Timeline

1930s

Superior Tube Company founded near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1934.

  • Superior Tube Company founded near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Clarence A. Warden Sr., Clarence A. Warden Jr., S. L. Gabel, and Richard H. Gabel (1934)
  • Our first order for nickel tubing was received from the National Union Radio Corporation of Newark, New Jersey
  • Superior became one of the nation’s largest producers of seamless, stainless steel hypodermic needle tubing
  • 1st US Patent granted Superior for "Cathode for Thermionic Valves"
  • Exhibits "World's Smallest Tube" at the New York World's Fair sparking a 25 year "smallest tube" race with British firm Accles & Pollock Ltd.


1940s

Navy-Army officers at an 'E' Award ceremony at Superior Tube. Speaking at the podium is Superior’s General Manager S.L. Fabel

  • Installed two tube reducers for integration with cold drawing operations
  • We opened our second plant, which became the nation’s major source for vacuum tube parts used in ordnance proximity fuzes
  • Superior Tube produced the first beryllium copper aircraft antenna for Northrop’s P-61 Black Widow, the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar
  • The company won the Army-Navy E Award for excellence in the production of war equipment
  • Following WWII beryllium copper "antenna" tapered tubing was produced for fresh and salt water fishing rods
  • Superior Tube signed an agreement with Air Material Command to survey European cathode producers, leading to our first visit to Fine Tubes Ltd, then based in Surbiton, United Kingdom


1950s

First cruciform control rod absorber for Yankee reactor is shown here and dimensional inspection is performed at Superior.

  • Superior Tube Inc and Fine Tubes Ltd formed an affiliation
  • 200,000 feet of cladding were supplied to for Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania. It was the world’s first full-scale nuclear power station devoted exclusively to producing electricity for a civilian population, and opened in 1957.
  • We established our Nuclear Product Division to manufacture vacuum welded zirconium and hafnium fabrications for reactor fuel and control rod assembles
  • Zirconium reactor components were manufactured for the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus, and the first nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise
  • Superior Tube established its Photo-Forming Department to produce aperture masks for color TV tubes and photo-formed numbers for Nixie tubes
  • The company acquired Magnetic Analysis Special Equipment (MASE) electronic flaw detection devices for the nondestructive testing of tubing


1960s

1960 Superior ad showing placement of Superior’s tubing in the “ballistic control system” of small rocket thrusters

  • Superior Tube supplied 80,000 feet of fuel cladding for Argonne National Laboratory’s EBR-II - Experimental Breeder Reactor-II - in Idaho
  • North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft used Superior tubing in its ballistic control system
  • Bell Telephone Laboratories used Superior Tube’s tubing in the world’s first communications satellite, Telstar 1, launched in 1962
  • Superior Tube initiated the design and development of an advanced tube rolling process leading to 14 patents in the US, Japan, the United Kingdom and Sweden
  • Surveyor 1, America’s first probe to land on an extraterrestrial body, surveyed the lunar surface for the upcoming Apollo missions. It used Superior Tube products in its TV cameras


1970s

Custom-fabricated tubing for flow sensors in hostile environments.

  • When McDonnell Douglas developed its new F-15 Eagle fighter plane, Superior Tube supplied the Ti-3Al-2.5V hydraulic line tubing used in the aircraft
  • Superior Tube developed and patented an integrated tube rolling process with manufacturing facilities to produce tubing from reactive metals and other high value, hard to work alloys
  • US Atomic Energy Commission gave Superior Tube qualified status as a supplier of fuel cladding for the FFTF/LMFBR (Fast Flux Test Facility/Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor) in Hanford, Washington
  • Superior Tube began collaborating with Fine Tubes in the UK to develop a process to produce Ti-3Al-2.5V hydraulic line tubing for the Concorde program
  • In 1976, as a major supplier to Rolls Royce, Superior Tube was represented in the first west to east flight of the British Airways Concorde


1980s

In the mid-1980s Superior produced almost 2 million feet of thin-wall tubing for heat exchangers of Air Force’s Rockwell B-1B

  • The NASA Space Shuttle program’s life support system relied on high pressure stainless steel tubing supplied by Superior Tube
  • 2,000,000 feet of thin-wall stainless steel heat-exchanger tubing were delivered for the USAF Rockwell B-1B supersonic strategic bomber fleet
  • Superior Tube also supplied Ti-3Al-2.5V hydraulic line tubing for the McDonnell Douglas Northrop F/A-18 multirole fighter
  • Miniature stainless steel tubes were manufactured at Superior Tube for Raytheon’s portable FIM-92 Stinger, an infrared homing surface-to-air missile
  • Thin-walled low-carbon stainless steel tubing for vacuum tight transition couplings were made for MRI scanners with a helium leak rate below one billionth of a cubic centimeter per second


1990s

1990s small diameter tubing p for coronary stents.

  • Superior Tube purchased VMR 25 CPM equipment from Valinox Nucleaire of Montbard, France
  • The company received its first order for advanced cobalt-chromium alloy tubing for prototypes of new coronary stents
  • Superior Tube developed a process to produce thin-walled zirconium (Zr4) fuel cladding for Battelle, the US Department of Energy’s tritium production program


2000s

Superior's Precision, thin-wall tubes are used in Metallic artificial heart valve frames and other modern life-saving devices

  • Superior Tube’s proprietary tube rolling process was used to produce titanium alloy tubing for artificial heart valve frames
  • The Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers were launched with Superior Tube’s tubing on board
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar nuclear reactor facility received tritium producing fuel assemblies using Zr4 tubing made by Superior Tube
  • Superior Tube purchased the world’s smallest 10-roll straightener from Turner Machine after a joint design effort for coronary stent tubing
  • Employees past and present celebrated 75 years of innovation and tradition at Superior Tube in 2009


2010s

Superior Tube headoffice and tube mill in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

  • Author Frank H Winter was commissioned to write a book chronicling the company’s history, entitled Superior – Land, Sea, Air, and Space
  • Superior Tube Inc sold to the Watermill Group along with affiliate Fine Tubes Ltd
  • Superior Tube received the "2014 Industry of the Year Award" from The Tube & Pipe Journal, an industry publication produced by The Fabricators & Manufacturer's Association, Int.