Properties of Stainless Steel
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Stainless steel has different corrosion properties which includes being non-corrosive, rust-resistant steel, which is simply designated as stainless steel. In comparison with aluminium, stainless steel is approximately 3 times heavier.
Stainless steel, like steel itself, is an alloy. An alloy always consists of different materials. Among the most frequent alloying elements in non-corrosive stainless steel is chrome, where nickel, molybdenum and further elements are used for special requirements.
The magnetisability, as well as the corrosion resistance, are two of these requirements which are controlled by the different alloys.
Uses and properties
Steel with a chromium content of more than 10.5%, as well as various other elements in smaller quantities, is considered to be stainless. In combination with oxygen chromium forms a thin, sealed, fixed-adhering, chromic-oxide layer – the so-called passive layer. It is exactly this passive layer which is responsible for the resistance of the material. Due to its corrosion resistance, the metal is used for example for washing drums.
Rust-resistant stainless steel can be very well compared to anodised aluminum with regard to its properties. If the exterior skin of the material is impaired, the material and its surface mostly suffer damage.
Stainless steel applications
- Automotive and transportation
Stainless steel was introduced in automotive in the 1930s by Ford to manufacture their concept cars. Since then, it is used to produce a variety of automotive parts such as exhaust systems, grills, and trims. With advancing technology, stainless steel is being favoured by manufacturers to make structural components.
It is also heavily featured in other fields of transportation like freighting to make shipping containers, road tankers and refuse vehicles. It’s resistance to corrosion makes it ideal to transport chemicals, liquids and food products. The low maintenance of stainless steel also makes it an easy and cost-effective metal to clean and sustain.
- Medical technology
Stainless steel is preferred in clean and sterile environments as it is simple to clean and does not easily corrode. Stainless is used in the production of a wide range of medical equipment, including surgical and dental instruments.
It is also used in building operation tables, kidney dishes, MRI scanners, cannulas, and steam sterilizers.
Most surgical implants, such as replacement joints and artificial hips are made from stainless steel, as well as some joining equipment like stainless steel pins and plates to repair broken bones.
- Building trade
Due to its strength, resistance, and flexibility, stainless steel application has become a vital element of the building trade. It is commonly featured in the interior on countertops, backsplashes, and handrails, and is also used externally in cladding for high impact buildings.
It is a common feature in modern architecture due to its weldability, easy maintenance and attractive finish, which is used in the Eurostar Terminal in London and the Helix Bridge in Singapore.
With the movement towards sustainable building, stainless steel, which is a highly recyclable metal, is becoming increasingly preferable to use in construction. With a polished or grain finish, it has aesthetically pleasing properties and can aid in improving natural lighting in the building.
- Aircraft construction
The aviation industry also has a preference for stainless steel. It is used in various applications including the frames of aeroplanes because of its strength and ability to withstand extreme temperatures. It can also be applied in jet engines as it can help prevent against its rusting.
Stainless steel is also an essential part of the landing gear. Its strength and rigidity can handle the weight of the landing aircraft.
- Food and the catering industry
In the food and catering industry, stainless steel is used to manufacture kitchen accessories, cookware, and cutlery. Utensils such as knives are made using less ductile grades of stainless steel. The more ductile grades are used to make grills, cookers, saucepans, and sinks.
Stainless steel can also be used to finish freezers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and countertops. In food production, stainless steel is ideal because it doesn’t affect the flavour of the food. It is also corrosion resistant, and hence able to hold acidic drinks including orange juice. The ease of cleaning stainless steel makes it difficult to harbour bacteria, adding to its usefulness in food storage.
- Tanker manufacture
- Vessel manufacture
304 / 1.4301
Grade 304 / 1.4301 (European reference – 1.4301) has good corrosion resistance and good formability. Grade 304 is non-magnetic.
316 / 1.4401
Grade 316 (European reference – 1.4404) has excellent corrosion resistance and good formability. Grade 316 is non-magnetic.
430 / 1.4016
Grade 430 (European reference – 1.4016) is a low cost stainless steel. It fabricates well. Grade 430 is magnetic.
409 / 1.4512
Grade 409 (European reference – 1.4512) Is a stainless steel grade suitable for elevated temperature applications such as exhaust system parts. Grade 409 is magnetic and fabricates well.
304L / 1.4307
Grade 304L / 1.4307 (European reference – 1.4301) has good corrosion resistance and good formability. Grade 304 is non-magnetic.
Benefits of Stainless Steel
A fundamental property of stainless steel is its strength. It remains incredibly strong at very high or low temperatures, making it a highly sought after metal for demand applications like aviation.
• Easy to clean
As it is one of the most hygienic materials, its use in catering and medical applications is suitable. It doesn’t support the growth of bacteria and is easy to clean and sterilize, hence is low maintenance. It can be cleaned using a swab and an all-purpose cleaner, making it beneficial for use in kitchens and hospitals.
Strength is not the only property of stainless steel. It also looks great which is why it is commonly featured in architecture. It adds a sleek and contemporary look to classic and modern spaces, without compromising on functionality.
• Corrosion resistance
Stainless steel can fend off rust and water stains as it is highly resistant to corrosion. This is why stainless steel applications extend to outdoor as well as indoor applications at various pressure and temperature extremes. This property of stainless steel comes from the addition of chromium to the metal, which when exposed to oxygen, creates a fine film over the steel to protect it.
Most of the stainless steel is made from recycled steel. Impressively, its qualities do not deteriorate once the metal is recycled, allowing it to be reused continuously and benefit the environment.