K-TIG: A Quantum Leap for Welding

Innovation Design Set to Transform the Industry

21 June 2017

For the past six decades, the welding process has only been tweaked and modified, but one Adelaide company has developed a new process set to save millions of dollars and forever change the way welds are performed.


In 2000, Dr Laurie Jarvis and his associates at CSIRO Adelaide studied the effect of surface tension within an active weld. It was noted that under certain conditions, namely narrow gaps and increased process conditions, that far greater speeds could be obtained when welding clean materials.

The team developed a brand new process involving a high speed, single pass, full penetration welding technology that significantly reduces the need for wire or edge bevelling and is not required where autogenous welds are acceptable.

The result is a flawless finish at a speed up to 100 times faster than TIG welding in materials up to 16mm in thickness.

By definition, clean materials include stainless steels, nickel alloys, titanium and zirconium. Other materials with high impurities (such as alloy steels) cause the weld arc to become unstable and the process becomes unmanageable.


With Dr Jarvis as technical leader, a group of experienced materials experts formed K-TIG. Today K-TIG has progressed into many world markets with the system, winning a number of awards along the way.

The K-TIG process involves a specially controlled high current arc which opens a full penetration keyhole in the joint between the two welding surfaces.

Featuring extremely high stability and operating over a wide range of welding currents, K-TIG looks set to become the next big thing in fabrication.

Since its inception, K-TIG has achieved enormous growth in the market, with the technology being exported to eighteen countries. Customers using stainless steels are typiclaly saving 90% on production costs.


The process ideally suits non-corrosive and exotic materials with a thickness range of 3mm to 16mm for single pass welding, however thicker metals can be welded by multiple passes.

K-TIG easily handles the traditionally difficult material, super duplex.

As for energy consumption, K-TIG consumes as little as 5% of the energy and gas consumed by TIG/GTAW for the same weld, dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.

A typical K-TIG weld is performed in a fraction of the time of a conventional weld, in a single full-penetration pass using just one welding gas.

The resulting weld is with multiple fusion lines, dramatically reducing the potential for inclusions, porosity and other defects typical of many welding processes.

The K-TIG system can monitor and control the addition of wire to a weld if that is desirable.

This article in Australian Stainless Magazine Issue 59 (Winter 2017).

Guidelines to Using AS/NZS 1554.6 for Welding Stainless Steel

12 December 2016

Using AS/NZS 1554.6 effectively means rather more than requiring “Weld finishing to AS/NZS 1554.6”. The standard is an effective way to get the finish you want or need on stainless steel structures. This guide should help you to nominate the quality of weld to the standard.

What is this standard?

This standard is for welding any non-pressure stainless steel equipment and when it was first drafted in 1994, its structure followed that of Part 1 dealing with carbon steel. A major revision in 2012 removed redundant text, expanded the good workmanship guidelines and brought the weld assessment and finishing processing up-to-date, while including guidance on precautions to minimise risk of failure from vibration. The assessment section includes mandatory limits to weld defects and now includes optional features such as level of heat tint and surface roughness that may be specified by the principal or owner.

AS/NZS 1554.6 is a mixture of mandatory requirements and recommendations with shopping lists of possibilities. In particular, the post-weld treatment provides a number of possible processes and results, and specifying the option desired will minimise cost and frustration and deliver the result required. As an example of mandatory requirements, there are strict requirements for personnel qualifications, which are difficult to address retrospectively.

The raw product of welded fabrication

Figure 1 (refer to banner image above) is typical of a routine TIG butt weld of two thin 316 stainless steel sheets and displays a rainbow of colours on the surface. The colours are caused by optical interference of reflections from the front and back of the heat formed oxide layer - just like reflections in an oil film on water. The unprotective iron-rich oxide layer can be seen in the dark colours and can reduce the corrosion resistance of a 316 to below that of a 12% chromium stainless steel. They must be removed along with a small amount of steel underneath them, where the chromium has been depleted during welding. Specifying their removal is covered later in this article. Let’s start with Section 6, because that is where the weld quality is assessed.

Classification of welds

Welds are classified as Category 1 (structural) or Category 2 (non-structural). Category 1 welds have a subset Fatigue Applications (FA), where vibration and fatigue failures may be an issue. The main difference is that Category 1 and Category FA welds require external visual inspection plus sub-surface inspection by radiography or ultrasonics. The permitted levels of sub-surface defects are listed in Tables 6.3.2(A) and 6.3.2(B) for structural and fatigue classifications respectively.
However, all of the Categories 1, 2 and FA are assessed against three levels of surface defects revealed by visual and liquid penetrant inspection.

The permitted defect sizes are set out in Table 6.3.2 and are grouped under three levels:
A:    No defects and used for critical structural, aesthetic or corrosive service;
B:    High quality for general and non-critical aesthetic uses but may have minor defects that allow corrosives to accumulate in very aggressive environments;
C:    Hidden locations or areas with low stress and benign conditions.

The temptation is to specify Level A for everything, but this may raise costs unnecessarily without adding to durability. Often Level B is very satisfactory. For instance, the ASSDA tea staining requirement of weld quality is Category 2, Level B.

Category FA welds require compliance to Level A assessment of surface defects plus restrictions on the angle between fillet weld tangents and the adjoining stainless steel surface. This restriction supplements the 1 in 4 slope in section thickness changes set out elsewhere in the standard. Table 6.3.1(B) gives the level of sub-surface defects permitted. It applies only for FA requirements.  

Post-weld surface finishing

The standard also provides options for post-weld and surface finishing. Welds may be treated mechanically with abrasives, or chemically (or electrochemically). Any of these finishes can be called up for Condition I and Condition II, but the defining feature of Condition I is that the weld bead must be ground flush. This strip polishing is common in tank fabrication for the food and beverage industries. It removes the heat tint and the chrome depleted layer beneath it without using pickling acids, but it also improves cleanability by removing the weld bead with its inherent unevenness. In vibrating applications, the mechanical removal also decreases the risk of stress concentration along the stiffening line of a weld bead.

The standard also allows stainless steel brushing to remove surface deposits or else for the surface to be left “as welded”. These options are included in Condition III.
Table 6.2.1 summarises the paths to the surface conditions and Table 6.3.3 provides the acceptance criteria based on discolouration, average surface roughness Ra and maximum surface roughness (Rmax). In the 2012 version, the criteria are largely “specified by the principal”, but Condition I and II for discolouration are tied to the AWS D18.2 colour charts of heat tint which match Sandvik and Nickel Institute work confirming that a pale straw colour caused no detectable change in corrosion resistance. There are non-mandatory notes that transverse surface roughness should be <0.5μm Ra and clean cut for corrosive service [as for surface 2K in EN 10088.2] and about the applicability of Rmax to cleanability in hygienic service. Amongst other variables, the grit size will determine the roughness (Ra and Rmax) and hence the as-abraded corrosion resistance and cleanability.

Condition III does not have acceptance criteria.

Tables 1 and 2 below are a guide to the use of category, class and condition (used both for treatments applied and assessment results) and relate them to post-weld processes.

Other treatments

While mechanical abrasion will remove heat tint and the chrome depleted layer, it will expose manganese sulphide inclusions which are points for corrosion initiation. It may also leave metal flakes on the surface, which provide crevice corrosion sites.

Pickling [Section 6.2.3(a)] using a nitric/hydrofluoric acid bath or paste will remove metal flakes and manganese sulphide inclusions. Pickling a non-abraded weld area will not significantly change the surface roughness, but will give similar corrosion resistance to an abraded and pickled surface. If the use of hydrofluoric acid is difficult, then a nitric acid passivation process of an abraded surface will improve the passive film, remove the inclusions, but not any metal flakes. A passivation treatment will strengthen the passive film even of a pickled surface. A nitric-only treatment is not effective on a heat tinted surface. Other modifications of Conditions I and II include electropolishing [6.2.3(b)] or, more recently, electrocleaning [6.2.3(c)]. Both apply a current which dissolves the surface either in a bath (electropolishing) or on site (electrocleaning). The mechanically polished bar illustrated in Figure 2 had an Ra of ~0.7μm before electrolishing, but 0.2μm less afterwards and with a much brighter appearance that also has a thicker passive film. Electrocleaning is a manual process, and while it can produce a very strong passive film, its results depend on the expertise of the operator.

Condition II finishes include simple pickling (HF/HNO3), electropolishing (although often with a prior pickle to remove non-conductive weld scales) and electrocleaning for site operations. The longitudinal weld in the pipe (refer to Figure 3 below) still has weld reinforcement, but is chemically clean. The black lines parallel to the weld have not been affected by the acid pickling and are probably due to cracked oils not removed by solvents prior to welding. Post-pickling passivation is also included in this Condition II suite of treatments.

The mechanical treatment of heat tint by stainless steel brushing [6.2.3(d)] simply burnishes the surface and does not remove the low chromium layer beneath, i.e. it will not restore the corrosion resistance. Abrasive polishing, linishing, grinding [6.2.3(e)] or even blasting [6.2.3(f)] can remove heat tint and the low chromium layer while leaving some weld reinforcement, but a nitric acid passivation process may be required afterwards. In addition, the surface may be too rough for good cleanability or smooth appearance. Under Condition II, one treatment to provide oxide-free welds for pipes and tubes is the use of inert gas purging with low (tens of ppm) oxygen levels.

