The Use of Stainless Steel in the Medical Device Industry

The Use of Stainless Steel in the Medical Device Industry

Unlike iron, which has been used for centuries, stainless steel is a newcomer to the materials world. It was first produced only a century ago. 

Stainless steel has revolutionized the world and has applications in almost every manufacturing sector, from catering equipment and automotive to medical and construction industries.

Furthermore, it has outperformed every traditional surgical equipment in the healthcare industry since it is dedicated to providing the best care to patients, including everything—doctors, staff, and most importantly—medical equipment. 

The medical industry is challenged to maintain more hygiene than any other industry. Therefore, hospitals prefer equipment made up of medical-grade stainless steel. Almost every doctor or dentist has used stainless steel as medical equipment and surgical body implants. 

Here, in this write-up, we will answer all your questions regarding stainless steel, including what stainless steel is, its history, its application in the healthcare industry, and much more.

So, let’s get started!

What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is the corrosion-resistant and completely recyclable alloy of Chromium, iron, and other metals, such as nickel. It is environmentally neutral, and its durability ensures it meets sustainability needs.

Moreover, it is aesthetically appealing, easy to maintain, hygienic, and durable. The secret to the fame of stainless steel is in its chemical and physical properties:

  • It has high corrosion resistance with heat resistance of up to 2192°F.
  • It is highly durable and doesn’t easily rust. 
  • The cherry on the top, stainless steel, doesn’t react to many elements.


History of Stainless Steel 

The first stainless steel was discovered around a century ago. With passing time, it has revolutionized the modern world and has found applications in every sector, especially the medical industry.

The invention of Rustless Steel

Harry Brearley from Sheffield, UK, discovered ‘rustless’ steel in 1913. Although many attempts had already been made, Bearley got all credit for inventing stainless steel with 12.8% chromium content. He produced a metal that did not rust by adding Chromium to the molten iron. 

Chromium was the key ingredient as it provided corrosion resistance and hardness. After the discovery, stainless steel was improved at a rapid pace. 

In 1919, Elwood Haynes received a patent on martensitic stainless steel.

William J. Kroll of Luxembourg discovered precipitation-hardening stainless steel in 1929. 

In 1930 duplex stainless steel was manufactured in Sweden at the Avesta Ironworks.

Critical Moments in the History of Stainless Steel

With passing time, people gradually realized the outstanding properties of stainless steel. Below is the timeline with milestones in Stainless Steel’s history.

  • During 1919 and 1923, stainless steel was adopted in the manufacturing of surgical scalpels, tools, and cutlery in Sheffield.
  • In 1925, nitric acid was stored in stainless steel, proving that this unique metal is resistant to corrosion. 
  • The first stainless steel surgical implants were performed in 1926.
  • After the first stainless steel fermenting vessel was used to brew in 1928, the hygienic properties of stainless steel were demonstrated.
  • The USA made its first stainless steel train during the 1930s.
  • The first stainless steel aircraft was created in 1931.  
  • By 1935, stainless steel became widely popular in kitchen sinks.
  • The year 1954 witnessed the discovery of the first steel underwater TV camera.
  • 1966 was the year when France had the first tidal power station with stainless steel turbine blades.

Global production of stainless steel has crossed 50.9 million metric tons.


Stainless Steel Today

Stainless steel has various applications, from the tiniest structural parts in heart valves to the most oversized construction materials. 

With its sustainable properties, stainless steel is becoming invaluable for almost every sector, including the medical industry.

Applications of Stainless Steel in the Medical Industry

Stainless steel is widely used throughout the medical industry— hospitals, health clinics, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and medical laboratories. It is even used in manufacturing medical implants.

In the medical industry, Stainless steel is used in the manufacturing of several classes of devices including:

  1. Wheelchairs and walkers
  2. Orthopedic implants
  3. Surgical instruments such as scalpels, clamps, curettes, and spreaders
  4. IV stands
  5. Artificial heart valves
  6. Medical needles and syringes
  7. Bone fixation equipment, screws, and plates
  8. Chemical containers and Hazardous waste containers
  9. Prostheses
  10. Sinks, bowls, countertops, tool carts, trays 
  11. Specialty guide wires
  12. Precision tubing
  13. Medical beds
  14. Catheters
  15. Sensor probes

And many more…

Benefits of Stainless Steel in the Medical Industry

Equipment and devices are made of stainless steel for several reasons, such as its durability, fire, and corrosion resistance. 

Additionally, in healthcare, it is considered that stainless steel is easy to sanitize and clean, reducing the risk of infection to none. 

Following are the benefits of using stainless steel while manufacturing medical equipment. 

High Corrosion and Rust Resistant


Rust is not a new word for almost all of us. If we leave something made of metal sitting for too long, it will likely rust. We often do not take rust as a big issue. However, it is a big factor when making medical equipment.

With Chromium in its raw material, stainless steel has proven to be highly corrosion and rust-resistant. It is essential in the medical industry as rust and corrosion can lead to a higher risk of infection in patients. 

Heat and Fire Resistant

Hospitals tend to have many devices that could malfunction by overheating and causing a fire. Although they are not expected to function like this, it is an inherent risk for every electrical device. 

The last thing you want is products and equipment made of flammable and low-resistance materials to heat up and cause a fire. Medical grade stainless steel has a high fire and heat resistance, giving an extra protective layer to staff and patients. 

In the unfortunate event of device failure, stainless steel will prevent the fire or spread of fire. 

Easy to Clean and Sanitize

Cleanliness is the most crucial factor in the medical industry. It is a continuous process—every equipment, machine, instrument, and device must be sanitized and clean between patients to avoid contagious infections and diseases. 

Patients already have a compromised immune system making them more vulnerable to catching unwanted infections. 

Stainless steel is easy to disinfect, clean, and sanitize. You can usually clean it up with a disinfectant and paper towel. 

An additional bonus: it will save both your time and money since the equipment and instruments are reusable.

Cost-Effective and Durable

Medical products are a significant investment; frequently replacing them will result in a massive drain on your financial resources. Instruments and devices made from stainless steel are highly durable, as it is known for its resilience and durability. 

Moreover, it has a natural passivity because it doesn’t immediately react with other elements and the environment.

Bottom Line

Stainless steel has come so far in the past 100 years. With applications in almost every life sector, it has become the best choice for high-use installations in the medical industry. Its superior features in medical and commercial applications have significantly reduced HAIs and surgical site infections (SSIs).

In the medical industry, stainless steel is widely used for its high resistance against rust, fire, heat, & corrosion. It is highly reliable, durable, and easy to clean, making it essential for safe and cost-effective solutions in the medical field.