January 2015
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Cover Story

100+ Years of Stainless Steel
and it's Development in India

- By Mr. N C Mathur President ISSDA

 

Stainless steel was actually discovered to get rid of the rusting formed by moisture on the pipe of the guns, but very frequently it was used to manufacture medical equipments. Grade 304-316 of the stainless steel was used for the manufacturing of surgical equipments. Stainless steel was introduced in India in the same form. It was sent from Japan. The Japanese company Nipone was the first largest company to produce stainless steel. In India, aluminium, copper and bronze utensils were being produced in great quantity. A representative group from Japan visited India and gave training for making surgical equipments to 2-3 units in Chennai and made an agreement with the Indian Government that Japan would provide grade 304 stainless steel sheets with little to no profit for the manufacturing of surgical equipments.

The government lifted the import duty on terms that only the license holders for manufacturing surgical equipments can import the sheets and they should be wholly used for the purpose of manufacturing surgical equipments only. Stainless steel was majorly used for manufacturing surgical equipments but the manufacturers came up with an idea to use it to make bowls, plates and glasses. But due to government terms the stainless steel can only be used for manufacturing surgical equipments only but still the manufacturing of stainless steel utensils took place illegally. The stainless steel utensils were not accepted easily but later on they became useful. Indian utensil manufacturing company Devilal managed to convince the government to use the imported stainless steel sheets for manufacturing utensils and they were successful.

Devilal company started importing stainless steel sheets from the Japanese vendor Nipone and started the production of utensils in Mumbai. Later on, the surgical equipment unit also started manufacturing stainless steel utensils. Many units in Chennai now make stainless steel utensils in the name of surgical equipments. This is how stainless steel arrived in India.

 

Evolution of Stainless Steel and its initial growth around the World


it was more than a hundred years ago that stainless steel as a material was discovered and commercially produced. It was a culmination of the efforts put by numerous scientists who researched with chromium alloyed steels. But it was not until the early decades of the 1900s that the first stainless steel was patented and manufactured.
Nothing could have started till in 1797 Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin discovered chromium. Although some progress was made with Chromium alloyed steels but only between 1904- 1911 Leon Alexandre Guillet published a research into iron, chromium and nickel alloys that today would be classed as stainless steel. Later in 1910-1911 Philipp Monnartz and William Borchers obtained a German patent for stainless steel. Monnartz published a Study of Iron-Chromium Alloys with Special Consideration of their Resistance to Acids. He was the first to explain that stainless steel requires at least 12% chromium and a controlled amount of carbon.


The actual birth of Stainless steel has been attributed to following researchers. In 1912, while working for Krupp, Eduard Maurer and Benno Strauss are granted patents on two chromium-nickel stainless steels. The first alloy was a martensitic grade, while the second was an austenitic grade. In 1913, Harry Brearley discovered martensitic chromium stainless steel while seeking a corrosion-resistant alloy for gun barrels. Later he casted the first commercial martensitic chromium stainless steel. In 1915 Brearley obtains Canadian, French and US patents.


Later during 1919-1923 Sheffield cutlers started regular production of stainless steel cutlery, surgical scalpels and tools. Early stainless tableware such as dishes and bowls also started to appear at this time.


From small beginnings a hundred years ago, stainless steel has grown to be an integral part of our lives. Utilized primarily for its corrosion resistance, stainless steel is also found in applications where strength, innovation and aesthetics are important.


The production volumes of stainless steels started picking up only in 1950s with introduction of hot and cold rolling facilities. Along with the increase in production a number of grades suiting to various environment and applications were also developed later classified into austenitc, ferritic, martensitic, duplex and PH grades. Each category has its unique characteristics associated with property of corrosion resistance. Today the modern stainless steel making facilities are capable to produce highest quality grades of stainless steel for applications in most stringent conditions.


Initial Growth of Stainless Steel Industry in India
Though stainless steels were initially developed in the first quarter of last century, it was just four decades ago when stainless steel first production started in India and was primarily getting used for pots and pans in kitchen with some exception in engineering use. Till 1978, the production of stainless steel in the country was nil and most of the requirements were met through imports only. It was in 1978, ASP & VISL ( Both a part of SAIL now) started producing plates, rounds and billets taking country domestic consumption to 18000 MT per annum. Production picked up only in 1980s when new producers Bihar Alloy Steel and Jindal Strips (JSL now), G.M. Mittal (Rathi Alloys) entered into the business and started flat bar (called patta now) production suitable for re-rolling to sheets used for utensil industry. Availability of indigenously produced flats accentuated the emergence of new facilities for re rolling near Jagadhari, Jodhpur, Delhi and Ahmedabad. A small growth in deomestic production started to get noticed which reach to 50,000 MT per Annum. Still the lack of indigenous cold rolling facilities to produce wider coils restricted the use of stainless steel to kitchen utensils only. It was only in 1985 when SAIL (salem) plant started the first cold rolling unit in the country. The production touched 102,000 MT per annum and meanwhile growing demand for the use of stainless steel for utensils allowed to bloom and spread the 'patta' industry in other regions of the country specially in the state of Gujarat and Maharastra.


