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What is Stainless Steel What is stainless steel?

Steel is defined as an alloy of iron (Fe) and carbon (C) with C contents less than 1.7%. Stainless Steel is a term for a whole group of corrosion-resistant steels, containing at least 11% of chromium. Varying additions of nickel, molybdenum, titanium and other elements may be present. By careful compositioning of the steels, their structure, corrosion resistance and mechanical properties are influenced. And by knowing how the various elements influence, it has been possible to develop steels, which meet the challenging requirements of the industries. By studying the table for chemical composition, you will note that it does not add up to 100%. The balance in all steels is Fe. In our printed matter, e.g. data sheets, we present approximate compositions for our steels. These data are based on the specifications (with close limits for each element) we aim at in the steel melting. In the certificates we give the heat analyses, which are the true results of the melting process. Influence of alloying elements in stainless steels Below are brief descriptions of most of the elements in stainless steels. Some of them promote the formation of ferrite (F) and some of austenite (A). The contents of sulphur, phosphorous and cerium are so low in stainless steels that they do not influence on the structure. Carbon, C (A) Most stainless steels have low carbon contents, max. 0.020 0.08%. Those with max. 0.030% C are called ELC steels. Low carbon content inhibits the formation of chromium carbides and the resulting risk of intergranular-corrosion attacks. Low carbon also improves weldability. By convention, and as requested by standards, high-temperature grades often have higher C contents because this promotes creep strength. With modern metallurgical methods it is no longer necessary to increase carbon content; instead nitrogen can be added to maintain high strength. In martensitic stainless steels, C is an alloying element, and the content is usually between 0.15 and 1.2%. The high C content makes these steels hardenable. Chromium, Cr (F) Chromium is the main alloying element in stainless steels. In contents exceeding about 11%, a stable, passive oxide film is formed on the surface and reformed spontaneously. By increasing the Cr content, up to max. 30%, the corrosion resistance increases. This is true for wet corrosion as well as high-temperature corrosion. Cr addition does not change the structure of pure iron, which is ferritic. Ferritic chromium steels therefore have physical properties similar to those of

carbon steel. And duplex (austenitic-ferritic) steels come, in that respect, between ferritic and austenitic steels. The negative effect of Cr is the risk of formation of the intermetallic phase sigma (s), which is hard and brittle. Nickel, Ni (A) If sufficient nickel, at least 8%, is added to a chromium steel, the structure usually becomes austenitic, which results in changed mechanical and physical properties. Ni helps the formation of the passive Cr-oxide film. Lower additions of Ni give a mixed structure of ferrite and austenite, i.e. duplex stainless steels. Increasing Ni has great influence on the resistance to stress corrosion cracking (SCC). It is also beneficial under other special wet-corrosive conditions and mostly to high-temperature corrosion. However, under certain high-temperature conditions, Ni is directly harmful. See also "Material Safety Data Sheet" below. Molybdenum, Mo (F) Molybdenum greatly improves the general-corrosion resistance of stainless steels in most media. Above all, Mo improves resistance to pitting and crevice corrosion. However, under certain wet-corrosive and high-temperature conditions, Mo is a disadvantage. Mo promotes the formation of sigma-phase. Mo is beneficial for strength at elevated temperatures. In conventional stainless steels the Mo content is 2 3%. In special steels, up to about 6% Mo is added. This, however, makes the steels resistant to hot working, which has a direct limitation on the size range of seamless tubes. Titanium, Ti, and niobium, Nb (F) These two elements easily combine with carbon into stable Ti or Nb carbides. Ti/Nb then obstruct the formation of Cr carbides (known as sensitization = Cr depletion) in the region adjacent to welds and the resulting risk of intergranular corrosion. Ti and Nb are known as stabilizing elements and are normally used in steel grades with relatively high carbon content (> 0.05%) so-called Ti or Nb stabilized steels. Stabilized Sandvik grades are 6R35 and 5R75 (both Ti) and 8R40 and 8R41 (both Nb). The Ti alloyed steels are commonly used in Germany, whereas the Nb-alloyed variants are preferably used in the USA. In the USA, niobium is also known as columbium (Cb). Nb is often used together with tantalum, Ta, which is another stabilizing element. The addition to steel is min. 5 x %C for Ti and min. 10 x %C for Nb.

