Steel pipes are long, hollow tubes that are used for a variety of purposes. They are produced by two distinct methods which result in either a welded or seamless pipe. In both methods, raw steel is first cast into a more workable starting form. It is then made into a pipe by stretching the steel out into a seamless tube or forcing the edges together and sealing them with a weld. The first methods for producing steel pipe were introduced in the early 1800s, and they have steadily evolved into the modern processes we use today. Each year, millions of tons of steel pipe are produced. Its versatility makes it the most often used product produced by the steel industry.
Steel pipes are found in a variety of places. Since they are strong, they are used underground for transporting water and gas throughout cities and towns. They are also employed in construction to protect electrical wires. While steel pipes are strong, they can also be lightweight. This makes them perfect for use in bicycle frame manufacture. Other places they find utility is in automobiles, refrigeration units, heating and plumbing systems, flagpoles, street lamps, and medicine to name a few.
People have used pipes for thousands of years. Perhaps the first use was by ancient agriculturalists who diverted water from streams and rivers into their fields. Archeological evidence suggests that the Chinese used reed pipe for transporting water to desired locations as early as 2000 B.C. Clay tubes that were used by other ancient civilizations have been discovered. During the first century A.D. , the first lead pipes were constructed in Europe. In tropical countries, bamboo tubes were used to transport water. Colonial Americans used wood for a similar purpose. In 1652, the first waterworks was made in Boston using hollow logs.
Development of the modern day welded steel pipe can be traced back to the early 1800s. In 1815, William Murdock invented a coal burning lamp system. To fit the entire city of London with these lights, Murdock joined together the barrels from discarded muskets. He used this continuous pipeline to transport the coal gas. When his lighting system proved successful a greater demand was created for long metal tubes. To produce enough tubes to meet this demand, a variety of inventors set to work on developing new pipe making processes.
An early notable method for producing metal tubes quickly and inexpensively was patented by James Russell in 1824. In his method, tubes were created by joining together opposite edges of a flat iron strip. The metal was first heated until it was malleable. Using a drop hammer, the edges folded together and welded. The pipe was finished by passing it through a groove and rolling mill.