During 1990 nickel prices increased sharply and it touched to 18000 US$ /MT and on the top of that there was a 55% import duty levied by government of India at that time. India being fully dependent on import on nickel and nickel still being an important element, since most of the production was in 304 grade stainless steel, it was almost impossible to continue the growth of stainless steel in the country.


Meanwhile introduction of new technologies for processing stainless steels was coming up for faster and quality production of stainless steel all over the world. Upto mid 60's, the stainless steels were manufactured mostly by Electric Arc Furnace – Ingot Casting - Slabbing and hot rolled to coil/sheets in hot strip/plate-sheet mills. The advent of technologies of AOD/VOD in 1990s allowed the Indian Producers to replace nickel with Manganese and Nitrogen still maintaining the austenitic structure of stainless steel. Nickel price instability forced Indian producers to research and the birth of a variety of 200 series grades (low in nickel and high in Mn and Nitrogen austenitic stainless steel) took place. Till now, many new producers Mukund, Panchmahal, Facor, Viraj forayed into production of stainless steel long products and started their productions taking over total production of India to 250000 MT.


Although stainless steel industry was growing at a very steady rate in the country but till 1989-1990s more than 90 % of use was still in kitchen and related applications. Meanwhile, western and other developing countries started using stainless steel in more and more applications such as rail coaches, tankers for carrying liquids, pipelines for carrying oil, gas, liquids including potable water, various products for architecture, building and construction.

 

Initial Growth of Stainless Steel Industry in India

In 1988 representative of producers of stainless steel from India were visiting to London on invitation from Ni and Cr producers. At that point in time only four Stainless Steel Development Associations were exiting (Japan, Germany, Italy & South Africa). There has been a marked difference in the stainless steel market development in these countries compared to others that made us think about India. We could feel that a neutral body with the sole purpose of developing a market has larger influence when compared with different organizations working in parallel to increase their market. The excitement paved the way and work started immediately after our return from the UK. Formally ISSDA was born in Nov 1989 as non-profit Organization after long debates and taking in to confidence key manufacturers (seven producers) of stainless steel. This was the time when India was producing meager quantities of stainless steel and nickel prices were hitting the roof. The challenge was tough and not much was in sight as to what could be the way to work on our mission. But we were determined to bring about a revolution in the Indian market. This was the time when the development of Cr-Mn 200 series stainless steel just started.


The main objective of ISSDA was to create awareness on the use of stainless steel and help in diversifying the usage of stainless steel in different sectors. ISSDA and its member companies started its education and promotional activities educating everyone on how the long life on account of good corrosion resistance of stainless steel makes it suitable for many other applications since if wisely used the life cycle cost will result in long term good saving. In the last two decades, stainless steel has undergone a tremendous change in perception and production volumes in India. ISSDA has been successful in creating the awareness and changed the perception on stainless steel being seen as a material good only for kitchenware, it is now seen as a wonderful engineering material that lasts for decades and gives you value for money.


Today we see use of stainless not only in kitchen but in Indian Railways & Metro Rail Coaches, Wagons, tankers, various products for building & construction & process Industry but also in sectors such as Nuclear, Power, Oil & gas where high quality & grades that are indigenously produced, supplied and are being used.

Present Production and Consumption trend of stainless steel
by End Use Sector in India

 


The world Crude Stainless Steel production in 2013 is estimated over 38 million tons. The world production has grown at a CAGR of 5 % pa over the last 10 years. Asia has strongly emerged as both the world's largest stainless steel producer and user. Although China dominates the production of stainless steel accounting for more than 50% share of world production, India has been a part of this impressive growth with its production reaching 3 million tons in 2013 making it the 3th largest producer and 2nd largest user of stainless steel in the world. The average growth in India has recorded a CAGR of over 10 % over the last 10 years which is more than a double the world average growth during the period.

The main Stainless Steel consuming segments can be classified into 6 to 7 broad categories e.g. Metal products, Process and Engineering industries products; Electro mechanical and electronics; Construction, Transportation and others including medical, blades, coins etc. Out of these Metal products, Process Industries and Engineering goods etc are relatively mature application areas whereas areas like construction and automobile are still evolving in the country and have great future potential for growth. Fig. 3 & Fig. 4 present the consumption patter of stainless steel flat and long products by major market sectors respectively. Here it is worth noting that all sectors have increased their share of consumption at the expense of Metal good segment. Traditionally metal good sector including utensils and cookware has been the largest consuming sector of Stainless Steel in the country now accounting for 52% share of the overall consumption of stainless steel down from 75% in 2004. The single biggest contributor to this segment is the utensils/cookware which has grown at only 4.5% annually due to its already high level of penetration and its direct linkage with population growth. Almost 83% of the consumption of stainless steel in metal good sector is accounted by very low Nickel austenitic stainless steel flats popularly known as 'Patta'.


