Page 854
Previous/Next Page
Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War
i General Conditions
ii Some Early Innovative Approaches
iii Concrete Pipes
iv Cement-fibre Pipes
v Concrete Products
vi The Birth of the Iron and Steel Industry

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



Contact us
Sheet rolling (continued)

In the twenties, the consumption of galvanized steel in Australia was of the order of 120,000 tonnes per year and by around 1936 the Lysaght production had risen to about 100,000 tonnes per year. With further local demand in sight, it was decided that further capacity increase should be via a new plant to be established at Port Kembla, south of Sydney which will be discussed later.

Pipes and tubes

In 1928 BHP opened discussions with Stewarts and Lloyds of England with the aim of completing the manufacture in Australia of the main steel products, rails, structurals, merchant bar, wire products, sheet products and lastly tubes. A joint company Stewarts and Lloyds (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. was established and laid out a factory alongside Lysaght where it could be conveniently fed with raw steel products by BHP. In the thirties, new plant for producing weldless tubes was introduced and in 1938, Stewarts and Lloyds (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. joined the Tube Investment Company of England to found a new company British Tube Mills (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. in Adelaide. The plant would draw steel supplies from Newcastle.

Steel associated industries

Until the early 1900s, metal industries depended upon the blacksmith's forge when they wanted to join pieces of metal without using rivets. This was a technique more than 3000 years old but was only applicable to relatively small sections.

Meanwhile the production of commercial oxygen had begun in the UK with the formation of the British Oxygen Co., which acquired the rights to use Carl von Linde's patents for the distillation of liquid air to produce various gases. 1895 saw the discovery by the French chemist Le Chatelier that the combustion of oxygen and acetylene produces the hottest flame then known to man. With the discovery that acetylene could be safely compressed into cylinders filled with pumice soaked in acetone, the scene was set for great changes in metal joining technology.

At a meeting of the Institution of Engineers in Melbourne in 1909, Russell Grimwade demonstrated liquid oxygen and the ability to melt steel easily by this technology. The engineering firm of Fyvie and Stewart was at the forefront of the exploitation of these techniques and Fyvie told an audience at that time that 'before very long, the blowpipe would be one of the most important tools in the engineer's outfit'. He predicted that it would replace brazing and rivetting, and enable difficult work to be done in situ. By 1912 Comox had begun the production of commercial oxygen at Alexandria near Sydney.

The company today is Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited which, in the space of little more than fifty years, has grown into a very large manufacturing industry, supplying gases of all varieties through a network of 7 State branches, 70 sales centres and 1300 dealers in equipment throughout Australia. Welding technology requires constant research as different alloys and design requirements appear in increasing number. Much local research is needed to keep abreast of these changes. By continuing to be a member of the BOC Group of the United Kingdom assistance can be obtained from this world-wide group which operates in 45 countries. The close connection with gas cylinders caused CIG to install a 3500 tonne cold extrusion press and be able to make in Australia the largest aluminium cylinders in the world.

It is important to note that when the welding industry in Australia began, few people and few companies knew much about it. Largely self-taught, the industry developed its own techniques. For a period the world's largest welded structure a gas holder containing 24 km of welded steel, was in Melbourne, still to be in use more than 50 years later. The Australian development of the coated electrode for electric welding was several years in advance of America and in this period, an Australian welding engineer was invited to the United Kingdom to demonstrate the Australian technology.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - B.O.C. Group (British Oxygen Co.); British Tube Mills (Aust) Pty Ltd; Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd (C.I.G.); Comox (Commonwealth Oxygen Ltd); Fyvie and Stewart; Lysaght's Works Pty Ltd; Stewarts

Previous Page Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Next Page

© 1988 Print Edition pages 875 - 876, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher