There are many types of rolling processes, including ring rolling, roll bending, roll forming, profile rolling, and controlled rolling.
The invention of the rolling mill in Europe may be attributed to Leonardo da Vinci in his drawings. The earliest rolling mills in crude form but the same basic principles were found in Middle East and South Asia as early as 600 BCE. Earliest rolling mills were slitting mills, which were introduced from what is now Belgium to England in 1590. These passed flat bars between rolls to form a plate of iron, which was then passed between grooved rolls (slitters) to produce rods of iron. The first experiments at rolling iron for tinplate took place about 1670. In 1697, Major John Hanbury erected a mill at Pontypool to roll 'Pontypool plates'—blackplate. Later this began to be rerolled and tinned to make tinplate. The earlier production of plate iron in Europe had been in forges, not rolling mills.
The slitting mill was adapted to producing hoops (for barrels) and iron with a half-round or other sections by means that were the subject of two patents of c. 1679.,
Some of the earliest literature on rolling mills can be traced back to Christopher Polhem in 1761 in Patriotista Testamente, where he mentions rolling mills for both plate and bar iron. He also explains how rolling mills can save on time and labor because a rolling mill can produce 10 to 20 or more bars at the same time.
A patent was granted to Thomas Blockley of England in 1759 for the polishing and rolling of metals. Another patent was granted in 1766 to Richard Ford of England for the first tandem mill. A tandem mill is one in which the metal is rolled in successive stands; Ford's tandem mill was for hot rolling of wire rods.