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430 The Star of Steel

It was the last month of winter in Border Town after Lucia's day of adulthood.

As for the Months of Demons, the end of winter did not mean the end of the snow. The snow would often continue to fall until the spring of the second year, and it was totally in God's hands as to when it would cease.

Based on past experiences, the Months of Demons would end within the first half of the first month of spring, and it would be a very difficult period. It would be an extremely tough time if it ended within the second half of the first month. The days could become hard to survive if it delayed until the second month.

However, it was a situation that only the local people ever encountered.

The situation this year had been greatly improved. The wheat being stored in the granary would be enough to make sure everyone was adequately fed, even if the Months of Demons continued to the end of the second month of spring.

Roland naturally would not be satisfied merely by no one being starved or frozen to death. Over the last few days, he had been sprawling across his desk, exitedly working on many drawings and the ideas for the next stage of his big plan. The entire plan was divided into both military and civilian aspects. The former included the construction of the weapon factory, the bicycle plant, and the dock as well as the shallow water gunboats and other locations. The latter mainly involved the connections for the water, heat, and electricity of the residential area in addition to the promotion of the universal use of the iron farming tools.

It was Lucia White who motivated him. After he realized what her ability was, Roland clearly recognized that the final limitation of the mass production was resolved, and the productivity of the town could usher into a new peak of the growth in the population.

The limitation was the supply of materials.

The modern way of smelting was very complicated, and the output of steel iron was one of the most important parameters to measure an industrial country. However, Roland did not know much about it, and this was the main reason that the iron making capacity of the town was still outdated. Not only were the techniques not as advanced, the scale was not nearly comparable with the private smeltery owned by some mining businessmen. When the iron ore in the brick blast furnace was smelt into pig iron, quality pieces would be sent away to become parts of steam engines, while the poorer quality ones would be passed to Anna for further processing into steel. However, this process was totally out of control, and the carbon content was not stable. Sometimes, the useful materials could only fill up one to two carriages after an entire workday, which greatly limited the production of the steam engine manufacturing plant.

Although the low-quality pig iron could be processed into the quality-controlled rolled steel with Anna's special smelter, the production quantity was only enough for military plant use. It would basically meet the need of the small town in the fall, but with the two expansions of the army and the development of new firearms and cannons, the limited quantity of rolled steel could potentially be overstretched come winter.

Lucia's evolution could be described as a cardiac stimulant. Her targeted separation ability would allow easy removal of undesirable components in the material and regulate the elements proportions in the smelting phase, allowing each furnace of molten steel to be maintained at the same performance.

The smelting standard of Border Town would instantly increase exponentially with the help of both Anna and Lucia.

Roland had already got Anna to put down all the other projects on hand in order to concentrate on the creation of the enormous, latest generation smelter for this reason.

The new smelter was 10 times bigger in size compared with the old special smelter designed by her previously, extending to 50 meters in length, 10 meters in width and four meters in height. It looked like a slender swimming pool at the first glance. It was essentially similar to the last generation special furnace; it was still a metal box without any heating equipment and fully dependent on Anna's Blackfire. However, it was buried in the ground, relying on the soil to support the pressure of the molten iron on the walls. There was also an aisle built in the center for Anna to heat up the iron ingots on both sides at the same time.

The huge volume was its only advantage. Based on the previous smelting method, it would contain too much of product for only the limestones used for removal purposes; it also required a lot of effort to clean the impurities generated and would be very painstaking to reinforce and stir them. Thus, it should not be mass produced or used with the old method. However, there was no such concern now. As long as the pig iron was melted, Lucia could eliminate the harmful components, such as phosphorus and sulfur.

Roland intended to build a batch of kilns along with the old blast and shaft furnaces. He was only responsible for the initial smelting, and he did not care about the quality of the finished product as long as the ore could be melted into the rectangular iron ingots, all of which were then put into the new smelter for secondary refining. The molten steel formed would flow through the strobe into the mold at the lower terrain and directly form the materials to be processed. After that, the steam engine plant would be converted into rolled steel production, and it would bring a powerful new source of motivation to the town.

Roland was going to name the latest smelter "Star of Steel".

As soon as Anna completed the manufacturing, the steel production of the town would be more than 10 times higher with the Star of Steel officially in use.

It could be said that the latest large-scale production plan was built on this basis.

Furthermore, the development of the state-of-the-art light-weight weapon had come to a conclusion.

Roland discovered that his initial idea was not appropriate. He had designed a few prototype weapons himself based on the principle of the latest pneumatic automatic rifle, which simply used some of the high pressure gas generated while the bullet was fired to finish the process of ejecting, chambering and re-filling.

This project took about half a month. It was not difficult but he needed to test each of the components repeatedly to make sure it operated normally. He did not bother to memorize the specific structure of the rifle. As long as he knew the operation of the weapon, he thought he would definitely be able to piece together a useful weapon after a few tries.

That was exactly where the problem lay.

The completed prototype machine was not only humongous, it also consisted of almost one hundred different components which were all custom-made by Anna. These included small little gadgets like springs, the firing pins, and the induction pistons. It was really hard to mass produce such a weapon with the current machine tool. If all the revolving rifles in the soldiers' hands were to be replaced by automatic weapons, it would not only increase Anna's burden, but the current firearms processing equipment units that had been put into production would be wasted as well.

Additionally, the ammunition consumption was undoubtedly going to increase significantly if all the soldiers were equipped with the automatic weapons. Roland did not care too much about this in the beginning as he felt that it could be resolved by increasing manpower. However, he soon discovered that as soon as the new weapon was put into production, it could easily overtake the entire production of the acid plant.

The frequent cartridge jamming during the shooting test, failure to fire, and the other small issues had become less important as he reaized that the weapon production was not feasible.

He finally dispelled the idea of mass replacement of the automatic weapons after repeated contemplation. However, increasing the firepower of the military had become an urgent need. He began to shift his focus on continuous firing weapons.

He was considering the heavy machine gun.

A heavy machine gun could be assigned to 20 to 50 people in order to significantly reduce the number of weapons. In this case, both of the most critical problems would be solved easily. It could also be self-loaded with the use of a ventilation method; the structure was similar to the trial manufacture of the prototype weapons. It could be put into the principal test after a few alterations, and it could be built in a bigger size with bigger components. The difficulty to himself, Anna, and Lucia would be greaty reduced.