Mankind has utilized iron for thousands of years. Yet it is only within the past 150 years that metallurgists have learnt how to make steels, control their properties and mass-produce them with a consistent level of quality.
During the 19th century, a number of scientists discovered the excellent corrosion resistance of chromium alloyed steels. But it was not until the early decades of the 1900s that the first stainless steel was patented and manufactured. These events mark the start of the stainless steel industry. An industry that has, over the past 100 years, made a significant contribution to the development of our world.
4000 BC – First evidence of the use of iron.
3000 BC – Chinese Qin dynasty uses chromium to strengthen weapons and protect them from corrosion.
300 BC – Wootz steelmaking technique develops in India and Sri Lanka. The technique spreads across the Arabian Peninsula.
1100 to 1300 – Wootz steel comes to the attention of Europeans in the form of Damascus swords
1400 – Cutlery made of steel begins to appear in Britain
1740 – Benjamin Huntsman develops the crucible- casting method, enabling mass-production of steel for the first time.
1871 – John T. Woods and John Clark recognise the commercial value of corrosion-resistant
Chromium alloys and obtain a British patent for a “Weather Resistant” alloy.
1907 – First commercial electric arc furnace (EAF) established in the United States. Today, almost all stainless steel is produced using the EAF method.
1910 to 1911 – Philipp Monnartz and William Borchers obtain a German patent for stainless steel.
1912 – While working for Krupp, Eduard Maurer and Benno Strauss are granted patents on two chromium-nickel stainless steels.
1919 to 1923 – Sheffield cutlers start regular production of stainless steel cutlery, surgical scalpels and tools. Early stainless tableware such as dishes and bowls also started to appear at this time.
1925 – Stainless steel is used for a chemical tank for the storage of nitric acid.
1926 – A stainless steel having 18% chromium and 8% nickel is introduced into surgical implant applications.
1928 – The brewery industry installs the first stainless steel fermenting vessel.
1930 – Chrysler Building, with its decorative stainless steel capping, becomes the tallest building in the world.
1931 – The world’s first stainless steel aircraft, the Pioneer, is built by Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia.
1932 – The Supermarine S6B gives the Royal Air Force its third consecutive win in the Schneider Trophy race for seaplanes, thus ensuring the trophy remains forever in the UK.
1934 – SS Queen Mary is launched, with stainless steel featuring strongly in her kitchens, swimming pools, interior decor and turbine engines.
1935 In approximately 1935, sinks made of 18-8 stainless steel begin to be installed in new homes, instead of porcelain-enamelled cast iron sinks.
1936 – Six Deluxe Sedan stainless steel cars roll off the Ford production line in Detroit.
1941 – A pier in Progreso, Mexico using stainless steel reinforcement is erected. Ever since it has been maintenance free.
1953 – Oxygen breathing apparatus in stainless steel helps Hillary and Tensing to conquer Mount Everest.
1956 – The first stainless steel razor blades are introduced by Wilkinson Sword in England.
1958 – Stainless steel is adopted in Japan for railway carriages.
1966 – The world’s first tidal power station, near St. Malo, France is completed with stainless steel turbine blades.
1967 to 1973 – NASA uses stainless steel in all 13 Saturn V rockets used as part of the Apollo space programme. In 1969, Apollo 11 brought the first stainless steel to the moon.
1980 – Italian buses begin using type 304 stainless steel in construction.
1984 – The Ford Motor Company mass-produces partial stainless steel exhaust systems.
1989 – Ferritic stainless steel is first used as a large scale roofing material.
1993 – La Pyramide Inversée in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris is completed.
1995 – The building of the European Court of Human Rights is completed. The façade is made of stainless steel.
1998 – Stainless steel is used extensively in the Petronas Towers. At 452m, the buildings remain the tallest in the world until 2004.
2006 – China becomes the biggest stainless steel producer in the world.
2010 – The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is opened on 4 January 2010. At 829.84m in height, it is currently the tallest structure in the world.