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Steel Vendors FAQs: Everything You Want to Know

When working with steel vendors, they must be knowledgeable about the products they supply to your business and all the different steels they sell, their applications and specific properties. They should also have a good idea about products they don’t sell but which are crucial to the industry. (more…)

A Comprehensive Guide to Ferritic Stainless Steel Grades

In the early 20th century, an engineer working for Union Carbide discovered a high-chromium iron alloy that resisted heat. Born in Canada, Frederick Mark Becket was looking for a way to use silicon rather than carbon as a reduction agent during metal production. His discovery would make practical the use of low-carbon iron allows and certain types of steel, and it became known as stainless steel would resist heat. Yet it was only in the 1980s that conditions became right for their growing use among stainless steel suppliers, as new technological developments made stainless steel with very low carbon levels possible, including weldable grades.

Metal processing plants began utilizing thermomechanical processes that resolved the problems of ridging and roping that had previously prevented more widespread use of ferritic stainless steels. Meanwhile, end users demanded grades of stainless steel that were less expensive and more stable in their pricing, as nickel prices tended to vary widely. The use of ferritic stainless steel continues to grow, especially for housewares and domestic appliances. Due to their growing use, it’s important for all steel distributors who stock ferritic stainless steels to comprehensively understand what they are, along with their applications, properties, and grades.

What is Ferritic Stainless Steel? 

While austenitic stainless steels are the most commonly used type, ferritic stainless steels are the next most widely used stainless steel. With low carbon levels, high chromium content, and containing no or very little nickel, ferritic stainless steels resist corrosion, are known for ductility, and have magnetic properties. Though not capable of hardening with heat treatment, with the annealing process, they can be softened, and cold worked. In stainless steel gradings, ferritic stainless steel is classified under the 400 series, while they’re further designated depending on application and composition into five groups.

Types & Applications of Ferritic Stainless Steels 

Stainless steel grades with ferritic microstructures account for around 20 percent of all stainless steel tonnage produced. These ferritic steel alloys are generally classified into five groups. The first three types – groups 1-3 – are considered standard grades, while the last two types are specialty grades. Though the tonnage of standard grades produced is far more, demand for specialty grades increases steadily.

Grades of ferritic stainless steel and uses include: 

  • 409 stainless steel: Automotive exhaust systems, electrical kiosks and distribution boxes
  • 430 stainless steel: Automotive trim, chimney liners, dish washer linings, fasteners, refrigerator cabinet panels and stove trim rings.
  • 430LI stainless steel: Used for appliances, architectural screens, cooking utensils, fasteners, food processing and interior trim.
  • 434 stainless steel: Architectural applications, automotive trim, dishwashers, downspouts and gutters, gas burners, heating units, oil refinery equipment, restaurant equipment, roofing and siding.
  • 439 stainless steel: Automotive exhaust manifolds, hot water tank components and residential furnaces, as well as in the chemical processing, petroleum refining and power generation industries.
  • 442 stainless steel: Food processing equipment, heavy gauge welded components, pharmaceutical processing equipment and surgical implants.
  • 444 stainless steel: Cladding and roofing in marine environments, food processing equipment, hot water heaters and stainless steel tubing for heat exchangers.
  • 446 stainless steel: Boiler components, burners, flame rods, injector nozzles for molten compounds and thermocouple protectors.

These grades are additionally classified according to the following five groups: 

  • Group 1 (includes SS409 and other grades) stainless steels are the least expensive, as they have the lowest chromium content of all ferritic stainless steel. It’s ideal for use in conditions that are only slightly corrosive and is used for stainless steel tubing for automotive exhausts, along with containers and frames for LCD monitors.
  • Group 2 (includes SS430 and other grades) are the most commonly used of all ferritic stainless steels, with higher chromium content that makes it more corrosion-resistant against nitric acids, sulfuric gases, and many organic acids. It’s often found within the interiors of appliances, as well as cooking utensils and food production equipment.
  • Group 3 (includes SS439 and other grades) stainless steels are more easily welded and formed, so can be used to replace stainless steel 304, an austenitic grade in some applications. Its uses include for stainless steel tubing for exchanges, exhaust systems, and welded washing machine components.
  • Group 4 (includes SS434, SS444, and other grades) has a higher molybdenum content, giving it greater corrosion resistance. Because of this property, these grades often are used in outdoor environments, though applications also include electric kettles and elements in microwave ovens.
  • Group 5 (includes SS446 and other grades) stainless steels contain high proportions of chromium, along with molybdenum. These specialty alloys offer excellent resistance against corrosion and oxidation, making them ideal for coastal and marine environments.

