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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

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present
i General Conditions
ii Iron and Steel Production
iii Aluminium Technology
iv Innovative Copper Refining Process
v The EDIM-4WD Load-Haul-Dump Vehicle
vi Copper Rod Production
vii Copper Wire and Cables
viii The Diecasting Industry
ix Automotive Components
x Whitegoods or Consumer Durables
xi Hardware
xii Some Recent New Industries
xiii The National Measurement System
xiv Manufacturing Industry in this Decade
xv Acknowledgements



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Port Kembla (continued)

In 1935 Australian Iron and Steel Ltd., which had installed sheet producing mills a few years previously, was beginning sheet production although not without considerable difficulty. When BHP took over control of AIS in 1935, an offer was made by BHP to sell the sheet plant to Lysaght, provided Lysaght installed and operated a sheet plant at Port Kembla with an output double that of the existing AIS plant. This would allow the AIS sheet bar facilities to be used fully. The sheet plant was purchased by Lysaght in March 1934. Lysaght designed and erected a new plant adjoining AIS while continuing to produce on the existing AIS plant which later transferred to the new site progressively during 1938 and was complete early in 1939. Later that year, a new Tandem Mill was installed to supersede the AIS Lewis Mill and a second mechanical finishing mill was installed, developments that proved to be important as war approached.

The Lysaght Springhill plant layout was specifically designed for the mass production of large quantities of standard sizes in both black (uncoated) sheet and galvanized sheet. It centred on a seven stand tandem hot roughing mills, largely of English design, and three fully mechanized finishing mills similar to those already producing in Newcastle. The heavier thicknesses of sheet could be rolled fully on the tandem mill. In 1939, this new installation was the only set-up of its kind world-wide and proved to be extremely versatile and adaptable to Australian requirements.

Towards the end of the thirties, Australian industry was branching out in a number of directions, such as producing motor-car bodies, refrigerators, washing machines and other domestic appliances, all of which produced a growing demand for higher quality flat ductile uncoated steel sheets. To cope with this higher surface quality demand, Lysaght in England joined with the American Rolling Mill Company (ARMCO) of USA to form the Commonwealth Rolling Mills (CRM) at Port Kembla, specifically to produce quality sheet with a high surface finish. The major plant item was a 3-high cold reduction mill, fed by single pieces and designed for an annual output of 30,000 tonnes of high finish steel. Production began in 1939.

In the latter part of 1940, the CRM plant changed over to war production, producing sheet steel for such things as ammunition boxes, aircraft belly tanks, aerial torpedoes, depth charges, mines, aerial bombs and gun carriages. The growing tension in Europe led to a rapid growth in other defensive measures, one of which was the Anderson Shelter. From an initial rolling order of 500 tonnes per week, the Lysaght Springhill plant produced a final tally of 40,000 tonnes of galvanized steel which was exported to England to produce some 125,000 shelters, mostly despatched before the outbreak of war. There were heavy demands on the basic steel producers for steel supplies and firms such as Lysaght had production controlled by a quota of sheet bar from BHP. Zinc was also in short supply, limiting the galvanized steel produced. Even so, during 1940 and 1941, 10,000 tonnes of galvanized and 2500 tonnes of uncoated and roofing terne (steel sheet with a lead-tin alloy coating) were sent to Egypt for use by the AIR


The AIS Lewis Mill was transferred to Lysaght's Newcastle works and so increased production there that in 1941, a record 130,000 tonnes of uncoated sheet were produced; in the same year Port Kembla produced 70,000 tonnes. The war led to shortages of essential steels not previously made in Australia, such as electrical steels for dynamos, motors and transformers, helmet steels and special steels for aircraft. In 1940, a start was made at Lysaght in Newcastle with production of the dynamo and motor grades in the manual mills and, a year later, the higher silicon grades used in transformers were successfully produced. Not only was it necessary to overcome the technical and engineering manufacturing problems involved, without much outside advice or help, but also to design, make and install the complex electrical testing equipment to control the quality and sort the grades of steel. The initial difficulties were rapidly overcome and continuing research resulted in steady improvement of these essential steels.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd (A.I.S.); B.H.P. Steel International. Coated Products Division; Commonwealth Rolling Mills (C.R.M.); John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd; Lysaght's Springhill Works; Lysaght's Works Pty Ltd

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 881 - 882, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher