What Makes Stainless Steel “Stainless?”

In Steel Wire Products, Stainless Steel Baskets, Mechanical Engineering

Marlin Steel on September 24, 2019

000036325714-02-03Stainless steel is well-known for being resistant to corrosion from things that make plain steel and iron rust in short order. However, many people don’t know why stainless steel is “stainless” and why it’s a preferred material for countless manufacturing applications.

Here’s a quick explanation of how stainless steel works, different stainless steel properties, and why it’s an excellent material for a wide variety of applications:

How Stainless Steel Works Differently from Plain Steel

One of the first things to know about stainless steel is that there are countless formulations of the metal on the market. What separates one of these stainless steel alloys from a plain steel alloy (aside from having different component metals in different ratios) is that stainless steel has a protective oxide layer that prevents the development of rust. As long as this oxide layer remains unhindered, the steel will retain a shiny surface appearance.

What causes stainless steel to form this oxide layer? The answer lies in the specific elements used in most forms of stainless steel: Iron, manganese, silicon, carbon, and (especially) chromium. Some forms of stainless steel also add nickel and/or molybdenum to further enhance the performance of the oxide layer. Of these elements, chromium has the highest impact on the rust resistance of stainless steel. So, chromium-rich stainless steel alloys (such as most austenitic stainless steels) tend to have the highest overall resistance to corrosion.

Specific additives, such as molybdenum, can help to bolster a stainless steel alloy’s resistance to certain corrosive chemicals. For example, grade 316 stainless steel has molybdenum which grade 304 stainless steel lacks. Because of this, grade 316 stainless steel is more resistant to chlorides.

Stainless Steel Properties to Know

Stainless steel has many different properties, but some of the most important ones to consider when designing a custom wire basket are:

  • Corrosion Resistance. This is the trait that most people specifically choose stainless steel for. The corrosion resistance of stainless steel helps objects made from it (such as steel wire baskets) last for longer than their plain steel counterparts.
  • Tensile Strength. A measure of how much weight the steel can support before it starts to bend under the stress. The higher the steel’s tensile strength, the more weight it can support.
  • Temperature Tolerance. Like any material, stainless steel can only take so much heat before it starts to scale or even melt. However, many forms of stainless steel have an extremely high melting point compared to other materials like plastic—though the steel will lose tensile strength as it approaches its melting point.

Why Use Stainless Steel for Your Custom Wire Forms?

Stainless steel is often able to offer the ideal combination of strength, corrosion resistance, and temperature tolerance to accommodate wide variety of manufacturing applications like:

  • Materials handling;
  • Ultrasonic parts cleaning;
  • Medical or food equipment sterilization; and
  • Parts finishing processes.

These are just a few of the applications that a custom wire basket made from stainless steel can be used for. Of course, the specific type of stainless steel used will depend on the exact nature of the process. Some variations of stainless steel work better for certain applications than others.

For example, grade 316 stainless steel is often preferred for applications where contact with salt or other chlorides is common because it is resistant to pitting corrosion caused by salt. Meanwhile, some prefer hardened and stress relieved grade 430 stainless steel for its incredibly high tensile strength. Grade 304 stainless steel, on the other hand, is widely useful for a variety of applications, making it one of the most commonly-used stainless steel grades in all sorts of industries.

Need help picking the right type of stainless steel for your custom wire basket? Reach out to the Marlin team and let them know a few details about your manufacturing process. Marlin’s engineers have years of experience in helping manufacturers build the best steel wire baskets for their manufacturing needs.

Contact Marlin Steel

Author: Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel is a leading manufacturer of custom‐engineered products from steel wire and sheet metal. Its industrial material handling containers serve many industries including aerospace, defense, medical and automotive.

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