Smelting Iron Ore in Materials and Process 332
Andy Loewy, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design | University of Louisiana, Lafayette
A comprehensive Material and Process course is a very important part of the industrial design student’s curriculum. It is essential for the I.D. student to understand the potentials and limitations of materials and the manufacturing processes in order to design intelligently. One of the most difficult problems with teaching a technical course such as Materials and Processes is keeping the interest of the students. In the effort of making the course more then a series of information based tests, the author decided to utilize a hands on experiential approach to learning about materials and process. If handled properly it is still possible to cover technical information comprehensively. Taught in an experiential manner, information changes from being dry and lifeless to having a context, will become part of the student’s life experience and remembered much more readily.
A very good example of a hands on project that the author assigned to his class was iron smelting. More specifically the project entailed researching, designing, constructing and using an iron smelting furnace. As in every design project research was of paramount importance. The following questions were a few of the many that were investigated: Is there iron ore in Louisiana? What kind of iron ore is used for smelting i.e. (concentration and chemical composition)? Where can iron ore be obtained? How does the modern blast furnace work? Which fuel should be used; coke, coal, or charcoal? What is the difference between pig iron and wrought iron and what do we know about how wrought iron is produced? What is the theory behind the bloomery smelting process of the sort that was used by the Dogon people in West Africa? What are the functional considerations regarding the design of a smelting furnace? This project was exciting partly because no one knew exactly where it was going to lead. The process of being physically involved was a very important part of the learning process. It can be safely said that this year’s Materials and Process class understands iron ore and how iron ore becomes cast iron, pig iron, wrought iron and steel much better then if they had only studied it in a traditional manner such as through a text book. Researching, designing, touching, shoveling, sifting, smelling, heating, watching, are very important to a true understanding of the iron smelting process.
We have documented this class project by collecting photographs and slides of all the steps taken by my students in finding iron ore, designing and building a furnace and smelting iron. We have also documented the specific smelts and the results we obtained. In this paper the author intends to describe our smelting