Copper, Cu (A) Improves resistance to corrosion in sulphuric acid. Around 1% Cu is added to some special grades, e.g. 2RK65 and Sanicro 28. Nitrogen, N (A) Nitrogen, like Ni, is a strong austenite former and is used to complement Ni in the Nalloyed steels. N is added in contents of about 0.2 0.3%, which improves the strength and corrosion resistance of austenitic and duplex steels. N is very important for the weldability of duplex stainless steels, due to its ability to give rapid reforming of austenite during the cooling of the weld. N reduces the tendency for formation of sigma-phase. N-alloyed Sandvik grades are the austenitic steels 3R19, 3R69, 2RE69, 254 SMO, 253 MA and 353 MA, the duplex steels SAF 2304, SAF 2205, SAF 2507 and the ferritic steel 4C54. Silicon, Si (F) Si is used as a deoxidising agent in the melting of steel and, as a result, principally all steels contain a small percentage of Si. Si has a positive effect on the resistance to high-temperature corrosion. Si increases the tendency for formation of sigma phase and gives an increased risk for hot cracking during welding. Manganese, Mn (A) Manganese is, like Si, present in all steels. It promotes the formation of austenite. It easily combines with sulphur to form sulfides (= inclusion particles), which can be both negative and positive. They are harmful in conditions where there is a risk of pitting. Their positive effect is in machining, where small and well distributed sulfides "lubricate" the cutting tool. In certain high-temperature steels a Mn content above the normal level (max. 2%) is used to obtain high creep strength. This is the case with e.g. Esshete 1250, which contains 6% Mn. Sulphur, S Sulphur is mostly regarded as an unwanted impurity and is therefore, as described under "Steel melting", normally reduced to a low level in the AOD converter. The normal content in stainless steels according to the various production standards is max. 0.030% or lower, otherwise there is a risk of cracking when hot working and welding. In our steel melting, however, we obtain considerably lower values. In steels for machining the S content is somewhat higher to help form sulfides, see above under "Manganese". Phosphorous, P Phosphorous is an unwanted impurity, which cannot be reduced in the steel-melting process. Therefore the content of P must be low already in the raw materials used. The normal content in stainless steels is max. 0.040% or lower.

Aluminium, Al (F) Aluminium improves the oxidation resistance at high temperatures. It is added to the Sandvik grade Sanicro 31HT. In Sandvik 9RU10 Al is added to form aluminium carbonitrides to give a precipitation hardening effect. Cerium, Ce Cerium is a so-called rare earth metal (REM). It is added, together with other REMs, in the grade 253 MA and 353 MA to improve the oxidation resistance at high temperatures. It is an unwanted element in all welding consumables for MIG welding as it causes a very unstable arc. Cobalt, Co Cobalt is an element of great interest to the nuclear industry, where a low Co content is essential. Our stock-standard tube and pipe in grades 3R12 and 3R60 can easily meet a requirement of max. 0.2%. In many cases a max. Co content of 0.1% can be offered.

Types of stainless steel Stainless steels can be classified according to their different microstructures in different groups: Ferritic chromium steels Min. 12% Cr, < 4.5% Ni Martensitic chromium steels " Austenitic-ferritic steels (duplex) Min. 14% Cr, > 4.5% Ni Austenitic steels and alloys " There are also martensitic-austenitic steels and precipitation hardening steels, primarily of interest for strip and wire. Which structure a steel will attain is basically dependent upon its chemical composition, but the structure can also be modified by heat treatment and by cold working. The microphotos above are typical for the steel and the condition in question, and variation can be wide in reality. Ferritic chromium steels They normally have a Cr content of 12 18% and often small amounts of other alloying elements. A special high-temperature steel contains 26% Cr (4C54). These steels keep their ferritic structure also after rapid cooling from high temperature and they are therefore not hardenable. They are magnetic. Characteristics: Moderate to good corrosion resistance, increasing with the Cr content. Poor toughness, especially at low temperatures. Inferior cold-working and welding properties. At high temperatures they can give problems with embrittlement. Often sensitive to intergranular corrosion after heat treatment and welding, but in modern variants (ELI = Extra Low Interstitials, i.e. carbon and nitrogen) this problem has been overcome.

