1,700 degrees F then poured into a mold and allowed to cool. Typically, hot rolled steel can be identified by its blue-gray finish and its rough texture. Hot rolled steel tends to be cheaper and more malleable than cold rolled steel, making it ideal for things like I-beams, railroad tracks, and sheet metal.
Cold Rolled Steel
Cold rolled steel is made at room temperature, which increases the strength of the finished steel sheets by as much as 20 percent.
To make cold rolled steel, hot rolled steel has its rust removed by “pickling” it in a weak acid solution. The steel is then washed, brushed, dried, oiled and unrolled, then passed through a reducing mill under high pressure. Cold rolled steel tends to have a gray finish and is smoother to the touch than hot rolled steel.
While cold rolled steel is more expensive to produce than hot rolled steel, its biggest benefit of cold rolled steel is that it can be made into very precise sizes.
One thing that both types hot and cold rolled steel have in common is that they are very heavy. A single standard-sized coil of rolled steel can weigh between 8 to 10 tons. So special care must be used when handling and transporting it.
Frequently, only a single coil of rolled steel will be chained to the back of a flatbed truck while transporting it from the mill to the manufacturing plant because its weight is equal or more than a full load of other products or equipment.
When moving the coiled steel onto and off of the truck bed, special forklift attachments called coil rams are used. These are strong, reinforced attachments designed to safely handle the extra-heavy payloads safely and accurately.