In general, the magnetic properties of ferritic stainless steel grades also make them ideal for fastening components and induction heating. Compared to austenitic grades, their higher thermal conductivity and lower thermal expansion coefficient make them suitable for cooking utensils and other applications where heat transfer occurs. Ferritic steels also have some distinctive properties that make them practical for use in the auto industry, along with nuclear reactors.

Some types of ferritic stainless steel offer sufficient corrosion resistance to replace austenitic stainless steel 304, which is used for dishwashers, food processing equipment, and kitchen sinks. Due to their strength, ferritic stainless steel pipes can handle high-pressure conditions like refineries. Additionally, certain specialty grades of ferritic stainless steel have higher chromium content, with added molybdenum to allow them to withstand corrosive marine conditions.

Chemical Composition & Grain Structure

Stainless steels are described by their molecular composition, with ferritic steels built from microstructures called ferrite, which exists as a metallurgical phase of iron. Featuring numerous small crystals, ferrite is hard and brittle. It’s made up of iron oxide and at least one other metal in a chemical combination. This essentially makes it a solid solution.

While all stainless steels incorporate chromium, ferritic steels generally have higher chromium content. This is what gives it greater corrosion resistance, hardness, and glossiness when polished. Some ferritic stainless steels contain as much as 27 percent chromium. However, the main difference between austenitic and ferritic stainless steels is their nickel content. Ferritic stainless steels contain very little if any nickel, a trait similar to martensitic stainless steels. Another difference is their low carbon content.

Each stainless steel alloy differs from other types primarily in where the iron atom is positioned within the metal’s grain. Ferritic steels have a grain structure referred to as body-centered-cubic, while other types of stainless steel have face-centered grain structures. Body-centered-cubic grains are what give ferritic steel its magnetic properties, which differ from other stainless steel.

Main Properties of Ferritic Stainless Steel

While heat treatment won’t harden or strengthen ferritic steels, they can be cold-worked and softened through an annealing process, which involves heating the metal and then slowly cooling it. Though they’re neither as strong nor as resistant to corrosion as austenitic steels, ferritic grades normally have more beneficial mechanical properties. They tend to be easy to weld, though some ferritic grades have limitations, restricting use of these steels to thinner gauges.

Because they don’t contain nickel and have lower amounts of chromium, standard ferritic stainless steels normally cost less than austenitic grades. The most widely used ferritic grade of stainless steel is SS430. With lower chromium content, SS409 is less corrosion-resistant. In contrast, SS439 resists corrosion better and is more stable in high temperatures.

Depending on the alloy, ferritic stainless steels exhibit several beneficial properties.

Corrosion Resistance

Corrosive environments and tensile stress can cause steel to degrade, resulting in stress corrosion cracking (SCC). When exposed to chlorides, austenitic steels are particularly vulnerable to SCC. In contrast, ferritic steels resist SCC much better, making them suitable for applications and in environments that contain chlorides.

Ductility and Formability

The hardness of steel results from its carbon content, yet it also makes it more brittle and ductile. As ferritic stainless steel contains very little carbon, it is normally more ductile than other steel. This allows ferritic steels to be shaped without weakening. The low carbon content additionally means they have superior formability properties, so can be easily shaped with little potential for cracking or necking.

Low carbon content has some tradeoffs, however. The low carbon content makes it impossible to harden via heat treatments. Some ferritic stainless steel alloys also exhibit problems when welded, sometimes cracking unexpectedly along the heat-affect zone.

