March 5th 2023
Who Invented Steel?
by Team Miracle Truss | Dec 10, 2019 | Strong & Flexible Buildings
We know that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, the Wright brothers invented the first practical airplane, and Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio. But can we trace back the invention of steel to a single individual?
Due to how long we’ve been using steel, that’s not possible. Steel production can be traced back nearly 4,000 years to the start of the Iron Age. The earliest examples have been dated to about 1800 BC. Here’s a rough timeline.
13th Century BC
The earliest evidence of steel production can be traced back to this time. Blacksmiths found – by accident – that iron became stronger, harder, and more durable when the carbon found in coal furnaces was added to iron. The next upgrade came in about the 6th Century BC, when craftsmen in southern India used crucibles to smelt iron with charcoal. It’s often called wootz steel.
3rd Century AD
The first mass production of steel is credited to China. It’s believed that they used techniques similar to what’s known as the Bessemer Process, in which blasts of air were used to remove impurities from the molten steel.
One of the best examples of steel in architecture during this time is the Iron Pillar of Delhi, which stands 24 feet tall, and is one of the oldest examples of the rust-resistant qualities of steel.
For the first time in 1702, coke was used in the mass production of steel – rather than charcoal. The next big leap in steel production came in 1740, when English inventor Benjamin Huntsman developed the crucible steel technique. Ironically, his own countrymen didn’t care much for the hardness of the steel Huntsman produced, so his biggest customer became the country of France.
One of the most important points in the history of steel production happened in 1855, when English engineer henry Bessemer ushered in the ability to mass produce steel inexpensively by removing impurities by blowing air through the molten iron. The result was much stronger steel, and it led to the construction of the first steel suspension bridge – which we know today as the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Use of Steel in Construction Today
Steel’s resistance to rust and its natural strength make it the perfect substitute for more traditional framing material used in construction such as wood. Our Miracle Truss® DIY building kits utilize steel in the clear span truss designs to give owners maximum interior space. The trusses allow wall heights of 30 feet or more, as well as building widths of more than 125 feet – all without any interior pole supports. Check out our current building specials!
February 21st 2023
Boeing Boeing Boeing Gone.
The 1,574th and final 747, which rolled off Boeing’s production line in Everett, Washington, on January 31, is destined for a life shipping goods around the world on behalf of the New York–based cargo company Atlas Air.
It’s an unremarkable end to an era of aviation that began more than half a century ago. The first 747—“the airplane that ‘shrank the world’ and revolutionized travel,” according to Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes—was unveiled in 1968. Since then, the aircraft has clung on as a workhorse for airlines around the world and as an emblem for a lost “golden age” of air travel, despite long being surpassed by newer, better planes. “Technology has moved on,” says John Strickland, an aviation analyst at JLS Consulting.
This is at least the second time that the 747’s obituary has been written. Orders for the aircraft peaked at 122 in 1990, and have been in decline ever since. The last passenger 747 was delivered to Korean Air in 2017. In 2020, Qantas and Virgin flew their last passenger flights using the plane, and British Airways announced it would be phasing the model out—four years earlier than expected. According to aviation data analytics group Cirium there are still 385 747s still in service, mostly working for cargo companies, and 122 in storage. The company projects that there will still be close to 100 747s in service in 2040.
“The falling out of favor of the 747 has been a gradual process,” says Brendan Sobie, founder of Singapore-based aviation consulting company Sobie Aviation.
The 747’s early appeal was partly down to its sheer size. In the 1950s and 1960s, most planes were narrow-body, single-aisle jets that could only fit a comparatively small number of passengers. The 747’s four engines meant that the size of the plane itself could be far larger, and with that, more seats and galley space, too. “Airlines were worried initially about how they were going to manage to sell all these additional seats on the aircraft,” Strickland says. “But it gave them a chance to sell more competitively and more excessively at the bottom end of the range, as well as still offering incredible service at the top end.