Martensitic chromium steels They have a Cr content of less than 20% with a C content of more than 0.15%. This makes them hardenable, which means, that when they are rapidly cooled off from high temperature, hard and brittle martensite is formed. The hardness can then be reduced to the required level by tempering. The corrosion resistance of these steels is moderate, better in hardened than in annealed condition. Poor weldability. Magnetic. These steels are mostly used in the form of strip and wire for e.g. knives, razor blades, flapper valves, needles, parts in watches, domestic purposes, etc. Characteristics: Moderate corrosion resistance. Poor weldability. Their advantage is that they can be heat-treated (hardened) to the desired strength. Austenitic-ferritic (duplex) steels By adding Ni to a ferritic chromium steel the structure will change and become a mixture of ferrite and austenite. With increasing Ni, the proportion of austenite increases. The content of Cr is 18 28% and Ni 4 7%. This results in 20 75% austenite, depending on the amount of other alloying elements. Duplex steels are not hardenable. They are magnetic in the proportion to the ferrite content. Sandvik was the first company to develop a weldable SCC-resistant duplex grade, 3RE60. It was initially developed to combat corrosion problems in the pulp and paper industry, in the pulp digester pre-heaters. Very soon the methanol industry realized the advantages of this material and uses it for heat exchangers. In the course of the years it has solved many SCC problems in the chemical industry. Characteristics: The modern duplex steels are all ELC grades, and they have excellent corrosion properties. Their yield strength is at least twice as high as in austenitic steels. They have good weldability. The physical properties offer design advantages. The machinability is normally limited, but by developing a SANMAC variant of SAF 2205, we can offer bar steel in a duplex with increased machinability and uniform properties. The old type of austenitic-ferritic steels, which are not ELC grades (e.g. 10RE51), have poor weldability, but much better machinability than modern duplex steels. Austenitic steels and alloys A further increase of the Ni content to 8% or more, depending on the other alloying elements, makes the structure fully austenitic. These steels are not hardenable by heat treatment. They are normally nonmagnetic, but some grades have a composition balanced to give a structure of austenite with a small amount of ferrite. This makes them slightly magnetic. Also lower alloyed, austenitic grades like the 304 type can become somewhat magnetic

when cold-worked, e.g. by forming or machining. Austenitic steels form the dominating group among stainless steels. The basic steel has 18% Cr and 8% Ni often called 18/8 steel (= type 304), which has some variants. By adding 2 3% Mo we get the next large group of steels, the 18/8/Mo steels (= type 316), often referred to as "acid proof". Also this group has some variants. And then we have all the special steels, which have been developed for multipurpose or "single-purpose" applications. See the chart below. Characteristics: Good to excellent corrosion resistance under wet-corrosive and hightemperature conditions. Excellent weldability. Good mechanical properties at all temperatures. By cold working the strength increases considerably (deformation hardening), and this can be utilized in some applications. Excellent formability and fabrication properties. Not least important, they are hygienic and easy to clean. Martensitic-austenitic steels Standard austenitic steels are transforming to martensite when deformed, i.e. they are so called TRIP steels (Transformation Induced by Plasticity). This means that the deformation induces a martensite formation which means that steels with 18% Cr and 10 % Ni will have a martensite content of approximately 50% when delivered in hard condition. This means that the steels will have characteristics typical for martensitic steels i.e. being magnetic etc. Characteristics: Examples of these steels are 5R10, 12R10, 11R51, 9X1R51 and 5R60 when delivered in hard condition. The martensite gives a high hardness and strength while the austenite gives the ductility. Precipitation hardening steels These steel grades normally have a Cr content of above 16 %, Ni above 7 % and appr 1 % of Al. The Al is added to build up the precipitated nickel-aluminium particles. In annealed condition the structure is austenitic but during cold deformation the austenitic structure is transformed to the harder phase of martensite. Higher strength by precipitation of minute particles is achieved by composing this alloy so that it can be drawn to wire and coiled to springs in the same way as the standard grades but when the finished spring is heat treated (Sandvik 9RU10 at 480oC) a very fine dispersion of minute particles is precipitated. Characteristics: The precipitation increases the tensile strength more than tempering of standard grades and the yield strength even more, and so the relation between yield strength and tensile strength increases from about 0,85 to about 0,95. These minute particles also makes the structure more stable and obstructs cracks to propagate through. The martensite gives the hardness to the material. The fatigue limit for shear stress and for high cycle fatigue is about 25 % of the tensile strength. Therefore grades with higher tensile strength have a higher fatigue limit than other grades with lower

strength but otherwise the same structure. Special metals Titanium and zirconium contain small amounts of the impurities hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), oxygen (O) and iron (Fe). Zirconium also contains hafnium (Hf) to a maximum content of 4.5%. Up to the maximum levels specified for these impurities, the corrosion resistance is not affected, whereas they raise the strength and lower the ductility. N and O have the strongest effect compare Grade 2 and Grade 3: Grade 2 with max. 0.25% O and max. 0.03% N: Rp0.2 min. 275 MPa. Grade 3 with max. 0.35% O and max. 0.05% N: Rp0.2 min. 380 MPa. In order to further improve the corrosion resistance of titanium, palladium (Pd) is added in some Grades 7 and 11 have an addition of 0.12 0.25% Pd. The O content of Grade 7 is max. 0.25% and of Grade 11 0.18%. Characteristics: Excellent corrosion resistance under most wet-corrosive conditions. Very good weldability as long as the necessary precautions are taken, see data sheets. Good mechanical properties. By cold working the strength increases considerably (deformation hardening), and this can be utilized in some applications. Excellent formability and fabrication properties. Not least important, they are hygienic and easy to clean. AB Sandvik Materials Technology Legal Notice | Privacy Policy |Contact Us | Latest update:2003-07-28 c1256aca002b9298?OpenDocument