The development of spray drying equipment and techniques evolved over a period of several decades from the 1870s through the early 1900s. The first known spray dryers used nozzle atomizers, with rotary atomizers introduced several decades later. Because of the relatively unsophisticated designs of the early spray dryers and practical difficulties in operating them continuously, very little commercial use of the process was made until the 1920s.
By the second decade of the twentieth century, the evolution of spray dryer design made commercial operations practical. Milk drying was the first major commercial application of the technology. During the next 20 years, manufacturers developed designs to accommodate heat-sensitive products, emulsions and mixtures. Spray drying came of age during World War II, with the sudden need to reduce the transport weight of foods and other materials. This surge in interest led to developments in the technology that greatly expanded the range of products that could be successfully spray dried.