“It’s just a big aeroplane,” says Robert Mann, an aviation analyst at New York–based RW Mann & Company. “It’s not just voluminous. It’s like a concert hall on wings. It’s a palatial experience.”
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That scale came with an awe factor, which, in a competitive industry where passengers increasingly had a choice of airlines, was a significant selling point. “No matter who was operating it, whether it was Japan Airlines or Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, or a government entity, it projected power,” Mann says. “It was an airplane that was an outsize projection of power. People stood there in amazement.”
The plane’s engines, which produce 45,000 pounds of thrust, represented a significant advancement over a previous generation of aircraft. But they were soon surpassed by newer technologies. Later engines would produce up to 100,000 or 120,000 pounds of thrust, meaning planes only needed two engines rather than the 747’s four. “And you needed less fuel to do the same mission as the 747,” says Mann.
Modern airlines need to reckon with rising fuel costs, a competitive environment that demands ever greater efficiency, and carbon emissions. A Boeing 747-400, which was manufactured between 1989 and 2009, costs around $26,635 an hour to run. A Boeing 787-8, which is still produced today, costs $14,465 an hour to operate—45 percent cheaper.
Mann points out that even Atlas Air, which is taking the last 747 to be made, has already started moving the bulk of its cargo business to the Boeing 777, a twin-engined plane that entered service in the mid-1990s. “It’s not even a toss-up anymore,” says Mann. “You want to be using the Boeing 777… [the 747] has become something relatively obsolete,” says Sobie.
For passenger flights, the plane is doubly obsolete. The 747, with its ability to seat more than 500 passengers at maximum capacity, doesn’t reflect the current market for air travel. Many travelers make shorter journeys than the long-haul, transatlantic trawls the 747 was designed for, meaning airlines need smaller, single-aisle planes.
In an industry still struggling to recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic, making sure you have the right-size jet for the right route matters more than ever. Cirium data shows that Covid wiped $220 billion from the aviation industry’s balance sheet. In the first six months of the pandemic, 43 airlines closed because of the slump in travel.
Smaller, single-aisle jets are expected to account for seven in every 10 aircraft delivered to airlines in the next two decades, according to Cirium. Already, the single-aisle market is worth more to manufacturers, at $1.6 trillion a year, than the $1.1 trillion twin-aisle market. Both Boeing and Airbus are devoting more space at their production facilities to smaller, single-aisle aircraft rather than the larger, twin-aisle jets they were initially designed for.
“From the passenger perspective, things have shifted more toward twin-engine, wide-bodied planes that are extremely efficient and have better economics for airlines,” says Sobie.
However, all of those issues have been known about for decades. The aviation sector has been seeking greater financial and fuel efficiencies for years, and new technology managed to surpass the 747 almost the moment it took off on its first flight. The reason that technical, financial, and commercial considerations have until now not spelled the end of the 747 is down to the model’s central role in people’s mind when they think of air travel.
For Strickland, it was one of the first planes he saw—at a time when it was being tested, and so it still holds a place in his heart. For Mann, the admiration for the 747 resulted in him stopping a car near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in order to snap a photograph of it flying over the city’s monument.
The 747 was aviation in many people’s minds, and was that for the best part of five decades. It represented the key firmament of people’s perception of what air travel was, and should be. But, says Mann, “the golden age of air travel is what you make it.”
Here’s How Your Car’s Engine Works
This is how the combination of an engine, fuel, and air makes your car move, explained in plain English, in case you’re not an engineer.
- K.C. Colwell
The major difference between these two is how energy is created. In diesel engines, the air is compressed before the fuel is injected. In petrol engines, gas and air are mixed, and then compressed and ignited. Another difference is, of course, in the type of fuel used.
What Is The Difference Between Diesel And Petrol Engines?
