Some metals are much easier to work with than others. For example, standard carbon steel can easily be welded and formed into a number of shapes for a wide range of uses. However, because steel rusts easily, many applications call for aluminum. Yet, when greater strength is required, custom stainless steel fabrication is the better choice, but this metal is not easy to work with for a number of reasons. Let’s take a closer look at stainless steel and why you should hire the fabrication specialists for your work.
What is Stainless Steel?
Steel is one of the strongest and most durable metals you can use. However, when steel is exposed to the elements it begins to rust and corrode. In fact, it will weaken and deteriorate over time, depending on the thickness of the metal. To prevent this common problem, still is alloyed with metals like chromium and it is the chromium which gives stainless steel its luster and ability to resist corrosion.
Why No Rust?
Steel is made from iron, carbon and other alloys and iron usually contains an outer layer of iron oxide (rust). This iron oxide layer contributes to the formation of more iron oxide and this is how the corrosion process begins. Custom stainless steel fabrication starts with metal which has an outer layer of chromium oxide instead of iron oxide. Chromium oxide forms a protective passive layer on the metal’s surface, blocking the absorption of oxygen molecules and this effectively prevents rust from forming.
Although stainless steel is not the easiest metal to work with it can be machined. Plus, experienced workers can weld, fold and bend it. In fact, some grades are hardened by heat to enhance some of its properties. Austenitic stainless steel has a hardening rate higher than standard steel but a cold process must be used. This can greatly increase its tensile strength.
Usually stainless steel is not magnetic, yet some kinds (ferritic) have some magnetic properties. Work hardening can increase these properties if desired.
Some grades can be machined but it takes experienced machinists. For example, cutting edges must be frequently sharpened and coolants are essential. Plus, it’s important to know which types are easiest to machine.
Custom stainless steel fabrication often includes welding, and martensitic steel is best suited for these applications. In addition, special heating methods are often used both before and after welding, to provide a high quality finished product, free of defects.