Who Invented The Rolling Mill?

One of the earliest and most important devices for sheet metal fabricators is the rolling mill, as they take thicker pieces of metal and shape them into flat, uniform, workable steel sheets that can subsequently be cut to whatever size and shape are needed for a particular job.

The earliest principles behind the rolling mill could be traced back nearly 3000 years into the past when small, crude hand-driven rollers were sued to flatten gold and silver for creating jewellery in parts of the Middle East and South East Asia.

Gold and Silver are precious metals precisely because they are so easy to work with, so it stands to reason that the first rollers, regardless of crudeness or size would be effective in flattening gold ready to create elaborate designs out of.

It would take nearly a thousand years for the next major development in the rolling mill to occur, with the pioneering if theoretical design sketched by Leonardo Di Vinci.

He noted that such a machine, made of two cylindrical rollers, would theoretically make it possible to modify the thickness of metal, specifically noting its potential for use with lead and tin. Whilst an advanced machine concept in the early 16th century, it is unknown whether his design was ever used.

The earliest known practical mills in Europe took the form of slitting mills. These were watermills that used a nearby river to turn a water wheel that powered a series of rollers.

These rollers would flatten bars of iron half an inch thick into a thick plate before it was then sliced into rods with a second set of rollers and grooves that allowed for the iron to be sliced lengthways and create usable iron rods that were typically given a point and head and turned into nails.

This concept would very slowly advance, and by the end of the 17th century, plate iron would be made using either hot or cold rolling rather than in a forge.

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