, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp 1439-1447

The linde argon-oxygen process for stainless steel; A case study of major innovation in a basic industry

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Abstract

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.

Dr. Krivsky, who holds his doctorate (1954) in process metallurgy from MIT, joined Union Carbide Corp. that year and as research metallurgist and later manager of metals research invented the Argon-Oxygen Process for stainless steel which forms the subject matter of the EMD Lecture. He holds the basic patent on the process assigned to the Union Carbide Corp. After 1959 he was associated with Brush Beryllium Co. as vice president and general manager; Continental Copper and Steel Industries as administrative vice president; and General Cable Corp. as group vice president.
Dr. Krivsky has served on several technical committees of AIME and is a past chairman of the Extractive Metallurgy Division. He has also served as a director of TMS and is currently an AIME director. In 1959 he was recipient of the Extractive Metallurgy Division’s Gold Medal, jointly with Dr. R. Schuhmann, for their contribution on the thermodynamics of copper smelting. In 1965 he edited the bookHigh Temperature Refractory Metals based upon an international symposium which he organized and chaired for the AIME.
The 1973 Extractive Metallurgy Division Lecture was delivered on Feb. 28 at the 102nd TMS-AIME Annual Meeting in Chicago.