The automotive, railway and transport (ART) sector is now emerging as the fastest consumption segment of Stainless steel in the country. This segment has grown the fastest 32.39% over the last 8 years propelled by large requirements from railway wagon, coaches and automotive exhausts. The Indian automobile industry has grown rapidly in the past with India emerging as a major hub for small cars. All major international players are having their presence in India. Auto exhausts has been the major consumption segment for Stainless steel in this sector followed by disk brakes, cylinder head gaskets and exhaust manifold gaskets. Almost entire requirement for stainless steel to be used for auto sector in the country is of 409 L grade. Railways too have emerged as the largest consuming segment of Stainless Steel in the ART. Railways are procuring about 2500 coaches and 12000 wagons annually of stainless steel where a mix of 300 series and 400 series stainless steel grades are being used. This procurement cycle is expected to continue for next several years as the railways have plans to switch over to stainless steel for all its coaches for all luxury trains. Besides this there has been rapid growth in demand for metro coaches in the country and is expected to grow manifolds.


One of the new emerging segments for stainless steel consumption is the architecture, building and construction (ABC) sector. The ABC sector is mostly driven by growth in Indian real estate sector consisting of residential real estate, commercial real estate, retail space, entertainment space, hospitality projects and SEZs. All high quality construction projects like retail outlets, shopping malls, multiplexes, Airports, Rail Metros, IT parks, Commercial Complexes, Hotels, Fast food restaurants, High Quality Residential accommodations, Hi tech town ships and showrooms etc in the country today are finding big outlet for stainless steel in different ways and product forms such as Railings, Roofings, Barriers, signages, claddings and building facades. In all these construction, stainless steel is penetrating in place of conventional materials like steel, glass, plastics, aluminium composites etc.

Process industry historically has been consistent consumer of Stainless steel. Stainless steel is used in wide ranging process industries including Refineries, Petrochemical, Chemicals, Dairy, Power, Textile, Sugar, Food processing, Distilleries, Fertilizer, Cement, Drugs, Paper and pulp and others. This sector mainly consumes 300 series grade of stainless steel. The process and engineering industry requirement has increased over the years and is tied with the health of the general economy and investments in projects. Major share of the consumption within process industry is accounted by Heat exchangers, pressure vessels, reactors and columns etc.

From being a very insignificant player in the world market about a decade ago to become world third largest producer the Indian market has demonstrated a steady growth in the past years. Maintaining this positive trend will require a lot of marketing and development activities. The efforts should be made to ensure that the use of Stainless Steel in infrastructure should be made mandatory by planning commission and specified in the standards. There is a need to create awareness among designers, specification writers about the benefits of stainless steel to reduce the level of ignorance about the material and thus, create new application areas using the life cycle cost benefits of specifying material.

 

 

About  N.C. MATHU


Born on 11th September 1044 at Jodhpur. Graduated with B. Tech (Hons.) from India's leading University - Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani in 1966. 1st President of students union in 1964 when BITS,became an independent University.


Worked in India with leading Industrial Houses for over 48 years (17 years with the Birla Group and for 31 years with Jindals) and has been associated with Stainless Steel Industry for last 38 years.


President of Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA), the market development arm of the industry. Chairman of Steel Furnace Association of India.
Associated for 10 years with the “Market Development Committee” as well as “Economics & Statistics Committee” of ISSF (International Stainless Steel Forum), a global Stainless Steel Industry Association based in Brussels, Europe.


Invited to speak in global Stainless Steel, Nickel and Ferro Alloys Conferences worldwide since 1994. Presented papers in over 30 International events organized by Metal Bulletin, CRU, SMR, ISSF, Stainless Steel Associations in China, Russia, Japan, S. Korea UK, EU, USA, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa.
Under Mr. Mathur's leadership ISSDA has occupied high reputation with Government of India Ministries and BIS, as the Technical and Market Development arm of the Industry. ISSDA celebrated 25th year Anniversary with a grand event in Delhi in November 2014


Mr. Mathur received The “Stainless Steel UDYOG RATNA AWARD” in Sept. 2009 from the ALL INDIA STAINLESS STEEL INDUSRTRIES ASSN. Mumbai during its 42nd AGM. He is the first recipient as an Individual Professional of this prestigious Award for his contribution for the Stainless Steel Industry.

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