Six Major Uses of Stainless Steel [2021] Microstructure, Automotive & Transportation

Stainless Steel

Six Major Uses of Stainless Steel – Stainless Steel is a highly valuable material used in the commercial market. Its strength, corrosion resistance, and low maintenance properties make it ideal for use across various applications. Stainless steel is also highly durable, and recyclable which makes it eco-friendly. Stainless steel can be molded in different forms, including bars, plates, sheets, and tubing in industrial and domestic domains.

It is an iron-based alloy comprising 10.5% chromium by mass. The chromium combines with the atmospheric oxygen to form a thin, sealed chromic-oxide layer, also known as the passive layer. This passive layer enables the steel alloy to resist corrosion that accounts for its most distinguishing characteristic.

Stainless steel has been deployed across various industries for over 70 years. Its demand is ever-increasing since stainless steel is an exceedingly versatile material. Its use cases vary from one industry to another. These industries use stainless steel’s different grades and surface finishes to meet the end-use. 

 5 major groups of stainless steel are based on the microstructure

  • Austenitic stainless steel comprises austenite as its primary microstructure. It shows high toughness and impressive resistance to elevated temperatures. The composition includes 70% austenite, at least 16% chromium, and 6% nickel. You can order 321 stainless steel tube belonging to the 300 series austenitic family. The 321 grade includes titanium that improves its strength and makes it more corrosion resistant at higher temperatures.
  • Ferritic stainless steel has varying chromium content between 12% and 18%. With the increase of chromium content increases, its corrosion resistance ability improves. It has poor weldability but better engineering abilities. It is magnetic, unlike the austenitic grade.
  • Duplex stainless steel has relatively higher chromium content (between 18 to 28%) and moderate nickel content (between 4.5 to 8%). The microstructure consists of both austenitic and ferritic grades. It shows SCC resistance and has good weldability and formability. 
  • Martensitic stainless steel has high carbon (0.1 – 1.2%) content and lower chromium between 12 and 18%. It is moderately corrosion resistant, and you can harden it with heat treatment. It is magnetic, like ferritic grade.
  • Precipitation Hardening stainless steel combines properties of austenitic and martensitic grades. After fabrication, you can harden it through a single low-temperature “aging” process. Hardening is achieved by adding elements like aluminum, molybdenum, niobium, titanium, and copper.  

Why use stainless steel?

  • Corrosion resistance: It is the most often quoted usage of stainless steel. It shows high oxidation resistance and ascribes to it a durable life.
  • Hygiene: Stainless steel is biologically inert, which makes it very hygienic. The leaching of the alloys such as chromium and nickel in stainless steel is within safe limits.
  • Coefficient of friction: Stainless Steel pipes provide lower friction than cement-lined carbon steel pipes. It has lower bacteria content. The lower friction helps to reduce the pipe’s internal diameter hence saving capital costs.
  • Excellent durability and recyclability: Stainless steel serves longer-term usage and is easily recyclable.


Automotive and Transportation

The use of stainless steel in the automotive industry is increasing significantly. It is highly applicable for manufacturing motor vehicles. It was traditionally used in car exhaust systems, trim, and grills. But, with the advancement in its properties, it also finds use in structural components. Different forms of transportation use stainless steel, such as ship containers, refuse vehicles, and road tankers. It offers valuable energy absorption properties and maintains mechanical stature rendering it useful for the automotive industry.

Medical Use

In the medical industry, the sterilization capability of stainless steel makes it valuable. It helps construct surgical and dental instruments, operates tables and medical equipment. It also finds use in surgical implants and is used as replacement joints. 

Storage Tanks

Stainless steel is ideal for building storage tanks as it is hygienic, prevents rusting, and is quake-resistant. It is also highly durable and easily maintainable. It can hold corrosive substances like chemicals, gases, and bulk items. The stainless steel storage tanks do not add smell or flavor to the content that it stores.

Energy and Heavy Industries

Heavy industries often use stainless steel for various applications. It is suitable for demanding environments that run under high temperatures. With enhanced corrosion resistance that does not disintegrate under high temperatures, specific exceptional grades of stainless steel help maintain the application’s integrity. It is also helpful in constructing storage tanks, valves, pipes, and other components. The high strength-to-weight ratio renders it suitable for solid and stable structures.

Seawater Desalination Plants

The seawater desalination plants that facilitate seawater reverse osmosis and distillation use stainless steel. It shows high strength and corrosion resistance.

Offshore Technology

Stainless steel is used across the offshore oil and gas industry. Due to its reduced weight, increased strength, and corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is also used in submerged components such as pipework for oil, sewage, water, heat exchangers for ships, and risers for oil platforms. The various deck components and coastal handrails, ladders, and other equipment also use stainless steel. 

To Conclude:

Stainless steel is a versatile material, and its various grades and applications help achieve different service requirements Stainless steel. Because of its excellent corrosion resistance, good weld ability and formability, and high strength, its value is ever-increasing across a wide range of industries. 

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