How Steel Shipping Drums are Made

The steel shipping drum was invented in the late 19th century. Its main purpose was originally intended for the oil industry, which needed an alternative to leaky wooden barrels. Today, these shipping drums are most commonly used for transporting powders, liquids, and sometimes hazardous chemicals. Check out the steps involved in making a steel shipping drum, also known as the 55-gallon drum:

    1. A punch press makes the circular top and bottom pieces of the drum. A conveyor shuttles the pieces onto a turntable, and a protective sealant is used to cover them.
    2. Steel fittings travel down the conveyor to a machine that punches openings in the tops of the drums. One of the holes is for opening the drum; the other hole is a vent.
    3. Workers check the steel sheet thickness that will be used for the body of the drum. The thickness varies on how much the container will hold.
    4. A machine turns the coiled steel into sheets. The sheets move into a forming machine where rollers curl the sheets into the outer shell of the drum.
    5. The shell is moved through an electric-resistance welder by an automated pusher. The machine generates heat to weld the side seam so that it does not leak. A machine stretches and presses on the outer rims of the shell, creating a lip.
    6. The rigidity of a shipping drum is called “a rolling hoop.” These are made by an enormous machine called a “beater.”
    7. The shells then merge together with the drum tops and bottoms, fusing the pieces together and creating an interlocked seam. There are seven layers of steel used so that no leaks can get through.
    8. The drums move on to a testing station. Inspectors inject air into each drum and check the seam for leaks.
    9. A large painting gun paints the steel drum. Black is the most common color used, although custom colors can usually be ordered.
    10. The steel drums go into a large oven where the paint is baked right onto the drum. After that, the thickness of the paint is tested to make sure it can sustain rust.
    11. Workers plug both openings and put a temporary seal on the vent. Now the drums are ready for the long haul!