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Webinar Covers YouTube Best Practices
Posted by Alison Trost on April 8, 2010 at 9:56 AM.

AISC in partnership with Relationship Economics has been offering a series of webinars on social networking best practices and Internet marketing. Presented by author, professional speaker and consultant David Nour, the last installment is “Internet Video/YouTube Best Practices” and is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. To register, go to

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Giant Coaster Rehab - Another Solution in Steel
Posted by Tom Klemens on April 7, 2010 at 9:27 AM.

The Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas (Arlington, Texas) is getting a $10 million makeover that includes conversion to a hybrid design featuring manufactured steel tracks on a traditional wooden superstructure.


When it first opened in 1990, the Texas Giant was billed as the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, reaching 63 mph and including a 79-degree drop and a 95-degree bank (both Amusement Today articlethe steepest in the world). The ride has been closed since 2008, but when it reopens in 2011, which coincides with Six Flags’ 50th anniversary, the lift hill will be 10 ft taller than the original and the coaster will hit 65 mph. And thanks to the new Iron Horse Coaster track, riders will get the thrills without the bone-jarring.


To see the new track section, click here to go to the builder’s site. Click through using the link in the first paragraph to see construction photos in the Amusement Today article (scroll way down to the March 3rd article).


Click here to read the park’s official description.


For two coaster enthusiasts’ takes on the upgrade, click here and here.

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Structural Steel Pricing Not Affected by Ore Price Increases
Posted by Tom Klemens on April 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM.

Will rising ore prices impact the price of structural steel? The American Institute of Steel Construction says that rising ore prices should not impact the cost of fabricated structural steel in the U.S.


On March 30 the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, and most of its customers announced a new pricing structure for iron ore. Within hours the AISC Steel Solutions Center began receiving calls and emails asking how the new ore prices would impact the cost of structural steel used in buildings and bridges.


The short answer: It should have little-to-no impact. While most media outlets treat steel as a homogenous industry, the fact is the steel used in automobiles is different than that used in beams. Both the raw materials used to make the different types of steel and the processes used are different. Topping it off, less than half the steel produced in the U.S. even uses iron ore as its primary feedstock. The reality is that 62% of all domestic steel–and almost 100% of beams and columns–comes from “mini-mills” using recycled steel scrap as their feedstock (and virtually no iron ore at all). These mills melt scrap in electric arc furnaces (EAF) producing products with a recycled steel content in excess of 93%. Therefore, while a rise in the cost of scrap might impact the cost of beams, the increase in ore costs should mostly impact steel produced at integrated mills using basic oxygen furnaces (BOF). And fortunately, the large majority of steel used in the U.S. building and bridge industry (including almost 100% of beams and columns and 80% of the plate used for bridge construction) is produced in EAF mills.


As the chart below illustrates, there is a near direct relationship between scrap prices and structural steel pricing, while there is almost no relationship between iron ore and structural steel pricing.



Pricing Trends for Ore, Scrap and Structural Steel -

Data extracted from Bureau of Labor statistics 


Additionally, individual mills produce specific types of steel. A mill designed to produce sheet steel for use in the automobile industry cannot produce structural steel sections for use in building construction. And a mill producing reinforcing bar for concrete does not produce plate steel for the ship building industry.


The cost of steel is typically driven by a number of factors, including the price of the raw material, the price of energy, and the supply/demand relationship for that specific type of steel. If there is a shortage of automobile sheet, it would drive up the price of automobile sheet steel but would not necessarily impact the price of beams and columns.


Finally, it’s important to remember that end-users need to be more concerned with the price of the entire steel package and not simply the cost of the raw material. Typically, the cost of materials represents only 25%-30% of the total structural steel package for a building. The remaining 70%-75% of the cost is fabrication and erection. Even a 20% increase in material costs (which is certainly not anticipated at this time) would only result in a 5% increase in the cost of the steel package.


So when a recent caller to the AISC Steel Solutions Center asked if increasing ore prices would result in their community being unable to afford a new school building, we confidently answered they could still move ahead with the project and that their choice of structural steel as the framing material was a wise one. 

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Steel As Big Art - 21st Century Style
Posted by Tom Klemens on April 5, 2010 at 7:57 AM.

Last week London’s mayor announced that a huge structural steel sculpture will be one of the icons of the 2012 Olympic Games. Dubbed the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the structure will have a height of 377 ft, about 60 ft taller than another well-known icon, the Statue of Liberty. (Another point for comparison: the nearby London Eye stands 442 ft high.)


Steel producer ArcelorMittal will provide the steel and underwrite much of the structure’s cost. The design is by Anish Kapoor, who also designed the bean-shaped polished stainless steel Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Structural engineering will be spearheaded by Arup’s Cecil Balmond.Link to AM press release


ArcelorMittal’s online announcement of the project includes a 4-minute video that includes brief but enlightening interviews with both Kapoor and Balmond. Click here to read the press release and view the embedded video.

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Steel Shots: Student Steel Bridge Competition
Posted by Alison Trost on April 2, 2010 at 8:13 AM.

Steel Shots: Student Steel Bridge Competition

Now in its 23rd year, the Student Steel Bridge Competition pits engineering students from across the nation to design and build steel bridges. Here the Michigan State University team scrambles to erect its entry at the North Central regional competition held March 27 at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich. Photo: Nancy Gavlin

The annual Student Steel Bridge Competition is a cooperative effort between the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Steel bridge teams from colleges and universities throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada compete in regional events associated with the ASCE Student Chapter conferences. Winners of those conference competitions advance to the national competition, which in 2010 will be held at Purdue University on May 28-29. (

Each bridge team designs, fabricates, and constructs its bridge based on rules and functional requirements that change yearly. Categories of competition are display, construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy, and structural efficiency. In addition, overall performance is rated through a load test.

To view the schedule of upcoming regional competitions (including host school contact info), go to

For more information about the Student Steel Bridge Competition, visit

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Rebranded! (for a day)
Posted by Tom Klemens on April 1, 2010 at 9:25 AM.

I like one-liners, those short, pithy statements that convey ideas quickly and effectively, and sometimes laced with ambiguity (intentionally or not). It’s always fun to uncover the truth, humor, irony, or other spin at the heart of a good one-liner.


One of my favorites is when Dorothy, having landed in Oz, says to her little dog, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!”*


Like all good one-liners, it can hold its own under a little adaptation, such as: “It’s not just in Kansas anymore!”


g2.jpgThose of you who have your default browser screen set to something other than Google may not realize that the company today announced that it has changed its name to Topeka. In this bold move away from the rampant branding initiatives of the present era, the company says it wanted to pay homage to the Kansas town with which it has so many things in common. (It’s also the home of AISC member and AISC-certified fabricator HME Inc. , as well as the century-old Steel Fixture Manufacturing Co.)


If you want to check out the new Topeka before I give away the punch line, stop reading now and click here.


For the rest of you, I’ll just observe that this year’s installment from those clever folks in Mountain View is again a pleasant diversion. Humor is always in the mind of the beholder, of course, but it often serves as a good reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.


By the way, my favorite remains the TISP (toilet-installed service provider) introduced on this date in 2007. To review that innovative approach to providing Internet access (via the backdoor), click here. Another gateway to history, so to speak, is through links on the error page.


* According to various sources, the actual quote is “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

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