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Stainless Steel Fabrication: A Storied History

January 29, 2020

Considering how ubiquitous structural steel is in our everyday lives, it may come as a surprise that stainless steel fabrication only really flourished as an industrial staple in the past 100 or so years. Today, it is impossible to imagine any building without structural steel, and even smaller household products, decorative items, and art pieces utilize stainless steel as a material.


Long before the Common Era, humans were using iron as a material, particularly in weapons.


This was crucial to the formation of early civilizations. At this time, there was little technology to deal with the naturally-occurring issues in iron such as corrosion, and as such metalworkers found themselves spending significantly more time maintaining, repairing, and making new iron products all the time.


With that said, crude forms of this technology eventually emerged. In China, chromium was used to help iron weapons be more resistant to corrosion. Thousands of years later, the Wootz steelmaking technique is discovered in the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula, eventually spreading to Europe hundreds of years later through trade.  


The value of steel was seen by everyone who encountered it: cheaper to produce, incredibly strong, aesthetically pleasing, and more resistant to a variety of issues. Steel is distinguished from iron in the sense that steel is an alloy, having carbon atoms that help it be stronger. This is why it was such a prized material for weapon making, as it does not dull as easily.


However, mass producing an alloy like steel was beyond the capabilities of anyone before the Industrial Revolution. In fact, it was not until 1952 with the development of the process of basic oxygen steelmaking that we begin to see what looks more like modern steel production.


This was a more reliable method that could produce steel at up to a dozen times faster than previous methods.


From this, stainless steel fabrication grew and became what it is today. All over the world, the steel industry plays a large role in propping up national economies, with hundreds of thousands of workers in the industry in all the major economies.


Stainless steel fabrication is now a crucial skill that is paramount to society’s development and progress. The tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is a stainless steel structure. In fact, skyscrapers in general will not have been possible without structural steel. Steel continues to be used not only as a building material but as an art material. Just one example of a famous art piece is the Cloud Gate in Chicago, which is made up of 168 steel plates that were welded together.


We at Weld Rich and Steel are proud of how far stainless steel fabrication has come, and we hope to continue being part of this journey.