In our new Manufacturing Disruption series, we highlight groundbreakers past and present who have made engineering breakthroughs in manufacturing.
The Henry Bessemer Process
Although many inventors see the realization of their hard work before their death, Henry Bessemer only saw the tip of the iceberg he helped create.
When Bessemer was born in 1813, he had inventing in his blood. His father, Anthony, worked in metals, machinery and – most importantly – steel. Surely influenced by his father’s profession, Bessemer began his industrial work at an early age, creating steam-powered machines for the paint industry. As he grew older, however, he set his eyes on a yet-unproven material: steel.
In a world that used primarily cast iron, Bessemer aimed to cheapen the production of steel while also making it more reliable and easier to access for various industries. By blowing air through a molten pig iron, Bessemer’s process burned off impurities and created steel, leading to a revolution in structural integrity. He patented the method in 1856. While slow at first, steel production ramped up significantly, being first used for bridges and railroad tracks before making its way to other applications.
When Bessemer died more than 40 years after his model was patented, many of the implementations of steel were yet to come. And though his process isn’t frequently used today – steel now comes through the refinement of iron ore in a blast furnace using pure oxygen – the effects of his work are extraordinarily apparent in the 21st century.
Unsurprisingly, many of Proportion-Air’s valves, regulators, and boosters are made from steel, allowing us to produce our products at a low cost and provide customers with durability and reliability. With steel in our arsenal of materials, we can be more flexible with product creation while changing our processes quickly and efficiently.
In addition, our products have been used in a variety of steel-related applications, like steel cleaning and steel cutting. With these applications, we’ve been able to build on Bessemer’s knowledge while working with the exact material he popularized.
As manufacturing brings newer, future-focused innovation, it will be built on the groundwork laid by Henry Bessemer and his desire to bring steel to the mass market. Over 150 years later, there’s no denying that his efforts left an impact on hundreds of industries.