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This process, known as smelting, was first applied to metals with lower melting points, such as tin, which melts at about 250 °C (482 °F), and copper, which melts at about 1,100 °C (2,010 °F), and the combination, bronze, which has a melting point lower than 1,083 °C (1,981 °F).In comparison, cast iron melts at about 1,375 °C (2,507 °F).With modern steelmaking techniques such as powder metal forming, it is possible to make very high-carbon (and other alloy material) steels, but such are not common.Cast iron is not malleable even when hot, but it can be formed by casting as it has a lower melting point than steel and good castability properties.Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon and other elements.Because of its high tensile strength and low cost, it is a major component used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances, and weapons. Iron is able to take on two crystalline forms (allotropic forms), body centered cubic (BCC) and face centered cubic (FCC), depending on its temperature.This was followed by the Siemens-Martin process and then the Gilchrist-Thomas process that refined the quality of steel.With their introductions, mild steel replaced wrought iron.

Varying the amount of carbon and many other alloying elements, as well as controlling their chemical and physical makeup in the final steel (either as solute elements, or as precipitated phases), slows the movement of those dislocations that make pure iron ductile, and thus controls and enhances its qualities.In pure iron, the crystal structure has relatively little resistance to the iron atoms slipping past one another, and so pure iron is quite ductile, or soft and easily formed.In steel, small amounts of carbon, other elements, and inclusions within the iron act as hardening agents that prevent the movement of dislocations that are common in the crystal lattices of iron atoms.Iron is commonly found in the Earth's crust in the form of an ore, usually an iron oxide, such as magnetite or hematite.Iron is extracted from iron ore by removing the oxygen through its combination with a preferred chemical partner such as carbon which is then lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

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