The Evolution of Stainless Steel

 In Stainless Steel, Stainless Steel Fabrication

The evolution of stainless steel officially began just over 100 years ago. In 1913, Harry Brearley (1871-1948) was experimenting with alloys to find a way to protect rifle and gun barrels from corrosion. In the process, he discovered stainless steel. He originally named it “rustless steel” because this material would not rust or corrode. Brearley then discovered that identical cast deemed perfect for crafting cutlery. Earlier efforts of this similar alloy were made. However, Brearley is credited with inventing the first true stainless steel we still use today.

Evolution of Stainless Steel

Harry Brearley


Chromium is Key in the Evolution of Stainless Steel

What’s the key ingredient in Stainless steel? Chromium! Brearley found a resistance to oxidation to steel when he added 12.8% chromium content to melted iron. Chromium produces an invisible and adherent oxide layer of film on the surface of the steel. This is the “passive layer” because it heals itself in the presence of oxygen. Hence, this is what gives stainless steel a bright, shiny appearance.

Historically, chromium ore was known as Siberian red lead. This was used to make bright red paints. In the late 1700’s, French chemist, Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin (1763-1829) discovered chromium while heating the red lead with charcoal. He observed a bright, shiny material and named this substance Chromium. For that reason, he chose Chromium from the Greek word “Chroma,” meaning “color.”


Evolution of Stainless Steel in America

  • Between 1913 and 1920, stainless steel is being used as cutlery and scalpels. Also, implantable metallic devices for medical purposes.
  • Rolls-Royce Company was one of the first to use stainless steel on a vehicle. Their 1929 automobile exposed the very impressive radiator grille in silvery stainless steel.
  • The world’s first stainless steel airplane, the Budd BB1 Pioneer, was test flown in 1932 in Philadelphia.
  • By 1930, the Chrysler Building in New York City was the first major use of stainless steel in construction. It was the highest and most embellished skyscraper in the world. In fact, the top 100 feet of the mast is clad in stainless steel. This tower soon became a representation of the stainless steel industry. Indeed, an icon of stamina and splendor in building designs, and a favorite of architects.
  • In 1934, the Zephyr was built. The Zephyr featured extensive use of stainless steel and was America’s first diesel-streamline train. The efficient high speed train was a lightweight, luxurious, silvery train that became the world’s fastest. Additionally, it even had a movie named after it, “The Silver Streak.”
  • By 1935, stainless steel kitchen sinks became widely used.
  • In 1936, Ford Motor Company produced the Deluxe Sedan. This was the first ever stainless steel car. Accordingly, it was part of a campaign to bring awareness to the new metal.
  • In 1965, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri became the world’s tallest stainless steel monument. Specifically, the 630 foot arch consists of 886 tons of stainless steel.
  • In 1969, the first men on the moon (Apollo 11) arrived there by the stainless steel Saturn V Rocket.
  • The DeLorean Motor Company the first carmaker to mass produce stainless steel cars in 1981.


Stainless Steel Today

Production in stainless steel steadily increases every day around the world. Architects and engineers appreciate stainless steel’s sustainability component. Most noteworthy, there is no shortage of innovation when it comes to stainless steel! Our Project Managers acknowledge this and take on revolutionary, complex projects. Indeed, they solve problems and suggest solutions for cost effectiveness and collaborative design. Stainless steel is popular here at Astro. Nevertheless, we fabricate stainless steel almost everyday. You will see stainless steel and its many applications, including:

In the meantime, contact us today if you’re looking for knowledge and experience in fabricating stainless steel. We’d love to help!

Evolution of Stainless Steel & the Arch Gateway

The Arch Gateway

Evolution of Stainless Steel

The DeLorean

The Evolution of Stainless Steel

Ford Deluxe Sedan

The Evolution of Stainless Steel

The Zephyr

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