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Hogan Steel Archive: Stainless Steel

The “Hogan Steel Archive,” representing a three-year collaborative effort of the Walsh Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections and Fordham’s Industrial Economics Research Institute, commemorates and preserves the remarkable steel legacy

Stainless Steel

Included in the Archive’s 76 document files on stainless steel is information on the following: profiles of the stainless- and specialty-steel industry, shipments of stainless and heat-resisting steels, production by countries, the stainless market by product and end use, stainless demand and capacity, world stainless-steel statistics, U.S. companies in the specialty-steel industry, the U.S. outlook for stainless plates, the specialty-steel market in Germany, specialty-steel profits, stainless vs. carbon steel, stainless products manual, high-chromium stainless, stainless-clad steel, stainless fabrication, stainless melting economics, profiles of Allegheny Ludlum Corporation, stainless produced by United States Steel Corporation, U.S. stainless and tool-steel imports, the ferroalloys industry, and the use of stainless steel for cookware, coal handling, condenser and heater tubing, copper leaching, electrical transmission and distribution, forgings, fume incineration, gas scrubbers, ocean exploration and undersea mining, paper-mill pollution controls, water-desalination and waste-treatment plants. The files contain papers and publications relating to stainless steel from AISI, IISI, International Nickel Company, Metal Bulletin, and United States Steel Corporation. U.S. Steel also published Fabrication of U.S.S. Stainless and Heat Resisting Steels, which is contained in the Archive’s book collection.

Analysis: Specialty steels are generally considered to include stainless and heat-resisting steels, tool steels, high-temperature steels and alloys, pressure and mechanical tubing, and refractory, reactive, and electronic metals. The steel industry’s elite product offerings, they contain expensive alloys, are highly labor intensive, difficult and costly to produce, and suited to “special” or critical applications. Usually made and sold in smaller quantities than ordinary carbon steels, and sometimes tailored to meet unique customer requirements, they also command much higher market prices.

Stainless steel is the number-one specialty steel in terms of tonnage production, with an output that is approaching 25 million tons worldwide on a crude-steel basis. In 2003, stainless output increased about 10% to 22.8 million tons, representing 2.4% of the world steel industry’s total crude-steel production of 965 million tons. Asia was the world’s chief stainless-producing region with an output share of 47%, followed by Europe and Africa with a combined 41%, and the Americas with a 12% share.

Because stainless steel is used for a broad range of applications, it is produced with numerous combinations of alloys, primarily chromium and nickel, and is marketed in a wide variety of shapes and surface finishes. Stainless is used primarily for its superior corrosion resistance, particularly at high temperatures, but also affords an attractive surface, toughness at low temperatures, strength, wear resistance, cleanliness, and ease of maintenance, qualities which make it the most widely used specialty steel.

Stainless steels derive their corrosion resistance mainly from their chromium content, with the alloys aluminum, copper, molybdenum, nickel, and silicon of more limited usefulness in this regard. The most popular stainless steels are the iron-chromium and iron-chromium-nickel types, which are generally categorized according to their characteristics and alloy contents into three general groups: martensitic, ferritic, and austenitic.

Martensitic stainless (400 and 500 series, hardenable by heat treatment) is usually of the iron-chromium type (Chrome 4-18%, Carbon 0.1-1.2%) and has excellent heat-resisting qualities at temperatures up to 1100F. It provides greater resistance to corrosion than alloy steel, but not as much as the other two types of stainless steel. Because it responds to heat treatment, it can be used to develop a wide range of mechanical properties and to provide strength, hardness, and resistance to abrasion in such items as turbine and machine parts, jet-engine compressor blades, bearings, valve trim, nuts and bolts, surgical instruments, and cutlery, the most common, everyday use of stainless steel.

Ferritic stainless (400 series, not hardenable by heat treatment) is also of the iron-chromium type (Cr 15-27, C 0.12 max), is suited to high-temperature use without scaling, and provides good corrosion and oxidation resistance. Always magnetic, it has acceptable ductility, can be fabricated by the usual methods, and has a surface that can be finished to resemble chrome plating, a desirable feature for automotive trim applications. Stronger than carbon steel, it permits the use of lighter gauges to achieve weight reduction in such applications as automotive exhaust systems (grade 409). It also is used in such items as heat exchangers, furnaces, petrochemical equipment, annealing baskets, nitric-acid tanks, food-handling equipment, and a variety of household appliances.

Austenitic stainless (Cr 16-30, Ni 6-26, C 0.08-0.25), the most widely used type of stainless steel, is mainly of the 300 series iron-chromium-nickel type and also of the 200 series in which manganese replaces all or part of the nickel. Nonmagnetic in its annealed state and not hardenable by heat treatment, it provides maximum corrosion resistance, has excellent ductility, and maintains its structure at low temperatures. It is adaptable to welding, standard fabrication, forming, and severe deep drawing, and in the 300 series, it resists oxidation and has high rupture and creep-strength values. Some of its major uses are in chemical and food-processing equipment, winemaking and other beverage equipment, architectural components, aircraft structurals and cowlings, railroad-car and truck-trailer bodies, nuclear power plants, photographic equipment, jewelry, and cookware.