Apart from the weld inspection, Section 5 of the standard has multiple recommendations for excellent fabrication including heat input, interpass temperatures, avoidance of arc strikes and welding under adverse weather conditions, to name a few. There are also mandatory requirements (the “shall” clauses) on tack weld size, weld depth to width ratio, thinning of metal when dressing welds and even chloride limits in leak test water. The standard is detailed and requires some study for those wishing to produce good welds compliant to the relevant sections of AS/NZS 1554.6 and applicable to the application or structure under consideration.


The specification of weld quality requires an understanding of mechanical and chemical processes used to produce a smooth and clean surface suitable for the specific application. The standard provides a shopping list to accurately specify exactly what you want. Respecting that intent will lead to the greatest productivity in delivering the structure.

This article is featured in Australian Stainless Magazine issue 58 (Summer 2016/17).

Revision of AS 1528: Fluid Transfer in Stainless Steel Tube and Fittings

26 May 2016

Connections are vital

Any visit to a dairy, beverage or food processing plant will drive home the critical importance of the connections between the tanks, mixers, driers, pumps, etc. The image above (courtesy of TFG Group) showing an image of a brewery is a typical example. These tubes and/or pipes carry the process materials, the heating or cooling or wash water, gases, and also dispose of the wastes.


Getting the right standard

Except for high pressure or very aggressive environments, most tube is rolled into shape and welded longitudinally. For mechanical or structural service such as columns or handrails, the weld must penetrate and be sound although to perform its mechanical function, it may not need to provide a seal. This is reflected in the basic test requirements of standards such as ASTM A554 ‘Welded Stainless Steel Mechanical Tubing’ and is a reason why it is cheaper and is sometimes used, in error, for fluid transport. Despite these restricted requirements, the external finish is often critical for aesthetic reasons as seen on the handrails in the figure on the right.

Verification of leak tightness is the reason why tubing standards for carriage of fluids, e.g. AS 1528.1 or ASTM A269 or ASTM A270, all include either hydrostatic or 100% eddy current testing. Section 8.4 of the ASSDA Reference Manual summarises the test requirements of the plethora of tubing (and piping) standards commonly used in Australia. However, the food and sanitary industries also require surfaces that are readily cleanable. Hence, in addition to a lack of leaks, there are also requirements on the profile of the weld bead in the tubing, potential crevices in fittings and the surface finish of product contact areas. 

System design and installation

Quite apart from the manufactured components, the system design must include adequate slope for self draining (including across welded joins), simple cleaning procedures, velocities above ~0.5m/sec for low solids streams, at least double that for high solids content and avoidance of design features permitting stagnant zones or dead legs. Excess velocity (at least below about 40m/second) is not a concern for stainless steel, although it may increase noise and pumping costs. These are matters for another place.

Material selection

There are quite complete sets of corrosion resistance data for single corrosives (and some mixtures) at a variety of temperatures and concentrations but they are usually for continuous exposure.  For some acidic, hot and salty fluids or slurries such as sauces, high alloy stainless steels or even nickel-based alloys may be required and such components are rarely “off-the-shelf”. However, for apparently aggressive fluids processed in batches, the intermediate cleaning will arrest the initiation of attack and restore the passive layer so that standard 316(L) material is usually adequate especially with the highly polished finish often used to enable cleanability. One operational issue is that cleaning chemicals can be quite aggressive and the procedures must ensure that residues from cleaning do not remain and are not able to be concentrated and cause corrosion or hygienic issues.

Food tube and fittings – AS 1528

The weld bead is a potential source of crevices and for food tube, its effect must be removed without causing additional surface defects. AS 1528.1 requires the weld bead to smoothly blend without harmful markings. It also sets a nominal surface roughness (0.3 μm Ra) for the rest of the interior by requiring the use of fixed (1.6mm) thickness 2B material. ASTM A270 ‘Seamless and Welded Austenitic and Ferritic/Austenitic Stainless Steel Sanitary Tubing’ assumes a sophisticated specifier as it lists a mill finish as well as multiple alternative mechanical or other finishing techniques. Acceptance of minor surface imperfections is by agreement. The specifier may require a surface roughness (Ra) limit – which, of course, would override a grit size specification.

The manufacturing tests (eddy current or hydrotesting) ensure that food tube will hold pressure. For the essential quality assurance purposes, AS1528.1 requires line marking of tube. Finally, food grade tube requires a complementary set of fittings that will fit together. The AS 1528 suite achieves this with screwed couplings (Part 2), butt welding fittings (Part 3) and clamp liners with gaskets (Part 4). Aesthetics may be important and is in the hands of the specifier as the exterior of AS1528.1 tube may be as-produced or “buff polished as agreed”, i.e. polished with grit of a specified size.

The AS 1528 suite started life in 1960 as AS N32, was split into four parts in the mid 1970s and completely revised by an ASSDA driven working group to its present form in 2001. It has been widely accepted especially since the 2006 publication by ASSDA of what is now the Food Code of Practice for the fabrication and installation of stainless steel process plant and equipment in the food and beverage industries.  The New Zealand dairy industry has effectively adopted the AS 1528 requirements for dairy tube and fittings. Multiple overseas suppliers provide tube to the AS 1528 specification.

Food and beverage manufacture is obviously worldwide and this has resulted in national, regional and international standards which are different and locally focused. The sizes of the ISO alternatives (ISO 2037, 2851 – 3) are quite different. The European standard (EN 10357- which supersedes BS4825.1 and DIN 11850) covers similar tube but does not cover the range of sizes commonly used in Australia. The British Standard products (BS 4825) are similar in sizes to the AS 1528, but with a restricted range. The American 3A products also cover a restricted range. 

“As a result, ASSDA is spearheading an industry effort to revise the 15-year-old suite of AS 1528 standards”.

What is in need of review?

There are a number of typographical errors and inconsistencies between the parts, there are only some pressure ratings and the listing of fittings requires some revisions. The tolerance on the tube wall thickness has been narrow and one sided since inception and while the standard allows modification by agreement, the current wall thickness requirement will be reviewed.  Other issues for discussion will be the addition of larger sizes and assessment of differences for internal finishes between parts of the suite. And finally, it is intended that AS 1528 will be converted to a joint Australian and New Zealand standard to formalise New Zealand’s use.

If users of the AS1528 suite of standards have any suggestions for changes or improvements to the standards, ASSDA would welcome your emailed comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This article has drawn heavily on documents produced by the ASSDA/NZSSDA working group dealing with the proposed revision of AS 1528 and in particular Peter Moore from Atlas Steels, Kim Burton from Prochem Pipeline Products and Russell Thorburn from Steel and Tube in New Zealand.

This article is featured in Australian Stainless Issue 56 (Winter 2016).

Welding Dissimilar Metals

12 June 2015

Welding the common austenitic stainless steels such as 304 and 316 to each other or themselves is routine and the easiest of fusion welding. Nevertheless, there are many situations where it is necessary to weld stainless steel to carbon steel. Two common examples are balustrade posts attached to structural steel or doubler plates connecting supports to stainless steel vessels. There are differences in physical properties such as thermal conductivity and expansion, magnetic properties, metallurgical structure and corrosion resistance, which all require attention. This article outlines the necessary procedures for satisfactory welding, including reference to standards, and explains the necessary precautions. Appendix H of AS/NZS 1554.6:2012 has a more detailed technical discussion including advice on welding carbon steel to ferritic, duplex and martensitic stainless steels.

 Welding process
The normal TIG and MIG welding processes are suitable for welding austenitics to carbon steel. As a guide, welding should be carried out at ambient temperature with no pre-heating required (except possibly for drying), unless the carbon steel has more than 0.2% carbon or a thickness of more than 30mm and giving high restraint, in which case a preheat of 150°C is usually adequate. Because carbon steels are susceptible to hydrogen cracking, the consumables and the weld area must be dry.

Weld area preparation
When welding galvanised steel (or steel coated with a zinc rich coating) to stainless steel, it is essential to remove the zinc from the heated zone because it is possible to get zinc into the weld, which will cause liquid embrittlement and cracking along the zinc penetration line. It is possible that fume from the zinc coating will cause Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) problems. The weld areas of stainless steel must also be clean and free from grease or oil, as the contaminants will cause carbon pickup and possible sensitisation, leading to intergranular corrosion.

In addition, because the nickel content of the austenitics makes the weld pool more viscous, the weld preparation must be more open (see Figure 1) and the root gap larger to allow wetting. Consumables with added silicon (Si) also assist with edge wetting. An additional effect of the nickel content is that the penetration into the no-nickel carbon steel will be greater than into an austenitic stainless steel (see Figure 2).

Welding consumables (filler metal and gases)
Carbon steel must not be welded directly to austenitic stainless steels as the solidified weld metal will form martensite, which has low ductility and which, as it contracts, is likely to crack. There is an easy way to select the higher alloy filler, which will dilute to give the correct austenitic microstructure with enough ferrite to avoid shrinkage cracks. Refer to Table 4.6.1 in AS/NZS 1554.6. Another way is to use a Schaeffler deLong diagram (see Figure 3) or the WRC 1992 diagram as described in Appendix H2 of AS/NZS1554.6. The standard recommends that carbon steel to 304(L) uses 309L, and carbon steel to 316(L) uses 309LMo.

If nitrogen additions are used, care is required as it will decrease the ferrite content of the weld metal, which may cause hot cracking.

The shielding gas must not include the oxygen often used in carbon steel mixtures. If an active gas is desired, then low levels of CO2 can be used.


