The Stainless Steel Evolution: Cutlery to Construction.

The Frank Ghery Disney Concert Hall California, USA

Who hasn’t used stainless steel at some point in their life? It’s an amazingly versatile and durable metal so it’s not surprising it has a long list of applications.

You come across it in all aspects of life from the kitchen and home, design & construction, industry, manufacturing and medical facilities to name just a few.

It’s the properties of stainless steel that make it so popular and so widely used. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable, easily sterilized and most important, not prone to corrosion, staining or rusting when exposed to water.

It’s an eco-friendly solution for modern, sustainable building projects and because it doesn’t need to be painted it’s an environmentally responsible choice that requires little maintenance.

With so many benefits it’s no surprise that the metal is being used in an increasingly long list of applications and along the way throwing off its label as as merely a robust hardwearing steel.

Kitchenware & Hardware

Arne Jacobsen Cutlery

This might be where a lot of people first experienced stainless steel. Pots, pans, cutlery and all manner of kitchen equipment are made from this durable material.

There are many different variants and qualities of stainless used in a wide variety of consumer products. While the finest cutlery may be of pure stainless steel, knives are of a different variant, while everyday spoons and forks are an alloy of stainless steel, nickel, and chromium.

Higher quality stainless steel is used for the production of cutlery and knives because it can be hardened and tempered to give sharp edges. On the contrary, the more ductile stainless steel alloy is more comfortable to work with and is the best choice in the manufacture of items needing buffing, grinding, and shaping.

Food production

We know stainless steel is high in demand in the kitchen and home and is also heavily used in areas of commercial food production. You’d be hard pressed to find a professional kitchen without some amount of stainless in its construction.

Stainless steel alloys are usually used in commercial kitchens because they can withstand the corrosiveness of food. Most importantly they are also easy to clean. Another great advantage of stainless is that it has the important feature of not altering the taste of the food it comes in contact with. It’s possible to safely produce large quantities of sauces, soups and all types of food in stainless steel vessels without worrying about any taste change.

Architecture, Design and Construction

Stainless Steel Architecture: The CTLES, Bussy-Staint-Gorges, Paris.

Until recently stainless was largely used as a structural component of architectural projects to assist with the technicalities of the building process for roofing, facades, supports, beams and cladding.

An area that has been getting plenty of attention in recent years is the use of stainless beyond its use as the construction skeleton. Designers and architects have discovered the amazing impact of stainless as an architectural feature.

Some of the world’s most revered architects have used stainless in very impactful ways designing structures that are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Look no further than Ghery’s Concert Hall in California, USA; Zaha Hadad’s Investcorp Building at Oxford University’s St Antony’s College in the U.K. and Yoshihiro Amano’s Dear Jingumae Building in Tokyo. If you’re not familiar with their work and others do yourself a favour and take a look.

Medical equipment

It is hard to imagine that the stainless steel used to manufacture bridges and cars is also used in medicine, in the manufacture of clean, sensitive, artificial knee and hip implants.

It’s not just in implants. Stainless steel is also extensively used in the production of surgical tools and medical equipment like dental crowns and hemostats.

Stainless steel also has applications in the manufacture of medical cabinets, examination machines, and orthopedic beds. All of this is possible because of its non-porous, anti-microbial, hygienic and extra-clean qualities.

Automotive industry

The DeLorean Car from 1983

Welcome to the automobile industry, another segment with high demand for stainless steel. Most cars don’t feature much stainless in their construction – it’s more the manufacturing facilities that use the metal in their production processes.

The exception to this of course was the DeLorean! While the car never hit big time production [only around 9000 were made] but it certainly went a long way to raising the profile of stainless steel. The DeLorean looked great but wasn’t known for its power or performance. Thanks to the movie Back To The Future it became somewhat of a cult vehicle.

It’s not only the automotive industry. These characteristics of stainless steel also render it useful, and crucial, in the manufacture of rail cars and aircraft. It’s also the material used for brake fittings as brake fluid is highly corrosive.

Power generation

It’s a less known fact that stainless steel contributes to power generation. Thanks to its corrosion combating properties. It makes them an ideal choice for use at elevated temperatures. So it’s not surprising that it’s used as nickel alloy, which is an alloy that resists oxidation in fossil-fuelled power plants.

Stainless steel is so durable a material that it is also used in the nuclear power industry to both generate power, and to contain radiation. It is used in the quality manufacturing of ventilation shafts, which are vital at sealing off plants for years in case of emergencies.

You will also notice that there are stainless steel gas and steam turbines. This is another application of the metal because of its heat and corrosion resistant properties.

Hygiene equipment

A corrosion-resistant and durable material like stainless steel is a necessity in facilities exposed to germs and bacteria including hospitals, vet surgeries, prisons and commercial kitchens and more.

Chemical, processing and oil & gas industries

Stainless steel also has a role in the chemical, processing, and oil industries. It is high in demand in the manufacture of tanks, pumps, pipes, and even valves. It’s once again because of the metal’s corrosion and heat-resistant traits.

Stainless is such durable material that its alloy can store dilutes acids much more safely than other materials. There are even some grades developed, and used for better corrosion resistance at varying temperatures. These variants have used in desalination plants, offshore oiling, and sewerage plants, and ship propellers.

What’s not to love about stainless? It’s such a durable material and has so many applications spread across a myriad of industries. It’s fascinating to know that stainless steel is used in something as intricate and hygienic as knee replacement because it’s not so easily broken down by blood products.

The uses of stainless is sure to grow as it has done across the decades. It’s not surprising because good quality stainless steel is a material that’s durable, hygienic and much more corrosion-resistant than other types of steel. To top it all that off it’s sleek, cool and beautiful!