What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless Steel refers to a group of alloy steels that typically contain 10 to 30% chromium. Chromium has a high resistance to corrosion and heat, thanks to its low carbon content. Other elements, such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum, niobium, copper, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, or selenium, may be added to improve corrosion resistance, boost oxidation resistance, or impart particular properties. Most stainless steels are melted first in electric-arc or basic oxygen furnaces, then refined in another steelmaking vessel, mostly to reduce carbon content. 

A mixture of oxygen and argon gas is pumped into liquid steel during the argon-oxygen decarburization process. It is feasible to remove carbon to regulated amounts by oxidizing it to carbon monoxide without simultaneously oxidizing and losing valuable chromium by changing the ratio of oxygen and argon. As a result, lower-cost raw materials like high-carbon ferrochromium might be employed in the first melting process.

Stainless steel comes in over a hundred different grades. The majority of stainless steel is divided into five categories: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation-hardening. The highest corrosion resistance is usually found in austenitic steels, which contain 16 to 26 percent chromium and up to 35 percent nickel. They are nonmagnetic and cannot be hardened by heat treatment. They are used in cutlery, surgical instruments, wrenches, and turbines because they can be hardened by heat treatment and have moderate corrosion resistance.

The strength of precipitation-hardening stainless steel is due to the addition of aluminum, copper, and niobium to the alloy in amounts of less than 0.5 percent of the total mass. It has a corrosion resistance comparable to austenitic stainless steel, and it contains 15 to 17.5 percent chromium, 3 to 5 percent nickel, and 3 to 5 percent copper. The construction of long shafts is done with precipitation-hardening stainless steel.

Steels are divided into three types: carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy steel. Although carbon steel accounts for over 90% of global steel production, it has a number of drawbacks, including low impact resistance, hardening restrictions, oxidation and corrosion resistance, and so on. Stainless and alloy steels were created to address these issues. 

Stainless Steel Properties:

The quantity of chromium added to the alloy is the major difference between carbon steel and stainless steel. While the amount of chromium in carbon steel is typically minimal, stainless steel contains 10-20% chromium and 7-9% nickel. This creates a layer of chromium oxide on the metal, giving it a smooth and shiny appearance while also making it impermeable to water and air and protecting it from corrosion. Nickel increases hardness without compromising ductility or durability, and it also lowers metal expansion when heated. Stainless steel is divided into three categories based on the amount of carbon and nickel present.

Types of Stainless Steel Grades:

  • Type 102 is austenitic stainless steel that is commonly used in furniture.
  • The 200 Series is an austenitic chromium-nickel-manganese alloy used in general metalworking.
  • The austenitic chromium-nickel alloy 300 Series is a series of austenitic chromium-nickel alloys. Grade 304 stainless steel is the most common stainless steel grade. Food utensils, surgical scrub sinks, and instruments are made of this stainless steel series.
  • Ferritic and martensitic chromium alloys in the 400 Series. This series includes the cheapest stainless steel, which is used in car exhausts, as well as higher-grade cutlery steel and the hardest stainless steel, which is used in replica swords and blades.
  • The 500 Series is a series of heat-resistant chromium alloys.
  • Precipitation hardening produces the martensitic alloy series 600.
  • Type 2205 is a duplex alloy with exceptional strength and corrosion resistance (both ferritic and austenitic).
  • Type 2304 is a similar alloy to type 2205 in every way except for the lower molybdenum concentration, which results in lesser pitting corrosion resistance.

Alloy Steel Overview:

Steel that has been alloyed with a range of elements in total amounts ranging from 1.0 percent to 50 percent by weight to improve its mechanical qualities is known as alloy steel. Low Alloy Steels and high alloy steels are the two types of alloy steels. The distinction between the two is debatable. Degarmo et al. define the gap as 8.0 percent, while Smith and Hashemi define it as 4.0 percent. Low-alloy steels are most usually referred to as alloy steel. Although every steel is an alloy, not all steels are referred to as alloy steels. Iron (Fe) alloyed with carbon (C) is the most basic steel about 0.1 percent to 1 percent, depending on the type. 

However, alloy steel is the common word for steels that have other alloying elements added to them in addition to carbon. Manganese, the most common alloyant nickel, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, silicon, and boron are all common alloys. Aluminum, cobalt, copper, cerium, niobium, titanium, tungsten, tin, zinc, lead, and zirconium are some of the less common alloys. Strength, hardness, toughness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, hardenability, and hot hardness are all improved qualities of alloy steels as compared to carbon steels. Heat treatment may be required to achieve some of these improved properties.

Alloy Steel Properties:

High strength low alloy steel, which contains less than 8% alloying elements in the composition, and high alloy steel, which contains more than 8% alloying elements in the mix, are the two main varieties of alloy steel. When compared to carbon steel, the properties of low alloy steel include enhanced hardness and wear resistance. However, it may lose tensile strength as a result of the trade-off.

High alloy or tool and die steels include a larger percentage of alloying elements, resulting in increased hardness and resistance to wear and tear even at high temperatures.

The most often used alloy bar grades are:

  • Chromium-Molybdenum Steel, Grade 4140
  • Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Steel, Grade 4340
  • Chromium Vanadium Steel, Grade 6150
  • HSLA – Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Steel (Grade 8620)

Stainless Steel vs. Alloy Steel:

Manganese, silicon, nickel, boron, chromium, vanadium, and other elements other than iron and carbon are included in alloy steel. Heat treatment is used to add these components. Stainless steel is essentially high alloy steel with the addition of chromium and nickel, but it is classified as a different category in the steel manufacturing business due to its unique qualities and applications.

Alloy steel has a higher tensile strength than stainless steel in general. Stainless steel has a tensile strength of 515-827 MPa, while alloy steels have a tensile strength of 758-1882 MPa.


Steel Tubes Europe has seasoned stainless steel and alloy steel suppliers and will assist you in prioritizing your material requirements and guiding you toward the best stainless steel grade and alloy grade for your application. Dinesh Tubes’ commitment to quality is obvious at every step of the process, with quality management certifications in place to assist you in making the optimal steel option for your industrial application.

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