Thermal expansion
There is a degree of distortion inherent in welding a low thermal expansion carbon steel to a high thermal expansion austenitic stainless steel. The expansion coefficient for mild steel is approximately 12 compared to 17 μm/m/°C for stainless steel in range 0 – 300°C. There is also the difference between the good heat conduction of the carbon steel compared to the poor heat conduction of the stainless steel (49 to 15 W/m°K at 200°C respectively), which means that the stainless steel will cool (and contract) more slowly than the carbon steel, especially if the welded sections are thick. 

To control distortion, the heat input should be minimised and the joint tacked before making the full weld run. One trick is to tack the ends, centre, 1/4 points and possibly 1/8 points in that order. Heat input and interpass temperature recommendations for stainless steel welding are given in section 5.10 of AS/NZS 1554.6.

Post weld cleaning
After welding, clean the weld area to remove slag and heat tint to examine the weld integrity and also to allow the metal to be painted. If possible, blast the weld area with iron free grit but if that is not possible, grind along the weld line to avoid dragging carbon steel contamination onto the stainless steel. ASTM A380 has recommendations for passivation solutions for mixed mild and stainless steel welds. The formulations include peracetic acid and EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), but mechanical cleaning alone is the most common method.

Corrosion protection
It is assumed that the carbon steel will be painted for corrosion protection. When a barrier or insulating coating is used for painting the carbon steel, carry the paint onto the stainless for up to 50mm (depending on the environment’s corrosivity) to cover the stainless steel that has been heat affected. Figure 4 shows a carbon to stainless steel weld with an inadequate coating. Normally in a stainless to stainless weld, the welded fabrication would be acid pickled and passivated using a hydrofluoric/nitric acid mixture, but this is clearly not possible for a carbon steel to stainless steel fabrication because of the corrosive effect on the carbon steel. If the weld zone is to be exposed to corrosive conditions, and it is intended to use a zinc rich final coating on the carbon steel, a stripe coating of a suitable barrier paint is required along the edge of the zinc coating to avoid possible galvanic dissolution of the zinc coating adjacent to the stainless steel.

Stainless clean up
Quite apart from any weld to carbon steel, the stainless steel away from the weld area must be protected from contamination during fabrication. This includes weld spatter, carbon steel grinding debris and smearing of carbon steel on the stainless caused by sliding contact between carbon and stainless steels. If contamination occurs, then it must be removed either by mechanical means, followed by use of a nitric acid passivation paste or by the use of pickling and passivation paste. Passivation paste will not affect the surface finish of the stainless steel, whilst pickling and passivation paste will etch the stainless steel. All acids must be neutralised and disposed of according to local regulations. The surfaces must also be thoroughly rinsed after the acid processes.

Further reading
NI #14018 “Guidelines for welding dissimilar metals”
NI #11007 “Guidelines for the welded fabrication of nickel-containing stainless steels for corrosion resistant services”
IMOA/NI “Practical guidelines for the fabrication of duplex stainless steels” (3rd edition)
ISSF “The Ferritic Solution” (page 36) deals generally with welding ferritic stainless steels
AS/NZS 1554.6:2012 “Structural steel welding: Part 6 Welding stainless steels for structural purposes”
Herbst, Noel F.  “Dissimilar metal welding” © Peritech Pty Ltd 2002 (available for download from here)

This article is featured in Australian Stainless Issue 55 (Winter 2015).

General Corrosion Resistance

The normal state for stainless

21 October 2014

Stainless steels resist corrosion because they have a self-repairing “passive” oxide film on the surface. As long as there is sufficient oxygen to maintain this film and provided that the level of corrosives is below the steel’s capacity of the particular material to repair itself, no corrosion occurs. If there is too high a level of (say) chlorides, pitting occurs. As an example, 316 works well in tap water (<250ppm) all over Australia, but will rapidly corrode in seawater because seawater has very high chloride levels (20,000ppm).

If there is not enough oxygen and the local corrosives are not high enough to cause pitting, then general corrosion can occur. This might happen in a crevice (which has very limited oxygen) or in a strong, reducing acid (such as mid concentrations of sulphuric acid). General corrosion can occur when there are stray currents flowing from stainless steel to ground. This can happen in mineral extraction if the bonding arrangements are inadequate during electrowinning. General corrosion may also occur from galvanic effects, e.g. if a conductive carbon gasket is used on stainless steel in an aggressive environment.

For circumstances where general corrosion is expected, graphs are available called iso-corrosion curves. They plot the effect of a single chemical and corrosion rate for temperature against concentration. An example is the graph below of a 42% nickel alloy 825 in pure sulphuric acid with air access. This graph shows that the corrosion rate increases with temperature and that provided the temperature is less then ~45°C and a corrosion rate of 0.13mm/year is acceptable, alloy 825 would be suitable for any concentration of pure sulphuric acid. The boiling point curve is often included to show the limits of data at atmospheric pressure.



Most of the following graphs are from the Outokumpu Corrosion Handbook. The specific alloy compositions are tabulated in that Handbook and in the Appendix of the ASSDA FAQ 8.

However, a series of graphs each showing the results for one material over the full range of concentrations and temperatures is cumbersome and so multi-material plots are used for the initial material selection. Titanium is frequently included because of the widespread expectation that it is the “super” solution – although the data shows this is not always correct.

The two graphs below show data for austenitic and duplex stainless grades in pure sulphuric acid. However, only the 0.1mm/year lines are drawn for each alloy because it is assumed that a loss of 0.1mm/year would be acceptable for continuous exposure during 365 days per year. This assumption may not be acceptable if, for example, the process using the acid required very low iron levels. For each material, the temperature and concentrations of pure sulphuric acid that are below the line would mean a corrosion rate of less than 0.1mm/year.


The graphs below show (and note the temperature scale changes from earlier graphs) the dramatic reduction in corrosion resistance when 200mg/L of chlorides are added to sulphuric acid or ten times that amount, i.e. 2,000mg/L. The heavily reducing range from about 40% to 60% acid concentration  defeats even the high nickel 904L and 254/654 grades.

Nevertheless, a number of grades are potentially suitable for concentrations below 20% sulphuric even with significant chlorides.  However, the graphs also show that at the other end of the concentration scale, the oxidising conditions, which occur for sulphuric acid above about 90%, are extremely aggressive if the acid is impure.



Some additives act as inhibitors to corrosion and this can be critical in selecting suitable materials for mineral extraction processes.  For example, the graph below shows that adding iron ions to sulphuric acid improves the resistance of 316.  Adding oxidising cupric ions has a similar effect but as with any inhibitor, attack can occur in crevices where the inhibitors may be used up.  And despite the requirement for oxidising conditions to ensure  stability of the stainless steel’s passive layer, it is possible to add too much oxidant as shown by the positive effect of small additions of chromic acid followed by a  reduction in corrosion resistance if more chromic acid is added.  It is relatively common to refer to the redox potential (rather than concentrations of oxidising ions) if the chemistry is not simple.


The data in this section is intended to show that while these iso-corrosion graphs are useful in predicting corrosion rates for specific pure compounds, the addition of aggressive ions, oxidisers or crevice conditions require more detailed consideration.

A very common chemical is phosphoric acid, which is used in cleaning, pre-treatments, food preparation and a host of other applications.  It requires increasing chemical resistance with high temperatures and concentrations. For pure phosphoric acid, the iso-corrosion curves show a progression from ferritic 444, through the austenitic 304, 316, 317 to 904L.  This is not an oxidising acid so although it removes iron contamination, it does not strengthen the passive film on stainless steels.

Phosphoric acid is frequently associated with chloride or fluoride ions especially in production from rock phosphate.  The variation in composition in this wet process acid (WPA) means that iso-corrosion plots are of limited use.  However, with thermally produced acid and various impurities, a plot of corrosion rate vs. contaminant ion concentration may be used instead of an iso-corrosion graph – in this case chlorides with the 2.5% molybdenum version of 316.  This data is for exposure 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Note that while the two graphs do not overlap, the trends of these different experimental plots do not exactly match, i.e. iso-corrosion curves provide trend data and not precise values.




Both the chelating oxalic and citric acids, and the oxidising nitric acid, are widely used on stainless steels both for cleaning and passivation as shown in ASTM A380 and A967. Nitric acid can be used at elevated temperatures and low to medium concentrations without concern for the standard austenitics. However, at high concentrations and above ambient temperatures, they can suffer intergranular attack, unless a low carbon grade is used. In the same environment, molybdenum-containing grades may suffer intergranular attack of the intermetallic phases such as sigma.


As shown by the plot, austenitic stainless steels are resistant to general corrosion for all concentrations of sodium hydroxide and, for high concentrations, the usual problem is lack of solubility. However, at near boiling temperatures, austenitic stainless steels (and especially those with extensive chromium carbide precipitates) are susceptible to cracking as shown by the shaded area.



If you intend to use a stainless steel with a new, relatively pure chemical, iso-corrosion curves offer an initial guide to the temperature and concentration limits against general attack. If there are contaminants or oxidants present, then the corrosion susceptibility can increase or decrease significantly and specialist advice should be obtained.

This technical article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine issue 54, Spring 2014.

200 series stainless steels - high manganese (CrMn)

1 May 2013

Almost 7 years after former Nickel Institute Director Dr David Jenkinson's 2006 Technical Bulletin, ASSDA's technical expert, Dr Graham Sussex, revisits the CrMn grades of stainless steel.

