Blast furnace  

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European blast furnaces first appear in Middle Europe (for instance Lapphyttan in Sweden, Dürstel in Switzerland and the Märkische Sauerland in Germany) around 1150, in some places according to recent research even before 1100. Technique considered to be an independent European development.

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A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally pig iron, but also others such as lead or copper. Blast refers to the combustion air being "forced" or supplied above atmospheric pressure.

The primary advantage of the early blast furnace was in large scale production and making iron implements more readily available to peasants. Cast iron is more brittle than wrought iron or steel, which required additional fining and then cementation or co-fusion to produce, but for menial activities such as farming it sufficed. By using the blast furnace, it was possible to produce larger quantities of tools such as ploughshares more efficiently than the bloomery. In areas where quality was important, such as warfare, wrought iron and steel were preferred. Nearly all Han period weapons are made of wrought iron or steel, with the exception of axe-heads, of which many are made of cast iron.

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