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Stainless steel is a type of steel that is commonly used in several industries. One of the common usages of stainless steel includes kitchen utensils and appliances. However, the use of stainless steel goes beyond kitchen utensils. It is an important material in several industries including marine, construction, aerospace and automotive. This article explains what stainless steel is, its benefits, characteristics, uses and more.

What is stainless steel?

Stainless steel is an alloy of mainly iron and chromium. Depending on the use it is also customised with nickel and other metals. Usually, composition of stainless steel contains 10.5% or more chromium. It is a medium to low carbon steel, that is known for its strength. Additionally, it key features include corrosion resistance, the capability to withstand extreme temperatures, hardness and ductility. Below are some of the key properties of stainless steel.

Features of stainless steel

  • Corrosion resistance: Normally, steel corrosion is one of the most difficult aspects to deal with. However, the presence of chromium adds non-corrosive properties to stainless steel making it an attractive material for a wide range of industries.
  • High-tensile strength: Stainless steel features high tensile strength. Meaning, stainless steel does not deform even when pulled or stretched. Stainless steel is known for being resistant to cracking and bending.
  • Aesthetically appealing: Stainless steel has an attractive appearance and hence it can also be easily used in applications where aesthetics holds importance such as building and construction, architecture, etc.
  • Low-maintenance: Since its inherent corrosion resistance properties, the stainless steel components do not require frequent maintenance.
  • Recyclability: In this age, recyclability is one of the very important features of stainless steel. Scrap steel can be easily melted and recycled. The government of India has created National Steel Crap Policy to enable better recycling of steel including stainless steel.

Also, read the difference between steel and stainless steel.

Types of stainless steel

As mentioned earlier, stainless steel is a generic term for a metal alloy that includes iron and chromium (at least 10.5%). Furthermore, here are some popular types of stainless steel.

Austenitic stainless steel: This is perhaps the most commonly used type of stainless steel. Austenitic stainless steel contains at least 16% chromium and 6% nickel. However, it can also have other metal and non-metal materials such as manganese, nitrogen, carbon, etc. Some of the key features of this austenitic stainless steel include the capability to withstand exposure to salt, ductility and strength.

It is further classified into two main grades – 300 series and 200 series. The 300 series has an addition of nickel while 200 series contains manganese and nitrogen. Grade 304 is one of the most popular grades from the 300 series.

Ferritic stainless steel: Ferritic stainless steel contains a higher percentage of carbon along with chromium and iron. As a result, it is less ductile, but it is tougher than austenitic stainless steel and has better corrosion resistance. It is also capable of withstanding salt exposure. Due to these abilities, ferritic stainless steel is used in automotive and marine applications.

Martensitic stainless steel: This type of stainless steel contains 12-18% chromium. It is generally used in applications where the need is to withstand high or low temperatures. The typical application of martensitic stainless steel includes compressor blades, turbines, pumps, valves, and so on. It is also used in medical instruments.

Duplex stainless steel: Duplex stainless steel features a mixed microstructure of ferrite and austenite types of stainless steel. Chromium content in duplex stainless steel is very high i.e. about 21-25%. Also, it contains about 5% molybdenum. These properties make duplex stainless steel highly corrosion resistant and tough. As a result, it is an ideal choice to be used in the industries such as chemical, oil and gas, marine and shipping and so on.

Uses of stainless steel

Stainless steel is a versatile metal and is used in variety of industries. Here are some common applications of stainless steel.

Kitchen utensils: Stainless steel is widely used to manufacture kitchen utensils. Stainless steel does not corrode even when it comes in contact with water. Moreover, it can withstand the high temperature required for cooking. Additional benefits of stainless for use in kitchen utensils include easy cleaning, hygienic material, safe for cooking food and so on.

Automotive: Steel is an important raw material for the automotive industry. Due to its strength, chemical resistance, and ability to withstand high temperatures, stainless steel is used in various auto components such as exhaust systems, fuel tanks, etc. Thanks to its aesthetic appeal, stainless steel is also used in car exteriors and decorative items.

Medical and surgical equipment: Stainless steel is widely used in manufacturing medical and surgical equipment. One of the advantages of stainless steel is that it can withstand chemical sterilisation process. Additionally, the material is durable and can be easily cleaned. A few implants are also made with stainless steel as the material is to come in contact with a human body.

Construction: Steel is a key raw material in the business of construction. Speaking of stainless steel, it is used for many applications. Stainless steel roofing sheets is one of the popular examples of the use of the material in the construction industry.

Other industries: Apart from the industries mentioned above, stainless steel is also widely used in various sectors such as aerospace, oil and gas, chemical, marine, etc.

How to procure stainless steel and its pricing

Stainless steel is manufactured by many steel plants of leading Indian steel manufacturers including Tata Steel, Jindal Stainless, Steel Authority of India and so on. There are many options to procure stainless steel, however, the easiest way to do this is to procure from Tata nexarc. You can just post your requirements, evaluate quotes from multiple vendors, place an order and get it delivered to your doorstep.

Stainless steel prices range between around ₹170/kg to ₹250/kg depending on the grade.

Note: Prices of stainless steel fluctuate often. Hence, it is best to check the prevailing price before making any decision.

In a nutshell, stainless steel is an important raw material for many businesses.

Frequently asked questions about stainless steel

Can stainless steel rust and if it does how to remove rust from stainless steel?

Although stainless steel is a highly corrosion resistant material, there are chances of it rusting in specific conditions. However, stainless steel rust can easily be removed.  

Which grade of stainless steel is the best?

There is no right answer to this question. The grade of stainless steel depends on its application. The chemical and petrochemical industry may require stainless steel grade of 2000 while kitchen appliances can be made with stainless steel grade 304.

Which stainless steel grade is hardest?

Stainless steel grade 440C is known to feature the highest hardness in the stainless steel family.