The majority of stainless steel is drawn from the austenitic family because these grades are readily formable, weldable and tough. These chromium-nickel (CrNi) and molybdenum-containing grades were traditionally grouped under the 300 series banner.

However, driven by the increased price of nickel several years ago, there has been renewed interest in lowering the nickel content of austenitic grades while maintaining the austenitic crystal structure. This is achieved by using combinations of higher manganese and nitrogen and even by adding copper.

These high manganese grades - 200 series austenitics - were first developed in the 1930s and were expanded during World War II because of a lack of domestic nickel supplies, especially in the USA.

Many of the new 200 series alloys have proprietary compositions that can vary with manufacturers’ processing. They are not classified or standardised under the ASTM/SAE three-digit codes.

The mechanical, physical and forming properties of the CrMn and CrNi grades are very similar, although the CrMn grades generally have higher tensile strength because of higher nitrogen levels and a higher work-hardening rate because of the nickel level.

The conventional CrMn grades are used in hose clamps or lamp post clamps – thin material heavily cold worked for strength. Proprietary grades are used in galling-resistant applications such as bridge pins or in marine boat shafting, although duplex grades are a strong competitor. A disadvantage of CrMn grades is that the lower nickel content means a higher risk of delayed cracking after deep drawing.

A quirk of the conventional 200 series higher manganese grades is that they do not become magnetic when they are heavily cold worked, hence their suitability for use as end rings in electrical generators.

The corrosion resistance of the newer CrMn grades is generally inferior to similar CrNi grades. To maintain the austenitic properties, the ferrite forming elements (chromium, molybdenum and silicon) must be in the correct proportions with the austenite formers (nickel, carbon, manganese, nitrogen and copper). If the strong austenite formers such as nickel are reduced, the corrosion-resisting, ferrite-forming elements must also decrease.

This occurs when chromium combines with carbon in the steel and forms micron-sized particles of chromium carbide so the chromium is unavailable to form the protective oxide film. The original 200 series increased the carbon level to remain austenitic (see Table 1), but this encouraged sensitisation during welding and is one reason that CrMn grades are not used for fabricated items.

Table 1: Registered 200-series grades

Grade Chemical composition (wt%)
304 S30400 18.0 - 20.0 8.0 - 10.5 2.0 max 0.10 max
201 S20100 16.0 - 18.0 3.5 - 5.5 5.5 - 7.5 0.25 max
202 S20200 17.0 - 19.0 4.0 - 6.0 7.5 - 10.0 0.25 max
205 S20500 16.5 - 18.0 1.0 - 1.75 14.0 - 15.5 0.32 - 0.40

The newer grades, such as the Indian-developed J1 and J4 (see Table 2), are intended for use in milder environments. The low nickel content requires a reduction in the chromium content to about 15-16% compared to the 18% industry-standard 304. This is a significant reduction in corrosion resistance, especially for the very low nickel versions, and these small differences in chromium content can have a significant effect on durability.

Table 2: Grades J1 and J4

  Chemical composition (wt%)
Grade Cr Ni Mn N Cu
J1 14.5 - 15.5 4.0 - 4.2 7.0 -8.0 0.1 max 1.5 - 2.0
J4 15.0 - 16.0 0.8 - 1.2 8.5 - 10.0 0.2 max 1.5 - 2.0

The newer, low-nickel CrMn grades are successfully used in India, mainly for components such as cookware or mixing bowls that are formed rather than welded. The use of these grades has spread across South-East Asia and especially into China where the increase in capacity for 200 series production was about 3 million tonnes last year - or about 10% of the world’s production.

The switch in use to CrMn grades (and not just the J1 and J4 grades) has continued despite lower nickel prices because of the perceived benefit of lower price. Unfortunately, the increased use of less corrosion-resistant grades has confused the industry as the CrMn grades are not magnetic and, at least initially, appear to be stainless and are often assumed to be 304 or even 316.

The confusion arose from decades of familiarity with magnetic, lower corrosion resistance ferritic grades such as 430 in contrast to the more corrosion-resistant and non-magnetic 304 or 316. In fact, magnetism has no relationship to corrosion resistance. Grade mix-ups have caused serious corrosion failures in industry and customer dissatisfaction due to less serious corrosion defects like tea staining. This has mainly occurred in Asia but also in Australia.

The variable impurity levels, particularly of sulphur and phosphorous, was a serious issue when there was a significant volume of the new CrMn grades produced by smaller, older mills. The increase in modern production facilities will proportionately reduce this risk. However, the metallurgical necessity to increase carbon levels for austenite stability in specific CrMn alloys means that welded fabrications still require thin sections or rapid cooling to limit sensitisation and the consequent increased corrosion risk.

It is possible to distinguish between CrMn and CrNi grades by either portable and expensive X-ray fluorescence equipment or, more simply, by drop test kits to detect Mn (CrMn vs CrNi) or Mo (304 vs 316). The kits often use a filter paper and a battery to ensure the test will work rapidly even with cold metal. See ASSDA’s Technical FAQ No. 4 for further details.


Users need to ensure they have good quality control systems to avoid installation of a low-level CrMn grade rather than the expected high-level austenitic. The relatively unknown conventional 200 series has a sophisticated niche. However, for cost reasons, clients may push to use the lower CrMn grades instead of the normal CrNi austenitics or, in sheet applications, the ferritics.

The fabrication scrap and end-of-life scrap from CrMn grades are not readily distinguished from conventional CrNi grade scrap. However, the value is substantially different as the nickel is still the most costly component. This has serious implications for the scrap industry because it is likely to reduce recycling and hence the sustainable and green image of stainless steel. Fabricators will find their total costs will require rejigging as the scrap from offcuts will have lower value, probably decreasing their profitability.

Each grade of stainless steel has its merits for different applications. However, it is vital to purchase from an educated and reputable supplier of quality materials in order to achieve the desired cost and quality outcome.

This technical article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine issue 53, Autumn 2013.

12% Chromium Utility Stainless Steels

19 November 2012

Almost all of the stainless steels in use have 16% chromium or more and have nickel or other additions to make them austenitic and hence formable, tough and readily weldable. However, the formal definition of a stainless steel is that it is an iron- and carbon-based alloy with more than 10.5% chromium. Historically, the corrosion mitigation industry regarded alloys with more than 12% chromium as stainless steels mainly because those alloys did not corrode in mild environments. Because of the perceived problem of high initial price when using stainless steels, alloys that are ‘barely’ stainless (and with low nickel to boot) are more competitive with painted or galvanised carbon steel than higher alloys.

More than 30 years ago, developments from the 409 grade (used for car exhausts) led to a weldable ferritic that was tough to sub-zero temperatures. Two versions were developed: a stabilised grade for corrosive environments and an unstabilised grade that matched international standards. One issue was that the titanium used for stabilisation was hard on the refractories and caused the surface finish of flat product to be less appealing. However, when end users moved to unstabilised versions, corrosion problems arose in some applications. Research lead to further alloy development and proprietary grades with outstanding resistance to weld sensitisation.


  • They are ferritic (and attracted to a magnet), and can be bent, formed, cut and electric process welded like carbon steels.
  • The balance of their metallurgy limits grain growth when heated. So, unlike ferritics used for cladding, thick sections can be welded without excessive grain growth and embrittlement.
  • After welding, they have a duplex ferritic-martensitic microstructure that does not usually require heat treatment.
  • As ferritics, their thermal expansion is low (actually less than carbon steel) which reduces distortion risk during welding or furnace operations.
  • They have good scaling resistance in air to ~600˚C and reasonable strength at that temperature compared with more expensive austenitics with a scaling limit of ~800˚C in air.
  • Like duplex alloys, they do not suffer from chloride stress corrosion cracking.
  • They provide excellent and economic resistance in corrosive wear applications compared to hardenable carbon steels, surface-treated materials of highers alloys.

However, there are a few cautions:

  • Low chromium, low nitrogen and no molybdenum means they have low corrosion resistance (PRE~11). They will pit in marine environments and in less severe conditions they cannot be used if aesthetic appearance is critical. Painting is a useful option in aggressive environments.
  • Neither cold work nor heat treatment will increase their strength, although they are slightly stronger than 300 series stainless steels. Because they do not cold work, they should be less susceptible to galling then austenitic stainless steels.
  • While it is nothing to do with the material, supply is mostly limited to sheet or plate, i.e. bar, hot-formed sections, hollow sections and wire and generally unavailable.

There is a plethora of proprietary and standardised grades with between 10.5% and 12% chromium. The Ferritic Solution booklet available from the ISSF [www.euro-inox.org/pdf/map/The_ferritic_solution_EN.pdf] lists about a dozen. In Australia, the major proprietary grades are 3Cr12 and 5Cr12 where the ‘3’ and ‘5’ are labels, not compositions, and may include additional letters for other grades in the family. However, these labels cover three different material design decisions – and only those in (A) below are standardised:

A. Low chromium, no molybdenum and low nickel, carbon and nitrogen. There are covered by S40977/1.4003 in ASTM A240/EN10088.2
respectively or S41003 in ASTM A240.

B. As above, but with stabilising titanium or titanium plus niobium. There are several rules for titanium content but 4 (C+N) with a limit of 0.6 is used. The Ti/Nb will lock up C and N and reduce the risk of sensitisation, i.e. it limits corrosion associated with welds.

