Stainless steel is an invaluable material that touches nearly every aspect of our lives in one way or another. From adorning kitchen appliances to its function in the medical, architecture and energy industries, the versatility of stainless steel plays a big part in making our everyday lives better and easier.
What Is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is a durable alloy—a metal made by mixing two or more metallic elements—consisting of iron and chromium. The mixture needs to contain at least 10.5 percent of chromium in order for the alloy to be categorized as a stainless steel. The addition of the chromium to the iron creates a thin layer of oxide on the surface of the steel that prevents further corrosion.
Carbon, silicon, manganese, nickel and molybdenum may also be part of the mix to enhance its features, such as increasing corrosion resistance.
The History of Stainless Steel
It is generally accepted that stainless steel was developed in Europe in the turmoil of the early 20th century, though there is still debate over where the first heat for commercial use was produced. This refers to the first time that a steel mill first processed (smelted) the various ingredients that were determined to yield stainless steel.
Harry Brearley of Sheffield, England, is believed to be the inventor of stainless steel. The child of a steel melter, Brearley went to school to become an expert in the analysis and production of steel—an alloy made up of iron and carbon—and eventually set up his own laboratory (Brown-Firth Laboratory) to investigate the different applications of steel.
In 1912, he was approached by a small arms manufacturer to resolve their problem with the internal diameter of rifle barrels eroding over time. Set to task, Brearley ultimately wound up creating an iron-chromium alloy that withstood corrosion instead of erosion. Excited for the possibilities, he personally commissioned a set of knives to be made out of his new-found creation—which he called “rustless steel”—by a local cutler. It was actually an employee at the establishment who coined the phrase “stainless steel” after he tried and failed to stain the new knives with vinegar.
Meanwhile, in Germany…
Within the same year of Brearley’s discovery, metallurgists at a company called Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft in Germany created a similar alloy with nickel. It was not only more resistant to acids but also softer and more malleable than Brearley’s creation.
The Krupp’s alloy, along with Brearley’s, would serve as the base for types of stainless steels that were used through both world war eras and are still used today.
Why Is Stainless Steel an Ideal Material for the Medical Industry?
As stated earlier, stainless steel has a number of useful applications across quite a few industries, but some reap the benefits more so than others, especially the medical industry. This is simply because there are a number of unique features that make stainless steel more valuable and versatile compared to other material options, discussed below.
Stainless steel is easily cleaned and offers a modern, flawless look to any space, including physician’s offices and hospital surgical suites.
Due to its malleable nature, stainless steel can be cut, formed, welded, fabricated and machined as easily as traditional steel. This can include medical tools and cabinetry for all aspects of the medical industry.
Stainless steel is a sustainable substance that can take a beating in almost any situation and outlives many other building materials.
An obvious benefit in any medical setting, stainless steel is a sturdy, non-porous surface that is easy to clean and sanitize.
Resistance to Corrosion
As proven by its creator, Harry Brearley, stainless steel holds its ground against some harsh items—including most alkaline solutions and acids—regardless of the grade of stainless steel being utilized.
For more information about the best way to utilize stainless steel or to get a quote for one of our quality stainless-steel products for your space, contact us today.