Stainless steel is a versatile material. Originally used for tableware, it soon found its way into the chemical industry due to its corrosion resistance. Today, corrosion resistance is still very important and the mechanical properties of this material are slowly being recognized. New ways of applying this material are found almost every day. Below you will find some applications where stainless steel has proven itself through years of reliable service.
Tableware and kitchenware
Probably the most well-known stainless steel applications are tableware and kitchenware. The best tableware uses specially produced knives in 410 and 420 and spoons and forks in grade 304 (18/8 stainless steel, 18% chromium 8% nickel). The different grades used, such as 410/420 can be hardened and tempered so that the blade has a sharp edge, while the more ductile 18/8 stainless steel is easier to work with and therefore better suited for objects that must undergo multiple shaping, polishing and grinding processes.
Chemical, process, oil and gas industries
Probably the most demanding industries using stainless steel are the chemical, process and oil and gas industries, which have created a huge market for stainless steel tanks, pipes, pumps and valves. one of the main initial success stories of 304 stainless steel was the storage of dilute nitric acid, as it can be used in thinner sections and is stronger than other materials. Special grades of stainless steel have been developed with greater corrosion resistance at a wide range of different temperatures. These are used in desalination plants, sewage treatment plants, offshore oil rigs, harbor supports and ship propellers.
Stainless steels and other corrosion-resistant alloys are widely used in the power generation industry to prevent corrosion, especially at high temperatures. Especially in fossil fuel power plants, nickel alloys are used for high-temperature strength and oxidation resistance. Nickel alloys and other stainless steel are also used extensively in flue gas desulfurization units.
The nuclear power industry also uses large amounts of stainless steel, often specified with low cobalt content, for power generation and radiation control. Special louvered ventilation shafts are made so that the plant can be closed for several years in case of emergency, if necessary. Steam and gas turbines use stainless steel because of its corrosion and heat-resistant properties.
There is also a large amount of stainless steel used for food production and storage. The most commonly used grades are 304 and 316. generally speaking, 304 is essentially the workhorse, while 316 is used in more hostile environments. An important reason for using stainless steel is that the food itself is not very corrosive, as well as the fact that it can be cleaned more quickly and efficiently with stainless steel. For example, in ice cream production, 316 is specified as a strong anti-bacterial cleaning and rinsing system can be used. A major advantage of stainless steel is that it does not impart any taste to the food it comes in contact with.
Building, Construction and Architecture
Architecture, building and construction is a growing market as many modern buildings are using stainless steel for cladding, roofing and facades. Another point is that the low maintenance and vandal resistant properties of stainless steel provide a growing market for public transportation, ticket machines and street furniture. Stainless steel is also used for architectural purposes. When reinforced concrete first began to be used, it was thought that the carbon steel used would not rust because the cement, apparently derived from limestone, was alkaline. However, the constant use of sand salts on bridges would change the pH to acidic, which would cause the steel to rust and cause the concrete to swell and crack. Stainless steel reinforcement, although initially expensive, has proven to have very good life-cycle cost characteristics.
In particular, clean melted stainless steel is used for medical implants and artificial hip joints. A large number of medical devices – such as orthopedic beds, cabinets and examination machines – are made of stainless steel as standard because of its hygienic and easy-to-clean qualities. Pharmaceutical companies use stainless steel for funnels and hoppers for tablets, as well as piping for creams and solutions.
Automobiles are increasingly using stainless steel, primarily for exhaust systems (409 grade) and catalytic converters, but also for structural use. The market for stainless steel will continue to improve as there is greater focus on achieving low long-term maintenance costs, reduced environmental impact and greater attention to life-cycle costs.