C. As above, but with lower carbon and nitrogen limits and specific controls on ferrite and austenite stabilising elements. This gives immunity to sensitisation in corrosive environments where there is a risk of fatigue.

The cost of steel that has been galvanised is currently up to 30% less than the cost of a 12Cr utility stainless steel when transport, pickling and other costs are included. When added to the cost of better trained (and hence more expensive) staff required for fabricating stainless steel, it is apparent that on a prime cost basis, even this basic stainless steel will not be cost competitive. However, on a LCC basis, the 12Cr grades have a significant advantage primarily because of durability.

Table 1 shows the relative lifetime of zinc (as a proxy for galvanising) and aluminium vs a 12Cr stainless steel in a medium and low corrosivity environment where the atmospheric corrosion rates for carbon steel are listed averaged over a 20-year exposure. It is clear that the life cycle cost of the 12Cr stainless steel is much better than either of the alternatives listed.

AS/NZS 1554.6 deals with welding of structural stainless steels and compacts all three branches of the 12Cr grades under ‘1.4003’ for selection of consumables. The recommendation is to use a 309L consumable although 18-8Mn (Note 8) is also prequalified. Heat input should be between 0.5 and 1.5kJ/mm and the interpass temperature should not exceed 150˚C.

As with all stainless steels, contamination by carbon steels must be avoided and any heat tint should be removed prior to exposure to corrosive service. While owners using Cr12 alloys for corrosive abrasion service regard the in-service removal of heat-tint surface layers as sufficient, this is only true if sufficient material is removed to expose the virgin stainless steel before the first rest period with corrodents on the surface could promote pitting.

Applications include piggeries, rail cars, road transport, sugar and mineral industry (especially with corrosive wear), effluent tanks, under pans for conveyors, ducting (including furnaces), BBQ plate, electrical meter boxes, floor plates, gravel screens, railway overhead support towers, etc.

This paper has been prepared with support from ASSDA colleagues and especially Acerinox, Atlas Steels and Sandvik. Their assistance is gratefully acknowledged.

This technical article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine, issue 52.

Posted 3 May 2012

Stainless steel can provide excellent service underground. It is stronger than polymers and copper and its resistance to chlorides and acidic acids is significantly better than carbon or galvanised steels.

The performance of stainless steel buried in soil depends on the nature of the buried environment. If the soil has a high resistivity and is well drained, performance can be excellent even in conditions where other unprotected materials suffer degradation.


The Nickel Institute guidelines for burial of bare stainless steel in soil require:

  • No stray currents (see below) or anaerobic bacteria
  • pH greater than 4.5
  • Resistivity greater than 2000 ohm.cm.

Additional recommendations include the absence of oxidising manganese or iron ions, avoidance of carbon-containing materials and ensuring a uniform, well drained fill. If the guidelines are breached, then either a higher resistivity is required, i.e. measures to lower moisture or salts and ensure resistivity exceeds 10,000 ohm.cm, or else additional protective measures may be required.
In comparison, the piling specification (AS 2159) guidelines for mild steel require a pH greater than 5 and resistivity greater than 5000 ohm.cm for soils to be non-aggressive. It is rare for bare mild steel to be buried, i.e. typical specifications include a wrap or coating possibly with a cathodic protection system.


  • Uniform soil packing is required as variable compaction can induce differential aeration effects.
  • Avoid organic materials in the fill around buried stainless steel as they can encourage microbial attack.
  • Avoid carbon-containing ash in contact with metals in soils. Localised galvanic attack of the metal can occur.
  • Oxygen access is critical. Having good drainage and sand backfill provides this. A sand-filled trench dug through clay may become a drain and it is not appropriate. Stainless steels generally retain their passive film provided there is at least a few ppb of oxygen, i.e. 1000 times less than the concentration in water exposed to air.
  • Chlorides are the most frequent cause of problems with stainless steels. In soils, the level of chlorides vary with location, depth and, in areas with rising salinity, with time.  High surface chlorides may also occur with evaporation. This is a problem for all metals although stainless steels are not usually subject to structural failure.

The general guidelines for immersed service are that in neutral environments at ambient temperatures and without crevices, 304/304L may be used up to chloride levels of 200ppm, 316/316L up to about 1000ppm chloride and duplex (2205) up to 3600ppm chloride. The super duplex alloys (PRE>40) and the 6% molybdenum super austenitic stainless steels are resistant to seawater levels of chloride, i.e. approximately 20,000ppm. These guidelines are easy to apply in aqueous solutions.

Soil tests for chlorides may not exactly match actual exposure conditions in the soil. Actual conditions may be more (or less) severe than shown by the tests. The difference is calculable but in practice, the aqueous limits can be used as general guidelines. More specific recommendations, based on published guidelines, are provided in Table 1.



It may seem redundant to assess both chlorides and resistivity. Both are required as the resistivity is primarily affected by water content and if it is low, then quite high chlorides could be tolerated – as seen by the choice of 304/304L in high chloride/high resistivity conditions.  Despite these recommendations, most Australian practice is to use 316/316L or equivalent, primarily because of variable soils.

  • Good drainage and uniform, clean backfill are essential for bare stainless.
  • Duplex or super duplex could be replaced with appropriate austenitics and 304/304L could be replaced with a lean duplex.
  • Ferritic stainless steels of similar corrosion resistance (usually classified by Pitting Resistance Equivalent [PRE]) could also be used underground.

Potential acid sulphate soils are widespread, particularly in coastal marine areas as described in http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/land/ass/index.html. Once disturbed and drained, which also allows oxygen access, such soils typically become more acidic than pH 4 and will attack metals (although stainless steels will be less readily attacked than other metals). Detailed assessment is required if using metals in such an environment as the effect of other aggressive ions is likely to be more severe at low pH.

  1. Properly specified stainless steel can provide the longest service underground. It is strong compared to plastics and copper, and is more reliably corrosion resistant than carbon steel.
  2. Table 1 guides grade choice for soil conditions.
  3. Normal fabrication practices apply: welds must be pickled and carbon steel contamination avoided.
  4. Pipelines must be buried in clean sand or fine, uniform fill in a self-draining trench that avoids stagnant water. Organic or carbonaceous fill must be avoided.


The Nickel Institute published a five year Japanese study in 1988 (#12005) showing 304 and 316 gave good service in buried soil, although vertically buried pipes did suffer some minor pitting and staining apparently due to differential aeration effects.

  • NI #12005 describes a five year burial exposure in Japan at 25 sites with highly varied corrosivity. After five years in marine sites, horizontal 304 pipes showed no pitting but some crevice attack under vinyl wrap. Only one 316 pipe showed any attack.
  • Vertical 304 pipe suffered attack near the base at some sites apparently due to differential aeration effects.
  • An Idaho study of a 33-year NIST burial found 12% Cr martensitics perforated. The ‘lake sand’ site had high ground water with pH 4.7 at recovery. Sensitised 304 was attacked worse than annealed but both suffered attack along the rolling direction from edges.
  • 316 was not attacked even if sensitised.

As noted, duplex stainless steel of similar corrosion resistance (PRE) to 304 and 316, respectively, would be expected to provide similar results when buried.

On a more practical level, there are several common approaches that are used when burying stainless steel:

  • Wrap the stainless steel pipe in a protective material, such as a petrolatum tape, prior to burial. If the wrapping is effective (typically an overlap no less than 55% of the wrap width is specified), then the nature of the external surface of the buried pipe is of no consequence. In this case, stainless steel is only used for its internal corrosion resistance, i.e. its resistance to corrosion by the fluid which the pipe is carrying. Some authorities prohibit this practice because of concerns that damage to the wrap could cause a perforating pit in severe environments.
  • Ensure that the soil environment surrounding the buried stainless steel is suitable for this application. In this case, the trench is dug so that it is self-draining, without there being areas where stagnant water can accumulate in contact with the buried pipe. The stainless steel pipe is then placed on a sand or crushed aggregate bed and covered by similar material. Under these circumstances,  316 grade stainless steel can be quite a suitable choice. US practice is to use 304 but Australian soils are quite variable and there have been mixed experiences with 304.
  • Above ground sections of pipework are often stainless steel as they are at risk of mechanical damage while underground pipework is polymeric - polyethylene (PE) or fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) - despite the risk of damage due to soil movement.

In all of these cases, the assumption is that the stainless steel has been fabricated to best practice. This includes pickling of welds (or mechanical removal of heat tint and chromium depleted layer followed by passivation to dissolve sulphides) and ensuring that contamination by carbon steel has been prevented. It is also assumed that the buried stainless steel does not have stickers or heavy markings that could cause crevices and lead to attack.


All buried metals, including stainless steels, are at risk if there are stray currents from electrically driven transport, incorrectly installed or operated cathodic protection systems, or earthing faults in switchboards. Stray current corrosion can be identified as it causes localised general loss rather than pitting. It is also very rapid.


There are Australian and ASTM standards giving basic measurements of resistivity on site with 4 pin Wenner probes or in a soil box in the laboratory. More detailed checking includes water content, chlorides, organic carbon or Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), pH and redox (or Oxidation Reduction Potential [ORP]) potential – which assess microbial attack risk but also captures the effect of oxidising ions and dissolved oxygen. Most of these test methods are covered in “Soil Chemical Methods: Australasia” written by George E Rayment and David J Lyons and published by CSIRO.



