The Four Main Types of Stainless Steel

Each variety of stainless steel has several distinct advantages but also some distinct disadvantages.

FREMONT, CA: The term stainless steel refers to various iron-based alloys; any such alloy containing at least 10.5 percent chromium is considered stainless steel. By varying this amount and adding other elements such as molybdenum, nickel, carbon, and manganese, different types of stainless steel can be created to suit specific applications.

Stainless steel is classified into four distinct categories:

Austenitic: Austenitic stainless steels are the most common form of stainless steel. In comparison to other forms of stainless steel, austenitic stainless steels have a disproportionate amount of nickel. They will also typically contain significant levels of chromium, nitrogen, and molybdenum.

Austenitic steels are well-known for their exceptional welding and malleability. Frequently used for kitchen cutlery and storage components, they are also lauded for their robustness.

They usually are highly resistant to corrosion. This makes them ideal for a range of applications involving a corrosive environment. The most often used austenitic stainless steels are alloys 304 and 904L. (N08904).

The only disadvantage of austenitic stainless steel is its high cost.

Ferritic: Ferritic stainless steels are those that include trace levels of carbon. Carbon content in ferritic stainless steels is typically less than 0.10 percent. While these steels may contain additional minerals (molybdenum is a popular addition), they are primarily composed of chromium.

Magnetic ferritic stainless steels are widely utilized due to their resistance to stress corrosion cracking. As a result, they are frequently used in items that will come into touch with acidic materials. These products range from automobile components to kitchenware and industrial entities.

The alloys 430 and 434 are two of the most frequent forms of ferritic steel.

Duplex: Duplex stainless steel combines the austenitic with the ferritic, resulting in a more robust metal than both: this higher strength can lead to considerable weight reductions. Its excellent corrosion resistance (even in demanding envi­ron­ments) makes it perfect for marine appli­cations.

Martensitic: Martensitic stainless steel is structurally similar to ferritic stainless steel but contains a higher carbon concentration (up to 1.2 percent), allowing significant hardening. Martensitic stainless steels are particularly advantageous for fabricating medical and surgical devices.

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