Low Thermal Expansion

With a low coefficient of thermal expansion, ferritic steels expand less as they’re heated. Since the metal retains a fixed dimension more easily, these stainless steels work well in high temperatures.

High Thermal Conductivity

With excellent thermal conductivity properties, ferritic stainless steels allow heat to move efficiently through them. For this reason, they’re often used in boiler heat exchangers, furnaces, and in applications that involve heat transfer.

Resistance to Oxidation

Ferritic stainless steel offers excellent oxidation resistance, especially at higher temperatures. This property is due to chromium-oxide film forming on the metal’s surface. Oxidation resistance can be further improved by utilizing aluminum and/or silicon during fabrication.

Ferritic Stainless Steels by Atlantic Stainless

As stainless steel distributors, the Atlantic Stainless Company Inc. carries a diverse inventory of stainless steel products. One of our strengths is an expert sales staff boasting over 150 years of combined experience working with stainless steel. Suppliers of all grades of stainless steel, including ferritic grades within the 400 series, Atlantic Stainless serves local businesses and a global clientele.

Our selection of ferritic stainless steel products includes: 

For those experiencing difficulties in locating a specific stainless steel product, we can do the legwork to find it. We also offer an array of stainless steel cutting, shearing, and polishing services as well. Additionally, we are one of a select number of stainless steel distributors capable of meeting military specifications. To order or to find out more, contact the experts at Atlantic Stainless today.

Working with Stainless Steel Plate Suppliers: What to Look For

Stainless steel plate is used for a variety of applications in which durability, strength, low maintenance, and corrosion resistance are important. It’s used in the construction industry to support building foundations, as well as for the auto manufacturing, pharmaceutical, chemical, petrochemical, transport and aviation industries. Stainless steel plate is also used to provide structural support for railways, ships, military vehicles, and trucks, making it a vital component in heavy industry. Because of its importance, those tasked with sourcing stainless steel plate suppliers should carefully consider a number of factors before making that choice.

Factors to Consider for Stainless Steel Plate Suppliers

There are numerous industries and applications for stainless steel plates, with suppliers of the material tending to concentrate on either a domestic or global market. Steel service centers source domestically, providing steel goods that have been already formed and which can be used for steel goods like steel roofing or appliance housings; these will most likely supply standard forms such as stainless steel plate. Suppliers that operate globally tend to be publicly traded steel manufacturers with their main output in the form of ingots, along with semi-finished produces like slabs, billets, and blooms, though some will also fabricate standardized stainless steel plate.

Types of stainless steel plate suppliers fall into these general categories: 

  • Manufacturers: Those purchasing stainless steel plate normally buy through company salespeople or independent representatives that source from multiple manufacturers. In most cases, prices from these suppliers tend to be the lowest, unless the buyer is located in a remote locale to which transport costs are higher. However, some stainless steel plate manufacturers won’t fill smaller orders.
  • Distributors: These are alternatively known as brokers, jobbers, or wholesalers, who buy directly from several manufacturers, purchasing and warehousing large quantities of stainless steel. Suppliers that distribute for manufacturers tend to charge higher prices, though they’re capable of delivering smaller orders too. Sometimes distributors will be able to provide stainless steel plate at a lower overall cost, as their shipping charges are normally much less while their delivery time will be quicker.
  • Independent suppliers: These are smaller shops and other entities that concentrate on making specialty products for specific purposes, normally selling through sales representatives. Prices through these craftspeople are higher, though the stainless steel plate and other products they produce tend to be of higher quality.
  • Importers: These stainless steel plate suppliers operate much like a domestic distributor, though they market and sell globally. Depending on the source, they may even sell directly to those who travel to the importer’s warehouse overseas.

Due to its chromium content, stainless steel plate surfaces don’t rust easily, so stainless steel is often referred to as “corrosion-resistant steel.” It’s vital for making numerous products, including for making chemical or fuel tankers and in petrochemical plants. Stainless steel plate is also used in the chemical manufacturing, construction, food processing, and pharmaceutical industries.

