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METALS AND MINING

Enhancing the Durability of Stainless Steel in Useful Ways

Enhancing the Durability of Stainless Steel in Useful Ways
The Siliconreview
23 Febuary, 2022

Stainless steel is one of the most used biomaterials because of its low cost and good biocompatibility. From construction tools and kitchen appliances to auto engineering and structural integrity, stainless steel’s use is everywhere- making it a very important metal.

Long-term use of stainless steel causes issues like material degradation, particularly biofilm formation and localized corrosion. Therefore, care, maintenance, and cleaning are mandatory to keep your stainless steel products tip-top shape.

In this article, we'll discuss some practical ways that will help you enhance the durability of your stainless steel products. Let's get started!

What is Stainless Steel?

It is a steel alloy in which 10.5% or more of its mass is composed of chromium. It is environmentally neutral and inert. The presence of chromium protects the metal against the adverse effects of moisture like corrosion and rust.

The benefits of electrical and instrumentation fastening using stainless steel fasteners have increased the demand for this steel even more. Stainless steel is simple to work with and has a nice appearance. These characteristics, combined with the fact that stainless steel is hygienic, make it a popular material for consumer products and items. Their uses in shipbuilding, construction, utensils or DIY projects can not be undermined.

Important Alloying Elements

There are over 150 different categories of stainless steel, each having its unique composition. Apart from chromium, these alloying elements are commonly used in stainless steel formulations:

  1. Nickel: it stabilizes the austenitic structure, increases corrosion and resistance to high-temperature strength, and adds flexibility.
  2. Molybdenum: it helps to improve corrosion resistance from chlorides.
  3. Manganese: it also makes the structure stable and boosts hot working effects.
  4. Niobium: it prevents intergranular corrosion and the development of chrome carbides.
  5. Titanium: it also reduces intergranular corrosion and acts as a grain refiner.

Types of Stainless Steel

The four most common classes of stainless steel are:

  1. Austenitic Stainless Steels

They attain hardness at the time of their formation and manufacturing. They are softened by annealing, which imparts improved corrosion resistance and adds ductility. The most famous example of this type is the 300-series stainless steel, commonly used in cookware.

  1. Martensitic Stainless Steels

These steels can be hardened and tempered by different ageing or heat treatment methods. Their carbon content determines how hard they can be. The more carbon they contain, the harder they get. For instance, surgical instruments are usually made of 420 stainless steel, food processing parts, and mold components. Hose clamp screws are usually made from 410 stainless steel.

  1. Precipitation Hardening Stainless Steels

They allow more corrosion resistance than the martensitic type but less than the austenitic stainless steel. The most common examples are 17-4, 17-7, and PH13-8Mo. They can reach good hardness levels and achieve good strength, approaching 44 HRC or more. They are usually used in the aerospace and firearm industries.

  1. Ferritic Stainless Steels

They show maximum ductility, impact corrosion resistance, and toughness. They are also quite resistant to scaling at increased temperatures, like in exhaust systems. They are renowned because of their relatively better machinability while being comparatively cheap. For instance, the 405 and 409 stainless steel classes are typically used to construct mufflers and other automotive parts.

Benefits of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel products are used across the globe because of their following benefits:

  1. Visually Appealing

The products of stainless steel appear much more attractive than their non-steel counterparts. Stainless steel is bright, beautiful, sleek, and gives a contemporary visual boost to any structure. Also, its neutral look can complement any type of construction and aesthetic theme.

Whether it is a kitchen with wooden cabinets or a more modernistic arrangement, items of stainless steel will look amazing.

  1. Versatile

Stainless steel is a crucial part of modern life. From architecture and construction, automotive and transportation, food and catering, energy and heavy industries, to medical, it is the ideal metal for an extensive range of applications.

  1. Impact, Heat, and Fire Resistance

Strength is one of the major reasons for stainless steel's popularity. It is a very powerful metal that is capable of withstanding all sorts of impacts that would otherwise cause serious damage. It is tough and resists severe heat and temperatures way below freezing.

  1. Long-lasting

Products of this metal do not break, bend, or scratch easily. Instead, as long as you maintain them well and clean regularly, they will remain durable for years and offer a nice look.

  1. Cleanliness

It is very easy to clean. All you need is an all-purpose cleaner and polish the stainless steel surfaces along the grain to bring a beautiful shine, essentially making it look brand-new.

How to Enhance the Durability of Stainless Steel Products?

Enhancing the durability of stainless steel means protecting it against rust and corrosion, biofilm formation, and keeping it clean. Here's how you can do that:

  1. Select Stainless Steel That is High in Chromium Content

Usually, the greater the chromium content in stainless steel, the higher the protection from rust and corrosion. Even though stainless steel with greater chromium content is usually costlier than stainless steel with lower chromium content, it is recommended to select a variety with higher chromium content to get maximum protection from rust and corrosion.

  1. Keep It Dry

Rust and corrosion do not occur overnight. It happens when a metal is exposed to moisture for a long period. Moisture particles settle into the metal, which causes chemical reactions known as oxidation. These chemical reactions ultimately result in the formation of rust and corrosion.

Therefore, it is important to keep your stainless steel products or equipment dry as sustained exposure to moisture can and will cause rust. It is also important to protect stainless steel against biofilm formation.

  1. Passivate It

Stainless steel passivation is a process that alters the surface of the metal by coating it with a thin layer of chromium to protect it from corrosion. It is considered as the single most important step to protect the stainless steel materials against rust or corrosion.

As chromium is greatly resistant to moisture, it is the ideal option for passivating stainless steel. Passivating forms a protective layer on stainless steel and offers maximum levels of protection against rust and corrosion; therefore, it should be done regularly.

  1. Disinfect the Surfaces

It is important to clean the surface of stainless steel products and equipment properly and regularly to make sure all germs, bacteria, and viruses are killed. The best method to disinfect stainless steel surfaces is the use of isopropyl or rubbing alcohol.

First, fill an empty, clean spray bottle with rubbing or isopropyl alcohol. Then, spray the alcohol on stainless steel surfaces and let it sit for about twenty minutes. Dampen a clean cloth with rubbing or isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the surfaces with it. Lastly, dry the surfaces with a dry, clean cloth.

Do not use bleach for the disinfection process as it may gradually corrode the stainless steel surface.

The Bottom Line

From the largest skyscraper to the smallest zipper, stainless steel is extensively used for the unique qualities they possess. From toughness to long duration, they add great value to their application. Regular care and maintenance can bring out the best in your stainless steel products. Good luck!