A Brief History of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is so commonly used these days that it’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing what it is. It may surprise you to know it’s only been around for 100 years. In this blog, we explore a brief history of stainless steel. Where it came from, how it’s changed and how it is used today.

When was stainless steel invented?

It is often the case that manufacturing breakthroughs are a result of preparing for wars and this is how we found stainless steel in 1912. In the lead up to WWI, English metallurgist Harry Brearley was looking for ways to make firearms more heat resistant. He trialled a number of different metal combinations and found that treating steel with chromium gave it much more strength, heat and corrosion resistant properties. Historians debate whether Brearley was the very first to combine these metals and thus, invent stainless steel. However, he was the first to scientifically research the effects and popularise the product, which is why he is regularly quoted as the creator.

Modernising stainless steel

Over time we have created many different metal mixes for stainless steel. These are classified with a detailed number system which denotes their metallic properties. For example, Airport Metals supply types 304 and 321 for our stainless steel tubing. Type 304 is the most common stainless steel featuring high levels of nickel and chromium. It is used in everything from kitchen appliances and tableware to aircraft tubing. Type 321 has a similar mix but is reinforced with the addition of titanium to further increase strength and heat resistance. The different classifications are important in deciding which metal type will best suit your needs.

Chromoly vs. stainless steel

Chrome moly tubing and stainless steel tubing are also similar products however, it’s important to understand their different applications. Stainless steel has been treated with chromium and depending on the type, any number of other metals. Chromoly however, is a specific blend of chromium and molybdenum – hence the name. It’s very strong but not as corrosion resistant as stainless steel. By understanding your performance expectations, our experts can recommend the ideal metal tubing for your needs.

Supplying quality metal to Australian industry

Airport Metal have been a leading metal supplier in Australia for almost 50 years. Based in Melbourne, we regularly supply tubing, rods and sheet metals to the aircraft, motorsport and similar industries. For advice from our team or to place an order, call (03) 9310 5566 or submit our online form.