Buying metal can be confusing. Most of the time, our customers know which form (Bar, Plate, Tube, Sheet, Channel, etc.) they need but not always which type of metal. While some of our customers know exactly why they want stainless steel and how it will affect their project, others are not as sure how this metal differs from other materials on our site.
what is stainless steel?
“Stainless Steel” refers to a generic category of metal alloys that are made up of more than 50% iron and 10.5% or more chromium. In fact, the alloys aren’t actually “stainless”, but rather highly resistant to staining, corrosion and rust owing to a thin film of nonreactive chromium oxide. This film is tough, invisible, and self-healing so that when it is scratched the film will reform so long as there is sufficient oxygen in its environment.
The alloys are generally darker metals, but appear bright because they reflect light. While there are over 150 grades, most often people choose one of fifteen more common varieties. These alloys can also be classified into five groups, depending on their crystalline structure: Austenitic, Ferritic, Martensitic, Precipitation-Hardening Martensitic, and Duplex.
things to keep in mind about stainless steel
- These alloys are hygienic metals, suitable for food preparation. Because their surfaces are typically not pitted, cracked, or easily corroded, there are few places that can harbor dirt, foodstuffs, or bacteria. As an added bonus, these metals will not react with acidic foods.
- What we consider “modern” stainless steel wasn’t created until 1912, by an English gunsmith. Corrosion-resistant iron had existed previously, but these alloys relied on minerals other than chromium, usually phosphorous, to provide the metals with corrosion resistance.
- None of the alloys in this family are magnetic, but all can be steam-cleaned and sterilized. Unlike other varieties of iron-based metals such as Cold Finished, Hot Rolled, and Tool, Stainless does not need to be painted, lacquered, or in any way protected from corrosive, chemical reactions, unless it is being used in a marine environment. For marine applications, a different alloy is used.
We hope that this section has been informative. We carry all of the standard forms and sizes of most metal products. Please visit metalsforasteel.com to see our Stainless Steel Inventory. If you are looking for a particular piece of metal that you haven’t been able to find anywhere, please email us and one of our metal specialists will get right back to you.