Stainless steel is a ferrous, steel alloy with increased corrosion resistance compared to carbon/alloy steel. Metal Supermarkets offers a variety of shapes and grades of stainless steel, cut to the size, including: 17-4, 303, 304, 316, 416 and 440C.
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This type of steel has many surface finishes and is extremely hygienic (ideal for those applications where protection from bacteria is paramount), easy to maintain and is corrosion resistant.
Stainless steel is an iron alloy that has a minimum chromium content of 10.5%. The chromium content produces a thin chromium oxide film on the steel’s surface called a passivation layer. This layer prevents corrosion from occurring on the steel surface; the greater the amount of chromium in the steel, the greater the corrosion resistance.
Once stainless steel is put into service, it does not need to be treated, coated or painted.
Besides resistance to corrosion, stainless steel is known for its:
This type of steel also contains varied amounts of other elements such as carbon, silicon and manganese. Other elements can be added to increase corrosion resistance (nickel) and formability (molybdenum). The exact composition is strictly measured and assessed throughout the alloying process to ensure the steel demonstrates the required qualities.
There are more than 100 grades of stainless steel – most are classified into five groups in the family of stainless steels:
Stainless steel also comes in many different shapes and dimensions. You can have everything from stainless steel tubing and stainless steel pipes to a stainless steel bar and stainless steel sheet.
Depending on which grade or shape is being produced, a piece of stainless steel may go through some processing steps multiple times before reaching the desired appearance or characteristics. The most common of these steps include hot rolling, cold rolling, annealing, descaling/pickling, cutting and finishing.
Unlike ordinary steel, stainless isn’t prone to corrosion, rusting or staining from water exposure – giving it many versatile applications.
These applications can include food handling/processing (i.e., kitchen sinks, cutlery), medical instruments (i.e., thermostats), hardware, appliances, and structural/architectural uses (i.e., bridges, airport roofs).
In the medical industry, stainless steel is found in nearly all the equipment that doctors use in their work as well as the many of the small, intricate parts of hospital machinery (such as the EKG or ECG) for monitoring patients.
When it comes to infrastructure, the corrosion resistance of stainless steel helps extend the lifespan of structural and architectural projects. A good quality piece of stainless steel serves as a buffer against the damaging effects of wind and water, maintaining safety and stability.
Since WW2, stainless steel has also played a key role in the defense sector. It is found everywhere, from the springs in tanks to the fuel lines carrying vehicle exhausts.
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