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What is stainless steel and how is it made?

Posted On 2014-02-24 23:40:45 |  Read 2958 times | 0 Comments

Since the early 1800's stainless steel has been developed and refined to produce the high-quality products we use today.

Development of Stainless Steel

In the early 1800's, a metallurgist discovered that adding chromium to iron would create an alloy with corrosion resistance against some acids, this marked the beginning of stainless steel. Due to the high content of carbon in the alloy, the metal was too brittle for practical purposes and wasn't further developed until the early 1900's. The invention of an aluminothermic process in 1890, which removes carbon from chromium, allowed metallurgists to develop the strong and corrosion resistant stainless steel that we use today.

Modern stainless steel can also include other elements to enhance its corrosion resistance, such as nickel, niobium and molybdenum. Stainless steel usually contains a minimum of 13% chromium, up to 26% for harsh environments, which creates a thin protective layer around the metal when exposed to oxygen. This passivation layer is resistant to water and air, however the corrosion resistance can be affected when in an environment without oxygen, such as a bolt in timber, or underwater.

304 & 316 Stainless Steel

Austenitic, or 200 and 300 series steels, make up over 70% of all steel production. They contain a maximum of 0.15% carbon and a minimum of 16% chromium.

The most common austenitic steel is 304 or sometimes referred to as 18/8 for its composition of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. 304 grade is a general-purpose stainless steel that is often used for architectural or domestic products where a harsh environment won't affect the product.

The second most common and primary stainless steel sold at Miami Stainless is 316 or 18/10 that has an increased resistance to corrosion. It is often referred to as marine grade for its great corrosion resistance and use around coastal areas. 316 is ideal for use in balustrading, shade sail fittings and other architectural hardware.

There are other grades and types of stainless steel, such as ferrite or martensitic, that are not as corrosion resistant. Creating a high-quality and corrosion resistant stainless steel is a science and an art that ultimately determines the life span of the product. You should always be aware of where your stainless steel products are sourced to ensure you are getting the most out of your installations.



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