Types of Stainless Steels

You may have a stainless steel frying pan or a stainless steel knife at home, which leads many people to mistakenly assume it is some sort of special coating like Teflon. After all, nickel, zinc or chromium coatings may be applied to strengthen a material. However, stainless steels are solid metals that are manipulated during manufacturing, adding 10% or more chromium to form a natural chromium oxide coating that hardens the material. As a result, it is impossible to wear off or damage the exterior. The shiny gloss is corrosion-resistant, which makes this type of metal more desirable than carbon steels and other steel alloys.

There are five main types of stainless steel. Austenitic stainless steel is the most common form, with 7% nickel content to increase flexibility and make the building metal more suitable for cookware, industrial piping, washing machines, boilers, construction and indoor architecture. Martensitic stainless steel contains 13% chromium, making it hard enough for knives and turbine blades. Ferritic stainless steel contains less than 30% chromium and ferritic, which makes it ferromagnetic, with good ductility. Duplex stainless steel, which is composed of austenitic and ferritic steel building metal, is strong yet flexible and is used for various processes in the paper, shipbuilding and petrochemical industries. Precipitation hardening stainless steel is a chromium-nickel alloy that is solution-treated.

When shopping around for stainless steels, understand that the grades are based on mechanical and physical properties. The undisputable strength of this material makes it appealing for use in steel building systems. The lower thermal conductivity of grade 304, compared to traditional carbon steels, makes it ideal for thermoses and cappuccino cups. Since stainless steel has a greater rate of thermal expansion than ordinary steel, care should be taken during welding. Carbon steels may also suffer from pitting, crevice corrosion, galvanic corrosion, chloride stress corrosion cracking or inter-granular corrosion.

There are many grades of stainless steels developed for various uses. For instance, type 102 austenitic is widely used in furniture making, while type 202 is used as a good general purpose steel. Type 301 is good for welding, although 304 is the most common grade. In surgical tools and food, type 316 is used for its corrosion-resistance. A 316L may be used in stainless steel watches. Type 420 is cutlery grade, 430 is used as decorative trim and type 440 is an even higher grade of cutlery steel. The different grades vary on their resistance or ductility in the presence of heat or cold.

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