When to Choose Stainless Steel for Your Fabrication Project

Stainless Steel fittings.

Stainless steel can be an excellent choice for many projects. It’s strong, durable, and it looks good. It’s a more heat-resistant, and less susceptible to corrosion than metals like copper or aluminum, and comes in a variety of grades, so it can be adapted for a variety of uses.

Benefits of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel resists corrosion and staining. It contains chromium, which naturally develops a chromium oxide film on steel’s surface. When stainless steel faces damaging conditions, the film comes into contact with oxygen and protects the metal’s surface.

Manufacturers add other elements to improve steel’s corrosion-resistant properties. Nickel, nitrogen and molybdenum are a few of the elements added, which create over 60 different grades of stainless steel.

Stainless steel has better heat resistance than many other materials. It can made thinner without compromising strength, which makes it adaptable to a variety of projects.

Steel is also environmentally friendly. It can be recycled without losing its strength and quality.

Types of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is divided into five types.

  • Ferritic – These steels are chromium based and contain low amounts of carbon. They can be used in situations that don’t require welding. They’re great for marine applications since they resist corrosion from sea water, and are magnetic.
  • Austenitic – This is the most commonly used type of steel. Austenitic steels can be welded and easily shaped. Their strength comes from added nickel, manganese and nitrogen.
  • Martensitic – These steels are used in applications that require high strength and moderate corrosion resistance. They’re used in knives, cutting tools, and in dental and surgical equipment.
  • Duplex – These steels have extremely high strength and are resistant to corrosion cracking. They are moderately formable and can be welded.
  • Precipitation hardening – These steels can be shaped into strong, intricate designs. Copper, niobium and aluminum give them strength.

Types of Projects Where Stainless Steel is Best Choice

Hospitals –  Stainless steel is the best choice in sanitary environments like hospitals due to its corrosion resistant properties.

Applications requiring a high strength-to-weight ratio – Steel stands up better than other materials facing high risk of heat or chemical damage. Skyscrapers and industrial equipment use steel because of its strength and durability.

When aesthetics matter – Appliances and restaurant equipment are made of stainless steel because it maintains its exterior appearance despite heavy use. Architects use stainless steel for their buildings’ exteriors, as the metal still looks like new after years of exposure to abrasives in wind and chemicals in rainwater.

Products Commonly Made of Stainless Steel

Steel’s properties make it an excellent choice for the following products:

  • Tanks – Stainless steel is a good choice for tanks that hold chemicals, gasses, beverages or other liquids. It’s flexible and doesn’t have to be thick to be strong. It resists rust and other forms of corrosion that happen when a substance is constantly exposed to liquids. Industrial sized tanks can hold thousands of gallons. Pharmaceutical companies, the food industry, agriculture and waste management services all use tanks made of stainless steel.
  • Furnace Parts – Stainless steel holds up when it gets hot. It’s a good choice for lining ovens, furnace parts, and boiler rooms.
  • Outdoor Equipment – Stainless steel is used in anything that sits outside, both for its strength and its corrosion resistance. Landmarks like The Gateway Arch in St. Louis are constructed of stainless steel.
  • Equipment used near water – Stainless steel is used for coastal housing and equipment. Manufacturers choose steel for boat components like equipment housing and propeller shafts. Stainless steel even holds up when it’s submerged, so it’s a good choice for equipment attached to the hulls of ships and pumps that are constantly submerged.
  • Equipment exposed to acid –Stainless steel exposed to acid still resists corrosion and retains its strength.

Other Material Choices

Stainless steel has plenty of applications, but other materials can provide great benefits as well. What you use for your project depends on a variety of factors like design, overall cost and end-use. Epoxy and galvanized steel can be more cost effective options in some scenarios, while some certain jobs call specifically for stainless steel.

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