Metall. Res. Technol.
Volume 115, Number 4, 2018
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Published online||15 October 2018|
Product innovations of key economic importance for the steel industry★
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Accepted: 8 January 2018
Steel and materials in general entertain a special connection with time and therefore with innovation. Indeed, steel has been around for more than 4 millennia and is still innovating, which demonstrates both a status of socio-economic invariance and a cumulative innovation process, which deeply differs from the status of the “high-tech” consumer products, which are considered today as highly innovative. This is a complex situation, which is best described by telling various narratives from the standpoint of history, innovation management, sustainability, economy and business, with both long and short times perspectives. The Historian’s perspective insists on slow time, especially as regards innovation, in which steel took part. Steel and steel production technology have thus accompanied society in its long journey through time since the Neolithic, Roman and Celtic times, the Middle Ages, Modern Times and Industrial Revolutions. Today, the technological episteme seems to be frozen in a stasis that has been rolling out global steelmills across the world and most recently in China. The present technological paradigm was built under the pull of the social and economic drivers which have led to the geopolitical world as it is today. Innovation today, continues, but not visibly at the level of process engineering, but regarding metallurgy and material science, thus exploring the deep connection of steels with specific and always changing applications. Regarding process engineering, however, the on-going economic transitions, i.e. the energy, ecology and digitization transitions, may awaken Sleeping Beauty’s castle and relaunch a new series of paradigm shifts in making steel. Low-carbon technologies are being explored to meet the Climate Change challenge, which may rekindle the sustainability innovation driver. And a reexamination of the scale at which steel is made might possibly stem from Additive Manufacturing, although this is still a weak signal as far as steel is concerned.
Key words: steel / steel industry / process engineering / low-carbon technologies / additive manufacturing / innovation / technology paradigm shift
© EDP Sciences, 2018
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