Stainless steel sheet metal is one of the most versatile building materials out there. Known for its durability, stainless steel is also an affordable choice and easy to work with. Stainless steel is applied in a wide range of projects, from massive industrial applications to intricate electronics.
To get a better understanding of working with stainless steel sheet metal, here’s a closer look at its most notable characteristics:
Important Properties of Stainless Steel Sheet Metal
While stainless steel has strong resistance properties, it is not completely corrosion or stain proof. The resistance of stainless steel will depend on its alloy makeup and the exposure of certain chemicals that can cause damage. However, stainless steel sheet metal offers some of the best corrosion and stain resistance compared to other metals, especially when you consider the other qualities it offers, such as aesthetics, and longevity.
Other important characteristics to consider include:
1. Chromium increases durability
Most stainless steel contains about 18% chromium. The presence of chromium hardens and toughens steel, giving it anti-corrosion and anti-staining properties, especially at high temperatures. Chromium content, along with carbon and the content of other metals will vary based on the stainless steel application.
2. Ranges in thickness up to ¼ inch
Stainless steel sheet metal can be quite thin, but for it to qualify as “sheet metal” it only reaches a ¼ inch in thickness—any stainless steel larger than that is referred to as a “plate.” The thickness of stainless steel sheet metal is measured by gauge. The higher the gauge number, the thinner the sheet. You can reference our sheet metal size charts and use a gauging tool to measure the material you need.
3.Many configurations to choose from
Stainless steel sheet metal comes in a variety of configurations, each with advantages and disadvantages. Manufacturers may offer different grades, finishes and sizes, but specific types of stainless steel sheet metal may vary. These types include:
- 200 Series Austenitic: Made of chromium, carbon, manganese and/or nickel. It’s possible to harden this series, but it often lacks corrosion resistance
- 300 Series Austenitic: Austenitic stainless steel makes up around 70% of all stainless steel produced. The 300 series is the most ductile, weldable and corrosion-resistant of all stainless steel types
- Martensitic: Very strong and easy to machine, but less resistant to corrosion
- Ferritic: Preferred for its ease of engineering, ferritic stainless is less corrosion-resistant than austenitic
- Duplex: Approximately 50/50 between austenitic and ferritic. It’s about 2X as strong as austenitic
Manipulating Stainless Steel
Working with stainless steel sheet metal is relatively easy in many ways, although there are challenges depending on the application and grade you’re using.
Thin sheets of stainless steel require care when welding to avoid warping or burning, while thick sheets can be difficult to bend. Cutting stainless steel sheet metal usually isn’t difficult as long as you work with a vendor who has the right tools, such as a state-of-the-art laser cutting machine you can find at Blackstone.
For other sheet metal fabrication processes, here’s what you can expect:
- Welding: The two biggest difficulties when welding stainless steel sheet metal are thickness and heat distribution. Applying too much heat too quickly will warp the metal, or even burn through. MIG welding provides a good deal of control over the heat you apply
- Bending: The thinner the sheet, the easier it is to bend. Thin sheets can be bent by hand, while thicker sheets will require a bending tool
- Cutting: These days, sheet metal is often cut using high-tech lasers. However, metal snips, hacksaws, jigsaws or band saws can also do the trick. Be sure to always file off burs before handling
The Best Industries for Stainless Steel
You can find stainless steel sheet metal almost anywhere you go. Because it comes in so many thicknesses and types, it is commonly found in:
- Food service
- Heavy industry (manufacture of large/heavy goods and materials in bulk)
Machinable, customizable stainless steel sheet metal is often the material of choice for a number of industries and applications. With reliable, durable and resistant properties, stainless steel may be the right material for your application.
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