When was stainless steel invented?

The origins of stainless steel are subject to some debate. The general view is that they were developed by Harry Brearley, who was trying to develop more wear-resistant steel for gun barrels on behalf of Firth-Rixson, Sheffield, UK. Whilst testing samples in a friend’s cutlery factory, he discovered that those containing >10.5% chromium were resistant to attack by vinegar, which was a common test for cutlery. The term ‘stainless steel’ instead of ‘rustless steel’ was captioned as a result in 1911.

There are similar stories to this originating from manufacturers in Germany, Sweden and the USA, associated with developments for a wide range of applications including razor blades. Whilst any of these activities may lay valid claim to the invention of stainless steels, the creation of the ‘stainless’ prefix holds greater import for most.

Milestones for Stainless Steel

Below is a short timeline of the key moments of the history of stainless steel –

  • 1919-1923 – Stainless steel was adapted to the manufacturing of tools, surgical scalpels and cutlery in Sheffield
  • During the early 1920s a variety of nickel and chromium combinations were tested. Stainless steel was referred to as ’18/8′, which indicated the percentage of chromium and nickel in the steel.
  • 1925 – A Stainless steel tank was used to store nitric acid, which established this unique metal’s resistance to corrosion
  • 1926 – The first surgical implants made of stainless steel were performed
  • 1928 – The hygienic aspect of stainless steel was demonstrated when the first stainless steel fermenting vessel was used to brew beer. From this time, the food and beverage industry has widely used this metal.
  • 1930 – The first stainless steel train was built in the USA
  • 1931 – The creation of the first stainless steel aircraft
  • 1935 – Stainless steel kitchen sinks are now widely used plus type 430 stainless steel (ferritic chromium alloy) was used to make a wire 0.1mm in diameter for voice recording machines
  • 1954 – The first stainless steel underwater TV camera was manufactured
  • 1966 – France is the first country to complete the first tidal power station.
  • 1980 – In the 1980s stainless was used to construct the longest movable flood barrier in the world on the River Thames, UK.
  • 2010- – Global production of stainless steel reached 31 million tonnes, plus 11 million washing machines with stainless steel drums were produced

The Home of Stainless Steels

With over 80 years’ experience and expertise, Langley Alloys Limited has developed a worldwide reputation for supplying unique stainless steel for demanding applications. Operating from locations in the UK, the United States and Singapore, we carry extensive stocks of advanced stainless steel in bar, plate and tube form.

For more information about our product range, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

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