Its high resistance to corrosion makes stainless steel advantageous than carbon steel. This unique property is caused by the chromium-rich oxide film that forms naturally on the steel?s surface. This chromium-rich oxide film is tremendously thin since it is at molecular level and invisible to our eyes. Some characteristics of this film are passiveness, tenacity, and ability to self-repair. It is passive since it does not react to any other materials. The film is tenacious because it attached to the surface so that it can?t be moved. The layer can also form more chromium oxide in instances that it?s damaged and removed from the steel. This is because it is exposed to the surrounding air.
The chemical characteristics previously mentioned are not the only advantages of stainless steel. Using stainless steel is practical for users since it can be used over a long period of time. A worn-out and old stainless steel can still be used just by re-sharpening it. After sharpening, the characteristics of the stainless steel remain. With this, it is certain that cutlery made out of stainless steel will not wear through over time, unlike those of silver-plated cutlery with alloy base.
Initially, the cutlery industry did not succeed at first in using the invented stainless steel. The first stainless steel did not have blades or edges with blades. The stainless steel that we used today took around 30 years to perfect through extensive and costly research by big cutlery manufacturers.
The development of stainless steel through the cutlery steel technology does not stop; instead the industry continuously performs research and experiments to improve the features of the modern stainless steel. The methods, operations, and processes are now integrated, computerized, and controlled to be able to produce high-quality stainless steel made at a lower cost. For instance, an improvement that was introduced wherein there will be a reduced grinding time will result to a cost-economic stainless steel blade.
The cutlery industry went to big structural changes over the years. This industry also attracted start-ups manufacturers of cutlery as well as major global competitors. To stay competitive, manufacturers had to embrace the new technology in making stainless steel. Subcontracting production to smaller and efficient firms became a popular practice in the cutlery industry.
Sheffield, England was no longer the leading cutlery center while Solingen, Germany?s manufacturers experiences modernization and rationalization. Manufacturers form Japan, Switzerland, and Portugal also joined the cutlery market and contributed the development of the quality of cutlery. Today, either a machine or a master cutler can make a 100% quality stainless knife.
To produce a high-quality cutlery, the method of hot drop hand forging should be used in the production. This method combines the best of the old and new of cutlery making. The old comes from master cutler?s skill and expertise and the new comes from the latest in advanced steel processing technology. The raw cutlery steel must be hammered into the desired shape by master cutlers. After this, the knife will undergo 60 different processes until it is finished. For these processes to be successful, hard work and dedication of a true craftsman and modern technology should blend well.
Cutlery steel is processed at a steel mill rather than manually hammering it. The desired grade of the stainless steel is then produced and then delivered to the knife manufacturer. A machine cuts the coil of the steel to arrive at the desired shape of the blade. Highly skilled labor and machinery finish the processes of grinding, tempering, polishing, sharpening, and finishing.
What is the future of cutlery? Advanced materials like titanium alloys, carbon fibers, new polyethylenes and plastics, synthetic fibers, composites and advanced ceramics will be used in the cutlery industry. There are many applications of these materials. Today, the only advanced material used in manufacturing knife is zirconia, a high-tech ceramic.
Ceramic and iron both have weaknesses that made their development stagnant. Ceramics are brittle while man had to learn how to extract iron.
Ceramic blades have advantages over stainless steel blades, as ceramic blades are harder, lighter, and more resistant to heat. However, dropping it will be unfortunate since it is very brittle that will cause it to shatter. Unlike metal that can handle the stress of dropping by deforming, ceramic cannot deform or bend but instead, they fracture and break. This is caused by the atomic bonding properties of blade that prevents the crystalline planes from sliding and deforming.
Ceramics are made in such a way that it will fall and not break. The advantages of ceramic helped the industry solve the brittleness problem. There are solutions such as stress toughening, and toughening ceramics with fibers, to solve the problem, but these are still in the experimental stage.
The advanced materials will be the hope for the cutlery industry. The development will be long and difficult but it is certain that the present problems of today?s materials will be solved in the future.