Steel drums are a type of industrial drum, or barrel, named after the material with which they are made. Specifically, a steel drum may be made either from stainless steel, which is alloyed with chromium, or regular carbon steel. Steel drums, also known as 55-gallon drums are used both for transportation and storage, though, most often, they are used for the former. They are utilized by a wide range of industries, for which they transport and store a variety of liquids, solids, gases and powders.
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As mentioned, stainless steel is a type of steel alloyed with chromium. Generally, it is between 10.5 and 11% chromium, giving it increased levels of corrosion resistance, rust resistance and stain resistance. Armed with these qualities, stainless steel drums are popular with applications that require high levels of corrosion resistance and the ability to be easily sanitized. They are, for example, particularly useful in the storage and transportation of materials like FDA-approved materials, chemicals, petroleum products and hazardous waste. In addition, they are well-suited for use with materials and products used in the architecture, food and beverage and industrial manufacturing industries.
Carbon Steel or Plain Steel
Carbon steel is also frequently called “plain steel” and just “steel,” because it is the standard type of steel used for industrial purposes. It is an iron alloy, primarily joined with carbon. It shares many of the characteristics of stainless steel, but to a lesser degree. It is best applied to the storage and shipment of medical materials, hazardous chemicals, petroleum and substances gleaned from wastewater treatment. To increase its tensile strength, steel often undergoes a procedure called cold-rolling before fabrication. During this process, steel is rolled upon at room temperature, rather than at a high heat, allowing it to harden without any changes to its crystalline structure. Steel that has been cold-hardened is known as cold rolled steel. A steel drum made from cold rolled steel is, in addition to all the aforementioned applications, suitable for use in both the defense and mining industries.
Steel Drum Fabrication Process
Regardless of the steel type, steel drums are fabricated via the continuous metal forming process known as roll forming and through welding. During roll forming, metal sheets are rolled into ring shapes by the force exerted by roller die pairs placed above and below them. As the sheets are fed through the roll forming machine, the rollers bend them along their linear axis. After the sheets have been rolled into ring shapes, a base is welded onto one or both ends of the body, depending on the drum’s intended configuration. Next, to provide reinforcement, steel rings are welded around the drum at its base, a quarter of the way from the bottom and a quarter of a way from the top.
Standards and Specifications for Steel Drums
Aside from being fabricated using the same general procedure, steel drums can vary according to the requirements and standards of the applications they serve. For example, steel drums intended for use in defense must meet the standards put forth by Mil Spec, or military specifications. Likewise, drums and materials inside drums crossing international borders must meet United Nations (UN) regulation standards. Also, most steel drums used in industrial manufacturing must meet not only UN regulation standards, but the US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation standards as well. DOT breaks substances down into nine different divisions, each with subclassifications of their own; drums containing any of these must be clearly adorned with labels reflecting the classification of their contents. The nine main divisions established by DOT are as follows: Class 1: Explosives, Class 2: Gases, Class 3: Flammable Liquid/Combustible Liquid, Class 4: Solids, Class 5: Oxidizers and Peroxides, Class 6: Toxic and Infectious, Class 7: Radioactive, Class 8: Corrosive and Class 9: Miscellaneous. In addition, users of steel drums must make sure that their drums and the content of their drums match all standards set out by local, state, national authorities, as well as the industry within which they work. To make sure they are taking all the necessary steps to make sure their drums are compliant and well-matched to their application, users are advised to consult with an expert.