Natural soils are a mixture of coarse pebbles, sand of increasing fineness through to silts and clays where the particles are less than 5 µm in diameter.  Some of the particles contain soluble salts that, if mixed with water, are likely to be corrosive. Normally, soils also contain organic material from decaying plants or ash, which can provide nutrients for microbial activity or galvanic effects, respectively.

If water is present in the soil, corrosion can take place. Metals below the water table can corrode (following the rules for immersed service). However if the soil is well compacted so oxygen cannot gain access or corrosion products cannot diffuse away, then corrosion would be stifled - even for carbon steel. Above the water table, moisture comes from percolating rain, which will, over time, leach away soluble corrosives and make the soil less aggressive. This also means that in dry climates, salts may accumulate and when there is rain, the run-off or percolating water is very aggressive.  Deposited salts can also be a problem in marine zones almost regardless of rainfall.

Most of the moisture above the water table is bound to particles but if there is sufficient water content, typically more than about 20%, enough water is free to wet buried metals.

Image pictured is the Appin Sewerage Treatment Plant, NSW. Fabricated and installed by ASSDA member and Accredited Fabricator Roladuct Spiral Tubing Pty Ltd using 316 grade stainless steel. Image courtesy of Roladuct Spiral Tubing Pty Ltd.

This technical article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine, issue 51.

The Sustainable Score Card for Stainless Steel

9 December 2011

The greatest challenge we face is the control of our own success. With 7 billion people on earth, all with an insatiable appetite for a high standard of living, the newest dimension of materials competition is sustainability.

Sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (UN World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). In real terms, that means making choices that do minimum damage to our environment, but support a high level of human development.

The built environment is an excellent place to start. Buildings last for a long time, locking up the energy used in making their materials, requiring maintenance and consuming the energy used for heating and air-conditioning. They consume a large proportion of our resources. The choice of materials affects all 3 aspects of consumption, and, a number of building evaluation systems have been created around the world to assist in rating buildings for sustainability. Materials are scored for their energy content reuse during major refurbishment, waste management, recycled content and contribution to the overall design and running costs.

The Green Building Council of Australia rates green buildings for sustainability. The pace of registration and certification is increasing. Of the 368 certified projects, 96 were certified in the last 12 months. The push towards sustainable development in the building sector is strong and accelerating. City of Melbourne’s Council House 2 (CH2) is Australia’s first Green Star rated building to be awarded 6 Stars, which carries an international leadership status. Stainless steel was used to support screening walls of living green plants that shade the building and, required no maintenance or painting, working with the environment to keep good working conditions. Such membranes, containing plants or actively or passively screening the sun, allow the use of a smaller capacity air-conditioning plant, with lower capital costs and ongoing running costs and energy demand.

The only Gold LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified meeting venue in the world is the Pittsburgh Convention Centre in the United States. Its grade 316 stainless steel roof is used to harvest rainwater, reducing water demand on th

e city system - another example of the special properties of stainless steel.

Stainless steel roofing and rainwater goods give extremely low levels of run-off. See Table 1. But this is not the only reason to use stainless steel in the built environment. It contributes to sustainability because of its long service life, excellent corrosion resistance, clean and unchanging appearance and its exceptional hygiene characteristics. Stainless steel is reusable, entirely recyclable, and probably the most recycled product in the world. On top of that, it needs very little cleaning or short or long term maintenance, and makes no contribution to indoor pollution as materials emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) do.

There is considerable history and experience of stainless steel service life in the built environment. The Chrysler Building (1930) and Empire State Building (1931) in New York demonstrate the material’s durability, excellent appearance and resistance to corrosion. This extraordinary functionality has been played out many times with a number of examples here in Australia, including the Fujitsu Building in Brisbane, which is clad with 445M2 ferritic stainless steel. Located in a marine industrial environment, this building looks as good as it did on completion in 2002. The long life of stainless steel in these atmospheric applications shows its very high corrosion resistance. The corrosion rate of grade 316 for instance in most atmospheres is is more than 5000 times slower than the rate of carbon steel. See Figure 1 (below).

There is a considerable industry devoted to the collection and recycling of stainless steel products at the end of their life and, scrap is the standard feedstock for making stainless steel. In any stainless steel object, there is an average of 60% recycled content. New production would virtually all be made from recycled stainless steel if it were available, but the growth in the use of stainless steel and its long life in service limit the supply. Table 2 compares the recycled content and end of life capture rate of the industrial metals, and demonstrates that stainless steel is the most recycled industrial metal.

Sustainability is about much more than recycling. The energy used to make the material has a direct impact on sustainability, and all metals are energy intensive. Energy is a scarce resource, generates greenhouse gases and creates specific demands on land use likely to impact on future generations. Longevity and extraordinary recyclability will not be helpful if stainless steels’ energy consumption is much higher than other materials. Figure 2 describes the embodied energy in terms of CO2 equivalent for some of the industrial metals, and shows that stainless has a comparatively high level of embodied energy. In kilogram of CO2  per kilogram of metal, the austenitic grades are over double the footprint of carbon steel, although the ferritic grades are a little less. The footprint of stainless steel is caused by the production of alloying elements nickel and chromium, which are needed to give stainless steel its special properties, including extremely long life. Even so, efforts are ongoing in the stainless steel industry to reduce the energy content.

But in the real world, kilogram CO2  per kilogram metal comparisons are misleading. Take a typical application; a box gutter on a building. The metals have different strength, so are used with different thickness. Stainless steel gives a relatively light weight gutter (see Table 3), and hence the lowest footprint as installed. Coupled with its extended durability without maintenance, stainless comes out as the most sustainable option. Painted galvanised or Zincalume® coated carbon steel has not been included in the table as the calculation of the contributions of the components were too complex, but these materials are highly unlikely to beat the sustainability of stainless steel, even as-installed, and they have a much shorter life.

In summary, stainless steel has excellent recyclability, energy content as-installed (at least as good as other metals), extraordinary longevity and next to no need for maintenance, ever. Add to that the benefits of their special properties, which allow for the construction and operation of buildings at a lower cost. The contribution of stainless steel to sustainability is obvious and considerable.

This article was prepared by ASSDA Technical Committee member, Alex Gouch from Austral Wright Metals.

This technical article is featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 50, Summer 2011/12.

Posted 17 May 1999

If a job requires greater corrosion resistance than grade 304 can provide, grade 316 is the 'next step up'. Grade 316 has virtually the same mechanical, physical and fabrication characteristics as 304 with better corrosion resistance, particularly to pitting corrosion in chloride environments.

Grade 316 (U NS S31600) is the second most popular grade accounting for about 20% of all stainless steel produced.

This article follows on from "304 -the place to start" in Issue 10 which is also available on ASSDA's website at www.assda.asn.au

Table 1 compares three related grades - 316, 316L and 31 6H.

Grade 316L is a low carbon 316 often used to avoid possible sensitisation corrosion in welded components.

Grade 316H has a higher carbon content than 316L, which increases the strength (particularly at temperatures above about 500°C), but should not be used for applications where sensitisation corrosion could be expected.

Both 316L and 316H are available in plate and pipe, but 316H is less readily available ex-stock. 316L and 316H are sometimes stocked as standard 316 (test certificates will confirm compliance with the 'L' or 'H' specification).

Grade 316 has excellent corrosion resistance in a wide range of media. Its main advantage over grade 304 is its increased ability to resist pitting and crevice corrosion in warm chloride environments. It resists common rusting in virtually all architectural applications, and is often chosen for more aggressive environments such as seafront buildings and fittings on wharves and piers. It is also resistant to most food processing environments, can be readily cleaned, and resists organic chemicals, dye stuffs and a wide variety of inorganic chemicals.

In hot chloride environments, grade 316 is subject to pitting and crevice corrosion and to stress corrosion cracking when subjected to tensile stresses beyond about 50°C. In these severe environments duplex grades such as 2205 (UNS S31803) or higher alloy austenitic grades including 6% molybdenum (UNS S31254) grades are more appropriate choices.

The corrosion resistances of the high and low carbon versions of 316 (316L and 316H) are the same as standard 316.

Like grade 304, 316 has good oxidation resistance in intermittent service to 870°C and in continuous service to 925°C. Continuous use of 316 in the 425-860°C range is not recommended if subsequent exposure to room temperature aqueous environments is anticipated, but it often performs well in temperatures fluctuating above and below this range.

Grade 316L is more resistant to carbide precipitation than standard 316 and 316H and can be used in the above temperature range. However, where high temperature strength is important, higher carbon values are required. For example, AS 1210 Pressure Vessels Code limits the
operating temperature of 316L to 450°C and restricts the use of 316 to carbon values of 0.04% or higher for temperatures above 550°C. 316H or the titanium-containing version 316Ti can be specified for higher temperature applications.

316 has excellent toughness down to temperatures of liquefied gases and has application at these temperatures, although lower cost grades such as 304 are more usually selected for cryogenic vessels.

Like other austenitic grades, 316 in the annealed condition is virtually nonmagnetic (ie. very low magnetic permeability). While 304 can become significantly attracted to a magnet after being cold worked, grade 316 is almost always virtually totally non-responsive. This may be a reason for selecting grade 316 in some applications.

Annealing (also referred to as solution treating) is the main heat treatment carried out on grade 316. This is done by heating to 1,010-1,120°C and rapidly cooling - usually by water quenching.

316 can be deep drawn without intermediate heat softening enabling it to be used in the manufacture of drawn stainless parts, such as sinks and saucepans. However, for normal domestic articles the extra corrosion resistance of grade 316 is not necessary. 316 is readily brake or roll formed into a variety of other parts for application in the industrial and architectural fields.