What Makes a Good Supplier?

Buyers often focus on a single issue when sourcing stainless steel: the supplier’s pricing. Though it’s an important consideration, other aspects of a buyer-supplier relationship are also as, if not more, important. Stainless steel plate suppliers need to make money to stay in the business, so will often try to sell themselves as more than just providing the cheapest price.

Reliability plays a huge role when sourcing stainless steel. Suppliers should provide products on time and in good condition. Even though stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, it can still rust if not stored or handled properly. Larger suppliers aren’t automatically more reliable either. A customer of a small supplier who places large orders will likely receive more reliable service than a small customer of a larger stainless steel plate supplier. It may even make sense to use two smaller suppliers to have a backup supply than to use a single large supplier.

Another key and related factor is stability. A supplier with a solid reputation among its customers, a stable workforce, and a long history of working with stainless steel will inevitably offer a more stable source and stable businesses tend also to be more reliable. There may be certain signs too that a supplier isn’t in a stable financial position. For example, if shipments arrive earlier than requested it can mean that the supplier has a shortage of orders and is trying to speed up its cash flow.

Another factor involves location, as shipping charges are usually higher when ordering from a greater distance. Internationally-sourced stainless steel may actually end up being priced higher due to import taxes. Products ordered from a distant supplier will also take longer to arrive, especially those not near a major logistical hub. The time it takes for materials to reach the customer will inevitably also affect the output of end products. Additionally, when ordering it’s best for businesses to look into whether there’s a discount, or even free shipping, for ordering in quantity.

Other advantageous traits relate to a supplier’s capabilities. This includes offering attractive business terms, advanced technical know-how, well-trained employees, and a desire to serve their customers competently.

Project Considerations

Another consideration should be the project for which a customer is using stainless steel plate. Suppliers should be selected with care to ensure they can provide the best price and product for the project.

  • Budget: Accurate quotes are sometimes hard to come by. It’s important that both the customer and the stainless steel plate provider know the budget. This makes reaching a fair deal easier. Having solid budgetary limits also allows customers to eliminate some suppliers based on cost.
  • Scale: Often the best vendor depends on the size of a project. Some stainless steel plate suppliers can meet largescale demand better than others, able to supply large orders of stainless steel plate without much notice.
  • Timeline: It’s important that when ordering stainless steel plate, suppliers know how much and when a customer needs it. This can be done by having teams set up realistic completion dates and providing these to the supplier. This will help ensure projects are completed on schedule.

Contact the Stainless Steel Plate Suppliers at Atlantic Stainless

Atlantic Stainless supplies a selection of stainless steel plate, available in most grades and typically galvanized. We additionally offer finishing from polished standard #4 to mirrored polished #8, normally also coated with removable vinyl. Atlantic’s stainless steel plate is sold in hot rolled annealed and pickled (HRAP) condition.

The grades and services for stainless steel plate that Atlantic Stainless offers include:

  • 15-5, 17-4, 17-7, 304, 304L, 316, 316L, 301, 309, 301QH, 301HH, 301FH, 321, 330, 347, 409, 410, 430, 625 and 718
  • 8 to 26 gauge plate sheets of varying widths
  • Cuts stainless steel plate to size
  • Cutting services that include shear cutting up to 3/8 inch thick, along with high definition plasma cutting and waterjet cutting up to a half-foot of thickness
  • Finishes from 2B to polished plate
  • Polishing services

Additionally, our sales team has combined experience of over 150 years. Our expert sales professionals are available to answer any questions on stainless steel plate or other products that we supply. Whether you’re a customer around the corner or on the other side of the world, Atlantic can supply your metal needs, including close tolerances, high-temperature allows, military specifications, and other special fabrications. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

Update on Nickel Prices

As many of you are well aware, this is a strange and difficult time in the metals business.

Demand has been high, inventory has been low, transportation costs have soared, labor is in short supply, and events across the world have been reshaping the way companies of all kinds and sizes now have to do business.

