Stainless steel, since its development more than a hundred years ago, has become one of the world’s most popular and versatile materials, and is now indispensible in a variety of industries. This includes a number of uses specifically for stainless steel pipes, which benefit from the metal’s many positive properties.
While steel had been around for centuries, it was vulnerable to corrosion and had other drawbacks that led scientists to look for alternative alloys that could work better in harsh conditions. It had been recognized in the early 1800’s that an iron-chromium combination offered superior rust resistance, but it took another century before they finally zeroed in on the right formula.
Finally, in 1912, Harry Brearley of Brown-Firth research laboratory discovered a martensitic stainless steel alloy. They labeled the new material Staybrite, and beginning with the entrance canopy for the Savoy Hotel in London, stainless steel would quickly go on to revolutionize a number of industries.
What are stainless steel alloys made of?
By definition, stainless steel is an iron alloy that contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium. There is a tremendous variety in the types of alloys available on the market, and they each differ in their exact chemical makeup. Alloying elements such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium, carbon, nitrogen, and copper can boost the strength, formability, and other properties of stainless steel.
To qualify as a stainless steel, it must meet guidelines for corrosion resistance in a specific environment. This resistance arises from the metal’s chromium oxide outer layer. This microscopic surface film is referred to as a passivation layer because it naturally reacts with oxygen found in the surrounding air and prevents any further corrosion. Furthermore, the layer is able to repair itself if it receives any damage such as scratches or nicks.
What are the beneficial properties of stainless steel?
Obviously, the primary attribute of stainless steel is its corrosion resistance. Different alloys offer different levels of resistance. For example, 304 stainless steel, probably the world’s most popular stainless steel alloy, offers an all around excellent level of resistance to corrosion. However, when it comes to a marine environment, 304 is not well suited, as it is particularly vulnerable to chloride exposure, which is definitely present in seawater. Instead, an application that will be in marine environments should probably turn to an alloy like 316, which has the added benefit of 2 percent molybdenum.
Stainless steel offers a number of other benefits. Compared with regular steel, stainless steel alloys offer greater cryogenic toughness, a higher work hardening rate, increased strength and hardness, greater ductility, a more attractive appearance, and lowered maintenance costs. With all that going for it, it’s no wonder that stainless steel is so popular in such a wide variety of industries, including piping.
Because each alloy behaves differently, it’s important to be able to distinguish between them. Stainless steel alloys are divided into five different families, each characterized by their own specific properties. The five families are austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation hardening. Contact us to learn more about the different families of stainless steel and which might be right for you.
What are stainless steel applications for piping?
The benefits of a corrosion resistant metal when it comes to pipes should be abundantly clear. That’s why stainless steel is a common choice for piping applications. Because pipes and tubes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, it can be difficult to distinguish between them. For this reason, we generally classify pipes based on their functions.
Stainless steel grade 304 is among the most common alloys used for pipes. This is because of its all around corrosion resistance and other benefits. 304 also offers strong chemical resistance, an added bonus for materials exposed to high amounts of water, especially in industrial settings.
However, when you’ll be handling temperatures above 800 degrees Fahrenheit, 304 will not be suitable, as it becomes susceptible to carbide precipitation. In such cases, stainless steel 304L will be more appropriate.
One specific piping application is known as stainless steel pressure pipe. This grade of stainless steel is made up of solid chromium, or alternatively, a chromium-nickel mixture. The appropriate alloys for this type of pipe generally come from the ferritic and austenitic families. Applications include seamless pipe, welded pipe, electric fusion welded pipe, and large diameter welded pipe. This type of pipe can be useful for corrosive or high-temperature applications, as well as high-pressure environments.
Another popular application for stainless steel piping is in sanitary tubing. For example, sanitation is a prime consideration in the food and beverage and medical device industries. Stainless steel, in addition to its corrosion resistance, is celebrated because it is easy to clean and doesn’t tarnish. The alloy ASTMA270 is a popular choice for sanitary piping.
Some applications for stainless steel pipes are in high performance industries such as aerospace and engineering. Alloys that are chromium and nickel based offer a high degree of heat resistance, an important consideration for aircraft. Stainless steel aircraft tubing also needs to be strong, and able to be work-hardened and welded.
Clinton offers a wide variety of stainless steel tubing, including the following alloys: 304, 304L, 316, and 316L. Our stainless steel pipes are commonly found in construction applications. Because of its ductility, it can easily be fitted into walls without requiring any heat treatment. We have found that the average lifespan for steel pipes in plumbing is close to fifty years.
Your Trusted Stainless Steel Provider
Clinton Aluminum and Steel has a long track record of success supporting manufacturers in many different industries. We take pride in our ability to work with our clients to provide the exact product to the exact requirements. We have built a sales team of experienced technical professionals that have worked at Clinton for an average of 13 years. It is because of them that Clinton has grown into the Midwest’s leading supplier of aluminum and stainless steel products.
Clinton has a strong commitment to service, value, and education. Rather than just selling a product, we look to partner with our customers in order to save them both time and money. Our philosophy is that if you’re happy, then we’re happy. Contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable representatives today to learn more about our stainless steel pipe offerings.