The linde argon-oxygen process for stainless steel; A case study of major innovation in a basic industry
The Lecture traces the development of the Linde Argon-Oxygen Process from its conception in 1955 to its full scale and widespread utilization in the specialty steel industry on a worldwide basis at the present time. The basic invention was derived from f i r s t principles of physical chemistry known to all third year college chemistry students. Its long saga of development over a fifteen-year period required a great deal more; namely, a corporation with tremendous resources and, more importantly, almost boundless faith to continue in spite of some devastating reversals , a small company with great vision and engineering ingenuity to evolve a nontraditional process for the manufacture of stainless steel which many larger companies had despaired of, and a marketing effort which was able to do the almost impossible which was to convince a basic industry such as steel of the merits of a revolutionary new process significantly different in method of operation and capital requirements without being a part of that industry itself and without means of proving the process in-house. The development of the Linde Argon-Oxygen Process is a massive tribute to American industry, the dedication of many of its members, and the tremendous ability of different industries to work together in a major development. The Lecture attempts, as any good case history should, to generalize from this specific case the lessons to be learned by industry, by individual engineers and scientists , by government, and the academic community in major process innovation in a basic industry. Such an increased understanding leading to improved implementation of new knowledge into major industry is critically important if the United States is to improve its standing in international markets. Since the Linde Argon-Oxygen Process is an all-American development, its study should lead us to fuller understanding of both the unique advantages our system provides for such innovation and means by which we may accelerate such badly-needed developments in the future.