The latest situation to arise in the stainless world is the nickel crisis. The unbelievable increase in the price of nickel, which led to trading of that commodity being suspended by the LME, has driven already high stainless prices into the stratosphere. Prices are rising daily, beyond the control of any of us.

Here at Atlantic Stainless, we are doing all we can to protect our customers. Keeping inventory available and reasonably priced is a huge challenge, but we are trying our best. We are making major commitments to ensure our customers have access to what they need to run their businesses. It’s not easy – but as we have for the past nearly 40 years, Atlantic Stainless remains committed to you now and in the future.

7 Important Applications for Steel Square Bars

Although steel bars come in a variety of shapes, the geometry of square steel bars makes them stronger, as they handle pressure better than round bars. Stainless steel square bars also resist corrosion and wear extremely well, while different finishes make them useful for various applications.

Steel square bars are used in the manufacture of an array of industrial components. They are used in agriculture, oil and gas, tool and die, defense, rail, and power generation industries.

Here are 7 common applications that steel square bars are used for:

1. Brewing

Breweries use stainless steel vats to contain their product. These vats are often reinforced by steel square bars, which are normally cold-rolled. Their strength allows them to support an enormous amount of weight.

2. Fencing & Gates

Steel fencing offers a means by which homeowners can protect their property, while also providing an unobstructed view beyond their land. Square steel fencing and gates are both sturdy and aesthetically pleasing.

3. Furniture

As steel bars are easily welded and bent, their flexibility makes them work well for a varied range of furniture. It’s often used for making legs for benches, chairs, tables, and stools. As such, square steel bars serve as a strong and attractive option for modern furniture.

4. General Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing, steel bars offer numerous advantages. The versatility and strength of steel square bars make them perfect for making metal components like bolts, fasteners, nuts and screws. Machinery that utilizes these steel parts helps them resist cold and carry heavy loads.

5. Grills

While metal sheets, known as expanded metal, are used for building grills, they also require a frame. When welded to the expanded metal, square bars protect the grill so that it doesn’t fray, due to their ability to withstand a fire’s heat and immense tensile strength.

6. Protective Barriers

Hot-rolled steel square bars are easily molded and can be molded into just about any shape, so are perfect for fabricating protective barriers. For example, they are used for burglar bars to keep intruders out and also can be formed into cages to keep equipment safe.

7. Railings

Railings made from stainless-steel square bars appear in modern architecture and are often utilized by today’s interior designers. Not only does stainless steel make tiled or wood stairs and landings look sleek, but it also does so less expensively than other options.

Types of Stainless Steel Square Bar Finishes

A number of finishes can be applied to stainless steel bars that alter more than just appearance. Different finishes are used for different applications. Three commonly used finishes for stainless steel square bars are:

  • Brushed finishes offer a subtle luster that features a distinctive pattern made up of parallel lines, giving it a decorative look that isn’t too glittery. Steel for air conditioners, home appliances, and water heaters is often finished this way.
  • Matte finishes are the least expensive and offer a dull appearance, so tend to be used in situations where aesthetics isn’t an issue or further finishing is needed. This finishing technique is often used for the equipment used for the chemical, dry-cleaning and laundry, paper, and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Mirror finishes are made by polishing stainless steel, making it extremely reflective. This finish masks surface damage, makes cleaning easier and enhances appearance, so is used for such things as column covers, ornamental trim, reflectors, steel mirrors, and wall paneling.

Steel Square Bars From Atlantic Stainless

Atlantic Stainless offers a wide variety of stainless steel products, including square bars. The company stocks these in popular grades, including 304L, 303, 316L, 17-4 and 416. Though steel bars come in fixed lengths, some sizes can be customized and cut to order. The company additionally provides quick shipping options to get products to customers in a matter of days.

Polishing services are available as well, making surfaces aesthetically pleasing for home furnishing and architectural applications. Finishes also smooth surfaces so that they are consistent and uniform, which is particularly important for military applications. Options for finishing techniques include buffing, electroplating, abrasive polishing, and more. For more information about products and services Atlantic Services offers, contact us today.