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Photo by Getty Images
For most people, a car is a thing they fill with gas that moves them from point A to point B. But have you ever stopped and thought, How does it actually do that? What makes it move? Unless you have already adopted an electric car as your daily driver, the magic of how comes down to the internal-combustion engine—that thing making noise under the hood. But how does an engine work, exactly?
Specifically, an internal-combustion engine is a heat engine in that it converts energy from the heat of burning gasoline into mechanical work, or torque. That torque is applied to the wheels to make the car move. And unless you are driving an ancient two-stroke Saab (which sounds like an old chain saw and belches oily smoke out its exhaust), your engine works on the same basic principles whether you’re wheeling a Ford or a Ferrari.
Engines have pistons that move up and down inside metal tubes called cylinders. Imagine riding a bicycle: Your legs move up and down to turn the pedals. Pistons are connected via rods (they’re like your shins) to a crankshaft, and they move up and down to spin the engine’s crankshaft, the same way your legs spin the bike’s—which in turn powers the bike’s drive wheel or car’s drive wheels. Depending on the vehicle, there are typically between two and 12 cylinders in its engine, with a piston moving up and down in each.
Where Engine Power Comes From
What powers those pistons up and down are thousands of tiny controlled explosions occurring each minute, created by mixing fuel with oxygen and igniting the mixture. Each time the fuel ignites is called the combustion, or power, stroke. The heat and expanding gases from this miniexplosion push the piston down in the cylinder.
Almost all of today’s internal-combustion engines (to keep it simple, we’ll focus on gasoline powerplants here) are of the four-stroke variety. Beyond the combustion stroke, which pushes the piston down from the top of the cylinder, there are three other strokes: intake, compression, and exhaust.
Engines need air (namely oxygen) to burn fuel. During the intake stroke, valves open to allow the piston to act like a syringe as it moves downward, drawing in ambient air through the engine’s intake system. When the piston reaches the bottom of its stroke, the intake valves close, effectively sealing the cylinder for the compression stroke, which is in the opposite direction as the intake stroke. The upward movement of the piston compresses the intake charge.
The Four Strokes of a Four-Stroke Engine
Photo by Getty Images
In today’s most modern engines, gasoline is injected directly into the cylinders near the top of the compression stroke. (Other engines premix the air and fuel during the intake stroke.) In either case, just before the piston reaches the top of its travel, known as top dead center, spark plugs ignite the air and fuel mixture.
The resulting expansion of hot, burning gases pushes the piston in the opposite direction (down) during the combustion stroke. This is the stroke that gets the wheels on your car rolling, just like when you push down on the pedals of a bike. When the combustion stroke reaches bottom dead center, exhaust valves open to allow the combustion gases to get pumped out of the engine (like a syringe expelling air) as the piston comes up again. When the exhaust is expelled—it continues through the car’s exhaust system before exiting the back of the vehicle—the exhaust valves close at top dead center, and the whole process starts over again.
In a multicylinder car engine, the individual cylinders’ cycles are offset from each other and evenly spaced so that the combustion strokes do not occur simultaneously and so that the engine is as balanced and smooth as possible.
Photo by Getty Images
But not all engines are created equal. They come in many shapes and sizes. Most automobile engines arrange their cylinders in a straight line, such as an inline-four, or combine two banks of inline cylinders in a vee, as in a V-6 or a V-8. Engines are also classified by their size, or displacement, which is the combined volume of an engine’s cylinders.
The Different Types of Engines
There are of course exceptions and minute differences among the internal-combustion engines on the market. Atkinson-cycle engines, for example, change the valve timing to make a more efficient but less powerful engine. Turbocharging and supercharging, grouped together under the forced-induction options, pump additional air into the engine, which increases the available oxygen and thus the amount of fuel that can be burned—resulting in more power when you want it and more efficiency when you don’t need the power. Diesel engines do all this without spark plugs. But no matter the engine, as long as it’s of the internal-combustion variety, the basics of how it works remain the same. And now you know them.