The foundation for stainless steel as we know it today was laid over 100 years ago in Krupp’s research lab in Essen, Germany. On October 17, 1912, Krupp engineers Benno Strauss and Eduard Maurer patented austenitic stainless steel.
This formula, they found after four years of research, was a non-rusting steel, which was insensitive to water and humidity. It had a chemical composition of 18 % chromium and 8% nickel composition or “18-8” what became known as Type 304 stainless steel today.
The steels in use at that time were either chromium or nickel steels, which were difficult to process and susceptible to corrosion. The addition of specific amounts of chromium and nickel, heat treatment and a reduction in the carbon content resulted in the patented “V2A” material. This material 1.4301 was the first commercially produced stainless steel and still accounts for more than a third of the stainless steel produced worldwide.
Gradually, the austenitic grades were followed by the development of the other members of the stainless steel family – ferritic, martensitic and duplex grades.
The burgeoning chemical industry of the early 20th century especially needed steels with high resistance to acids, but the new material was also used in the food industry and for household white goods. At the industrial exhibition in Malmö, Sweden in 1914, products of stainless steel were presented to the public for the first time. In 1919 a further patent was granted in the medical field for the “production of artificial internal parts for human and animal bodies made of stainless steel”. The new material also became increasingly popular with architects. The Chrysler Building in New York (built 1928-1930) was the first to feature stainless steel roof cladding, which still shines like on its first day. Stainless steel was also used in the facade of the world’s tallest building, the “Burj Kalifa” in Dubai which was opened in 2010.
Since the 1950s in particular, flat-rolled stainless steel materials have been used wherever high dependability, functionality and hygiene are required. Today, roughly 120 stainless steel grades are available in a variety of sizes and finishes. With different chemical compositions depending on application, they are used in the construction, automotive, medical, pharmaceutical, food, energy and chemical industries as well as in environmental and marine engineering. Global annual demand for stainless steel increased tenfold from three to 30 million tons between 1970 and 2010. Stainless steel is also 100% recyclable and therefore highly sustainable.
Thyssenkrupp’s North America Materials Division, Copper and Brass Sales, which started in 1931, selling mostly Copper and Alloys, began selling more Stainless Steel as demand grew in the 1950s. Today Copper and Brass Sales is a top distributor of stainless steel bars, tubes, sheet, and plates in North America.
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