Grade 316 has outstanding weldability and all standards welding techniques can be used. Although post-weld annealing is often not required to restore 316's corrosion resistance (making it suitable for heavy gauge fabrication) appropriate post-weld clean-up is recommended.

Machinability of 316 is lower than most carbon steels. The standard austenitic grades like 316 can be readily machined if slower speeds and heavy feeds are used, tools are rigid and sharp, and cutting fluids are involved. An 'improved machinability' version of 316 also exists.

The guidelines in Table 4 are approximate 'first cost' comparisons for sheet material in a standard mill finish suitable for construction projects. The appeal of stainless over its first cost competitors dramatically increases
when lifecycle costs are considered.

Grade 31 6 is available in virtually all stainless product forms including coil, sheet, plate, strip, tube, pipe, fittings, bars, angles, wire, fasteners and castings. 316L is also widely available, particularly in heavier products such as plate, pipe and bar. Most stainless steel surface finishes, from standard to special finishes, are available.

Typical applications for 316 include boat fittings and structural members; architectural components particularly in marine, polluted or industrial
environments; food and beverage processing equipment; hot water systems; and plant for chemical, petrochemical, mineral processing, photographic and other industries.

Although 316 is often described as the 'marine grade', it is also seen as the first step up from the basic 304 grade.

Alternative grades to 316 should be considered in certain environments and applications including:

• strong reducing acids (alternatives might be 904L, 2205 or a super duplex grade),
• environments with temperatures above 50-60°C and with chlorides present (choose grades resistant to stress corrosion cracking and higher pitting resistance such as 2205 or a super duplex or super austenitic), and
• applications requiring heavy section welding (316L), substantial machining (an improved machinability version of 316), high strength or hardness (perhaps a martensitic or precipitation hardening grade).


This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 13, May 1999.

Posted 1 March 1998

Stainless steels are now cheaper than ever, but there is still room to minimise costs (see Table 1), which will improve the bottom line for individual companies, projects and the industry as a whole.

Flat productsAustralia is a relatively 'small fish' in the global stainless industry and, without the benefit of local stainless steel production, loses some flexibility on product availability. Unless you're a very large consumer of stainless steel to a single specification or Standard, ordering to common specifications will reduce costs and increase availability of products.

Flat Products - Table 1Suppliers are likely to have products to common specifications. Ordering them reduces the need for slow moving stock, increases stock turns, raises the size of single orders, and can substantially reduce costs. A similar mechanism works for mill or mill indent orders.

Flat products

Until recently, stainless steel flat products manufactured to Australian Standard 1449 were the most widely available in Australia. However, since the closure of BHP Stainless in 1997, products manufactured to this Standard are no longer commonly produced. More common international specifications will need to be recognised in Australia if economies are to be achieved (see Table 2).

Fortunately, the transition may not be difficult, because AS1449 was closely aligned with the ASTM Standards from the USA, which are also similar to the Japanese JIS Standards. Steels identical to AS1449 in nomenclature, chemical composition, mechanical properties and surface finish are readily available internationally.

Today the most commonly available stainless flat product in Australia is manufactured abroad to ASTM A2401A240M Standard specification for heat resisting chromium and chromium-nickel stainless steel plate, sheet and strip for pressure vessels, which nominates ASTM A4801A480M for additional general requirements of the steel ('M' designates the metric version, which is more appropriate in Australia).

European specifications are also emerging and EN 10088 Stainless steels has the potential to become a common specification in the Australian market. EN 10088 makes use of the established German names and numbers for stainless steel grades, Many grades in EN 10088 have close equivalents in the ASTM based Standards, but the nomenclature for grades and finishes is very different and replacements should be examined carefully. For example, in AS1449, ASTM A240M and JIS G4305, grade 304 (the most common stainless) has a minimum of European specifications are also emerging and EN 10088 Stainless steels has the potential to become a common specification in the Australian market. EN 10088 makes use of the established German names and numbers for stainless steel grades. Many grades in EN 10088 have close equivalents in the ASTM based Standards, but the nomenclature for grades and finishes is very different and replacements should be examined carefully. For example, in AS1449, ASTM A240M and JIS G4305, grade 304 (the most common stainless) has a minimum of Ordering at standard width and thickness is the best way to keep steel costs down. Each mill has equipment capable of a certain maximum width and running narrower steel is less productive.

The standard width varies from mill to mill (see Table 3), with most European mills manufacturing at 1,200mm or 1,250mm wide, with a few capable of 1,500mm and, for some thicker coil products, 2,000mm. Mills in Asia tend to standardise on the imperial widths 3', 4' and 5' (914mm, 1,219mm, 1,524mm).


An understanding of commonly used specifications can lead to more efficient and cheaper practices. If questions arise, your supplier or fabricator may have information on alternative Standards that are more commonly available and more suited to your requirements.

Flat Products - Table 2


This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 11 - March 1998. More current information can be found in ASSDA's Australian Stainless Reference Manual.

Posted 29 August 2000

The common austenitic grades of stainless steel, 304 and 316, are also available with controlled low or high carbon contents, know as "L" and "H" variants, with particular applications.

Low carbon or "L" grades are used to prevent or delay sensitisation  of stainless steel at elevated temperatures and the resulting lower corrosion resistance. The problematic temperature zone is 450-850°C, encountered during welding or specific application environments. "L" grades are often available in thicker selection sizes, greater than about 5mm in flat products.

High carbon or "H" grades are used for higher strength.

Substitution between standard, "L" and "H" grades is often possible allowing many specifications to be met from existing stock.

The low carbon "L" grades are used where high temperature exposure will occur, including welding of medium or heavy sections. The low carbon is one way of delaying or preventing grain boundary carbide precipitation (often referred to as sensitisation) which can result in intergranular corrosion in corrosive service environments. As shown in the time-temperature-sensitisation curve (right), there is an incubation time before the precipitation of carbides at temperatures in the range of about 450-850°C. The time for precipitation to occur is highly dependent upon the amount of carbon present in the steel, so low carbon content increases resistance to this problem. Because of their application area the "L" grades are most readily available in plate and pipe, but often also in round bar. In the absence of heavy section welding, or of high temperature exposure, the corrosion resistances of the standard and "L" grades are usually identical.

"H" grades are higher carbon versions of standard grades and have increased strength, particularly at elevated temperatures (generally above 500°C). Long term creep strength is also higher. "H" grades are primarily available in plate and pipe. Applicable grades are most commonly 304H and 316H, but high carbon versions of 309, 310, 321, 347 and 348 are specified in ASTM A240/A240M. These grades are susceptible to sensitisation if held in the temperature range of 450-850°C. Once sensitised, impaired aqueous corrosion resistance and some reduction in ambient temperature ductility and toughness will result (usually irrelevant in high temperature applications).


  1. Composition limits for 304 and 304L are identical except for carbon content (304L does permit up to 12.0%Ni, compared to 10.5% max for 304 -but given the cost of nickel it is usual for both grades to have close to the minimum of 8.5%, so there is no practical difference). Neither grade has a minimum carbon content specified. A carbon content of 0.02% for example complies with both 304 and 304L specifications.
  2. 304H has the same composition specification as 304 except for the carbon range of 0.04-0.1 0% (note the minimum limit for carbon) and that the 304H does not have the 0.10% nitrogen maximum limit which applies to both standard and "L" grades. Also, all austenitic "H" grades must have a grain size of ASTM No. 7 or coarser.
  3. The relationship between 316, 316L and 316H is the same as that between the 304 series of stainless steels. Only the carbon contents differentiate 316, 316L and 316H grades (and the nitrogen and grain size limits mentioned above). Carbon contents are listed in Table 1 (from ASTM A240/A240M). Specifications for some other products, particularly tube and pipe, have a carbon limit of 0.035% or 0.040% maximum for 304L and 316L, but are otherwise the same.

    TABLE 1:
    Grade UNS Number Specified Carbon Content (%)
    304 S30400 0.08 max
    304L S30403 0.030 max
    304H S30409 0.04 - 0.10
    316 S31600 0.08 max
    316L S31603 0.030 max
    316H S31609 0.04 - 0.10

  4. Mechanical property specification differences are illustrated in Table 2 (from ASTM A240/A240M). In practice, steel mills generally ensure that the "L" grade heats meet the strength requirements of standard grades, ie all 304L will have yield/tensile properties above 205/515MPa, so will meet both standard and "L" grade requirements.

    TABLE 2:
    Grade UNS Strength (MPa) min Tensile Strength (MPa) min Yield (%) min Elongation Hardness (HB) max Brinell Hardness (HRB) max Rockwell
    304 S30400 515 205 40 201 92
    304L S30403 485 170 40 201 92
    304H S30409 515 205 40 201 92
    316 S31600 515 205 40 217 95
    316L S31603 485 170 40 217 95
    316H S31609 515 205 40 217 95
  5. Dimensional and other requirements are the same for standard, "L" and "H" grades.
  6. Pressure vessel codes (eg AS 121 O) and pressure piping codes (eg AS4041) give allowable working pressures for each of the grades at nominated elevated temperatures. These codes allow higher pressure ratings for standard grades than for "L" grades. The codes do not permit the use of "L" grades above 525"C (AS4041) or 425"C (AS1210). Both codes include a clause stating that for use above 550"C the standard grades must contain at least 0.04% carbon. 304 or 316 material with 0.02% carbon are therefore not permitted for these elevated  temperatures, whether called "L" or not. At temperatures from ambient up to this high temperature cut-off "L" grade heats with the standard grade pressure ratings would be permitted, so long as the material was in full compliance with the standard grade composition and mechanical property specifications. As discussed above, it is normal practice for this condition to be met.

