Why is Stainless Steel Used in Clean Environments?

Stainless steel laser cut

Of the many materials which can be used in sheet metal fabrication, with clean environments such as those in the food and medical industries, why is stainless steel often the material of choice?

What is Stainless Steel?

Today, there are more than 3,500 kinds of steel – each which come with many different physical, chemical and environmental properties. Worldsteel Association state that approximately 75% of modern steels have been developed in the last 20 years.

Stainless steel, as the name suggests, is a type of steel which is more capable of resisting stains and corrosion than other steels.

This is a result of the level of chromium which it contains, with this typically ranging between 16 to 26 percent. The most common type of stainless steel is known as “18/8”, or “304 grade”, which takes its former name due to the fact it contains 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel.  

Besides chromium, other elements such as nickel, molybdenum and titanium are added to stainless steel to enhance properties such as strength and chemical resistance, among others.

Stainless steel laser cut
Washing hands with stainless steel sink

Stainless Steel Handles the Strictest Hygiene Regimes

Being a material which is highly robust due to its strength and resistance to corrosion, whilst also handling the most stringent of cleaning regimes, makes it extremely attractive to industries where hygiene is paramount.

Austenitic stainless steels, those which fall in the ‘300’ category such as the previously mentioned 304 grade and another common grade being 316 (which contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum), are easy to clean and disinfect due to containing no pores or cracks which may collect grime, bacteria and dirt over time.

In environments where high concentrations of chloride are not present, 304 is the more economic choice while the added molybdenum in 316 provides added resistance to acids and localised pitting corrosion (where the passive layer on stainless steel breaks down in chloride-rich environments such as in sea water).

Further grades of austenitic stainless steels which are commonly used in these and other industries are grades 310 and 321. Both grades provide added heat resistance in applications such as chemical processing, furnace components, jet engine components and food processing equipment/storage.

Stainless Steel Applications in Medical and Food Industries

There are a massive number of uses for stainless steel within the Medical and Food industries, a few common examples are found below.

Applications for stainless steel in the medical industry include:

  • Drawer units
  • Trolleys
  • Transfusion poles
  • Medical equipment
  • Sensor probes
  • Grab handles
  • Traction kits

Applications for stainless steel in the food industry include:

  • Containers
  • Conveyor systems
  • Tables
  • Furniture
  • Wall cladding
  • Machinery parts
  • Tankers
  • Channels and beams

     

Similarly to aluminium, stainless steel is one of the more difficult materials to cut and fabricate – however, through recent investment in the most up-to-date machinery, we are able to cut it to thicknesses of 40mm and our expert welders are more than capable of working with stainless steel.

steel cladding

ADS Laser is the premier metal laser cutting, folding, fabrication and metal finisher.

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