Steel is one of the most common materials in the world and there are many sub-categories of steel depending on the various qualities and characteristics of a particular build. The properties that vary the most between steel types are strength, ductility, hardness, aesthetics and cost. It stands to reason that selecting the proper steel type for the job will benefit both the quality of the project and the cost.
Stainless steel is widely used in the food and medical industries because it is easily cleaned and sanitised. Stainless steel can also be used at high temperatures and is less reactive with foods.
Strength and corrosion resistance often make stainless steel the material of choice in transportation and processing equipment, engine parts, and firearms. And sometimes, designers specify “Stainless” simply for its aesthetically pleasing appearance rather than for its structural properties.
Why Stainless Steel Costs More
Stainless steel is defined as low-carbon steel. It does not readily stain with water, corrode or rust like ordinary steel.
Stainless steel is more expensive to produce because of the addition of the variety of alloying elements, such as iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper. Manufacturers also add about 10% chromium to the steel as an added agent to provide corrosion resistance.
The chromium attaches itself to oxygen more readily than iron and thus creates a chromium oxide layer which protects the metal from degradation. This passive layer is essentially ‘self-healing’ too, so if the coating is scratched or damaged, stainless steel has a fair ability to regenerate and ‘heal’ the passive layer spontaneously. Stainless steel is also non-porous which further increases its resistance to corrosion.
The cost to produce would also depend on the grade and surface finishes of the stainless steel made to suit the environment to which the material will be subjected to.
Depending on the grade of stainless steel, the cost difference may not be too noticeable in smaller products made from Stainless steel such as nuts and bolts and short lengths of pipe, but the price difference would become more substantial when a larger amount of stainless steel is required for a product.
Why Stainless Steel is Worth the Cost
Choosing stainless steel for a particular job will involve careful consideration. If the metal is going to be hidden from sight, there is no sense in spending the extra money strictly for appearance sake. However, if it is going to be hidden from sight but will be subjected to a corrosive environment, then stainless steel would be the most durable and cost effective option overall.
Unlike with galvanised steel products, it is clear that stainless steel offers better performance because the entire piece is rust resistant, rather than just a galvanised coating.
The durability and ease of maintenance of stainless steel provides long-term performance with a minimum of downtime and cost associated with maintenance, which will more than compensate for the sometimes higher initial purchasing costs.
When it comes down to the crunch, stainless steel is, in fact, most often the least expensive choice in the grand scheme of things when compared to other metals.
Steelmor is the leading supplier and manufacturer of stainless steel in South Africa. Give us a call to find out how we can help meet your product requirements.