Think about the world without steam. Transportation and communication were difficult, commerce was outdated, and processing industries were unheard of. The invention of the steam engine was an integral part of the industry during the Industrial Revolution. The term steam boiler is used to refer to heat generation. However, it is also applied to any type of equipment that heats water and stores or uses the steam for a specific purpose. The majority of steam boilers are considered high-pressure boilers. Pressure builds as large quantities of steam accumulate inside a contained vessel. When enough steam is produced, the released energy can power the moving parts of a machine.
The history and journey of advanced steam boilers found today go a long way back. Let us understand the evolution of steam usage and boiler manufacturing in the world.
The invention of the First Boiler:
It is said that the first-ever boiler existed as early as the 1st century. However, such boilers were nothing more than toys. Boiler manufacturing officially began in the 17th century as steam power was given importance for potential applications in daily life. The first steam boiler with a safety valve was manufactured in 1679 by France’s Denis Papin.
By the 18th century, steam boilers were used and manufactured in England from wrought iron. However, as the primary advantages of temperature and high pressure came into light, more and more boiler manufacturers turned to steel. The advanced steam boilers were made of alloy steel to withstand extremely high temperatures and pressures.
The History of Steam Boiler Manufacturing:
Looking at the history of steam boiler manufacturers in the USA, the first-ever steam boiler manufacturers were Steven Wilcox and George Babcock, founders of the steam-generating boiler in the U.S. The duo was the first to patent the boiler design that included tubes inside a firebrick-walled structure to generate steam.
A few decades later, in 1891, the two started the Babcock & Wilcox Company in New York. The first boilers of the company utilized lump coal and were relatively small that were fired by hand. Due to these factors, the first patented boilers by Babcock & Wilcox Company operated at an exceptionally less rate of heat input.
Introduction of Bent Tube Boilers:
As advanced technology changed the scenario, 1916 witnessed a new landmark for boilers. It was at this stage when an engineer brought improvement with bent tubes. The bent-tube discovery led to more compact boilers with an ability to handle the cold water feeds that were staples throughout this period.
Evolution of Cast Iron Bar:
As the bent tube boilers gained more popularity, the next improvement was cast iron boilers. Although bent tube boilers and fire tube boilers were ideal for delivering high-pressure steam, they also failed to provide efficient low-pressure steam for heating purposes.
However, the cast iron boiler came to be sufficiently durable for providing low-pressure steam. Although it was difficult to repair and heavy, cast iron boilers were manufactured in various types of shapes, a noteworthy change in the directional history of boilers.
Boilers in Post-War Industrial World:
During World War I and II, the marine boilers were highly dependent on the fuel steam-powered merchant ships and steam-powered combat boats. Marine boilers held an important place during the war years.
The post-war industrial world brought the need for more production from boiler manufacturers. The tube boilers were developed on a high scale. Later, the copper tube boilers gained popularity but presented a unique set of issues that required regular replacements.
Introduction of Condensing Boiler:
After the initial oil crisis in 1973 and environmental concerns in the 80s, boiler manufacturers started planning for more cost-effective solutions to minimize energy consumption in steam boilers due to an increase in energy prices. The solutions included operating boilers at lower water temperature and adjusting the water temperature in the boiler to the temperature outside. At present, condensing boilers offer an extensive range of benefits, such as:
Evolution of New Steam Boiler Design:
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the growing disposal costs for landfills and increased demand for electric power led to the development of biomass-fired boilers. Steam boilers with fluidized bed technology were manufactured as an alternative method of burning solid fuels like coal. Depending on the boiler manufacturer, a fluidized bed boiler may include cyclones, combustion chambers, over-bed burners, collection hoppers, etc. The fluidized bed boiler involves a process through which solid fuels are suspended in an upward-flowing gas or airstream at the bottom. The burning fuel exists in a fluid-like state with a high heat transfer but reduced emissions.
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