    The pressure vessel codes give the same allowable pressure rating for "H" grades as for standard grades -this is logical as the "H" grades are simply the standard grades with their carbon contents controlled to the top half of the range, or slightly above.

Because of availability issues it is sometimes desirable to use a product labelled as a standard grade when an "L" or "H" grade has been specified, or vice versa. Substitution can be made under the following conditions:

  1. "L" grades can be used as standard grades so long as the mechanical properties (tensile and yield) conform to the standard grade requirements and high temperature strength is not a requirement. "L" grades usually comply with standard grade requirements, but Mills' test certificates need to be checked on a case by case basis. It is common for steel mills to supply "L" heats when standard grades have been ordered. The practice is legitimate and should  not present problems to fabricators or end users.
  2. Standard grades can be used as "L" grades as long as their carbon content meets the "L" grade maximum limits.
  3. It is increasingly common for "dual certified" products to be stocked - particularly in plate, pipe and bar. These materials fully comply with both 304 and 304L or 316/316L. Dual certified product is deliberately intended to fulfill requirements for both standard and "L" grades, but cannot be used in applications for "H" grade. If an application requires an "H" grade, this must be specified at time of order. Standard grades can often be used in place of "H" grades so long as their carbon contents meet the "H" limits (generally 0.04-0.1 0%). Grain size requirements may have to be satisfied by extra testing. The product and its test certificate may describe it as a standard 304 or 316 unless it was originally manufactured as an "H" grade. Details of the test certificate will confirm grade compliance.
  4. "H" grades can be used as standard grades so long as their carbon contents are 0.08% maximum, and nitrogen 0.10% maximum. This is likely, but would need to be checked.

AS 1210
Pressure Vessels

AS 4041
Standard Specification for Pressure Piping

ASTM A240/A240M
Heat-resisting Chromium and Chromium-Nickel
Stainless Steel Plate, Sheet and Strip for Pressure Vessels

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 16, August 2000.

Posted 5 January 2001

Reasons for using stainless steel threaded fasteners are the same as those for selecting other stainless steel components - generally resistance to corrosive or high temperature environments. In addition to the obvious benefits in improved aesthetics and longevity however, there can be significant cost savings if the joint will require disassembly and reassembly.

Corrosion resistant fasteners are available 'off the shelf' in a variety of materials but by far the most comprehensive range is in stainless steel with more than 6 000 items available in Australia and many thousands more able to be sourced at short notice. Generally these are produced from grade 304 (A2), grade 316 (A4) or for less demanding applications, grade 303 (A 1 ). Grade classifications A 1, A2 and A4 are in accordance with International Standard ISO 3506; head markings often show this classification. It is common practice and legitimate to manufacture items labelled as grade 304 (or A2) from grades 302HQ or 304 depending on the type of fasteners and the manufacturing process. Less commonly, fasteners are available in hardened and tempered martensitic stainless steels, such as 410 (C 1) or in a higher molybdenum version of grade 316, often designated '2343'. An outline of the range of stainless steel fasteners available in Australia can be found in the Australian Stainless Reference Manual.

Stainless steel fasteners available on the Australian market in the main are equal to or higher in tensile strength than the carbon and low alloy steel fasteners commercially used, and are higher strength than most other corrosion resistant fasteners. Table one shows the comparison between stainless steel fasteners and the various grades of carbon steel and low alloy steel fasteners and Figure one shows the strength comparison of various corrosion resistant materials.

The vast majority of stainless steel fasteners available are produced to ISO 3506 Class 70 (this designates a minimum tensile strength of 700 MPa) and are marked as such. If there is no marking it should be assumed the product is Class 50 (minimum tensile strength of 500 MPa).

If a stainless steel fastener with a higher tensile strength is required there are some products available in Class 80, these are usually produced in grade 316 stainless steel. There have recently become available some stainless steel products in Class 100, also in grade 316 material.

Where corrosion is an issue, an inexpensive olution is to specify steel fasteners with some form of plating or organic coating rather than to use products manufactured from corrosion resistant materials. Although painted, plated or galvanised fasteners are usually adequate in applications where corrosive conditions are not severe, consideration should also be given to the cost of possible failure and loss of aesthetic appearance when the protective coating becomes damaged or compromised, in comparison to the cost of stainless steel product. Damage to the coating on steel products can be easily caused by the wrench or driver used for tightening, poor plating practices or simply from the turning action of one thread against another in assembly.

As with all fasteners the proper installation of stainless steel products is critical to its performance; this is particularly so with respect to tightening and galling.

Galling occurs when the stainless steel oxide surface film breaks down as a result of direct metal contact. Solid-phase welding can then take place (whereby material is transferred from one surface to another). The symptoms of galling include surface damage and seizing and freezing up of equipment. Galling commonly occurs when using stainless steel nuts and bolts together, where the contact points are subjected to high tightening torques.

Fasteners made in accordance with internationally recognised standards should ensure the uniformity of threaded products. Reasonable care should be taken when handling stainless steel fasteners to avoid any thread damage and keep the threads clean and free from dirt, coarse grime or sand. If the threads are tightened on sand or dirt the possibility of galling or seizing is increased.

Ways to reduce galling include:

Rolled threads are less susceptible to galling than machined ones as they have a smoother surface and the grain lines follow the thread rather than cut across it, which IS the case with machined threads.

Bolts should be tightened to the correct torque using a torque wrench as overtightening will promote galling.

It is recommended that some form of lubrication be applied to threads prior to assembly. Propriety grease-type lubricants, containing tenacious metals, oils etc are available. Some commonly used lubricants contain molybdenum disulphide or nickel powder (sometimes with graphite materials*).

Galling can also be reduced by using two different stainless steels, of significantly different hardnesses, on the mating surfaces. A Brinell hardness difference of 50HB may overcome galling.

A common belief that the use of grade 316 studs with grade 304 nuts (or vice versa) will avoid galling is a myth (there is a notable difference in galling).

Table two shows some suggested maximum torque values for various diameters of stainless steel fasteners. This table is a guide only based on industry tests that provide maximum clamping value with minimum risk of seizing. The values shown are based on fasteners that are dry - free of any lubricants - and wiped clean of any foreign matter. The addition of a lubricant can have a significant effect on the torque-tension relationship. A lubricated fastener requires less torque to achieve the same level of tension and also makes the torque-tension relationship more predictable. Different lubricants can also have different effects. Figure two shows that effect on the torque-tension relationship of adding a lubricant.

Bolt Size Grade 304 (A2) Grade 316 (A4)
1/4" - 20 8.5 9
1/4" - 28 11 11
5/16" - 18 15 16
5/16" - 24 16 17
3/8" - 16 27 28
3/8" - 24 29 31
7/16" - 14 42 44
7/16" - 20 45 47
1/2" - 13 58 61
1/2" - 20 61 64
9/16" - 12 77 81
9/16" - 18 85 89
5/8" - 11 125 131
5/8" - 18 141 147
3/4" - 10 173 179
3/4" - 16 168 176
7/8" - 9 263 275
7/8" - 14 262 273
1" - 8 389 406
1" - 14 351 367
1 1/8" - 7 560 586
1 1/8" - 12 529 553
1 1/4" - 7 709 740
1 1/4" - 12 651 683
1 1/2" - 6 1 204 1 261
1 1/2" - 12 953


Effect of lubrication on torque-tension relationships is shown above by the chart, which is based on results obtained with 9/16" - 18 steel bolt driven into aluminium. For a non-lubricated bolt, torques of 13Nm - 14Nm were required to develop tensions of 3.5kN to 6.2kN. For a lubricated bolt, torque values ranged from 7.3Nm to 8.5Nm for 4.4kN to 5.5kN tension range.

Torque values are affected in various ways by different types of lubricants. Wax on either the bolt or nut, or both, also acts to reduce the torque requirements.

Source: Skidmore-Wilhelm Mfg. Co.

he new Australian Standard Cold Formed Stainless Steel Structures is due to be published in early 2001. This will include sections giving specific design data for stainless steel fasteners produced to both ASTM and ISO specification systems, In addition an Appendix gives details of the grades and strength levels and their applicable markings, extracted from ISO 3506.

*Graphite is substantially more noble than stainless steel. Care in specification of graphite in contact with stainless steel is required to avoid corrosion.

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 17, January 2001.

The Workhorse of Hydrometallurgy

Posted 17 May 200

Stainless steel has earned a reputation as the material of choice for the mining and hydrometallurgical industries. This article discusses suitable grades and applications and the emerging opportunities for stainless steel in these industries.

Hydrometallurgy involves the extraction and refining of metals in aqueous solutions. It encompasses a range of processes such as leaching, solvent extraction, ion exchange, electrorefining, electrowinning, precipitation and solid/liquid separation for numerous metals including copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, uranium, gold, silver, aluminium and rare earths. As stainless steel is the 'workhorse' material for many of these processes, especially those involving sulphuric acid solutions, hydrometallurgy is a significant market whose importance is growing as new processes are developed and applied.

Historically, metals extraction has been dominated by pyrometallurgical processes such as roasting and smelting, while hydrometallurgy has generally played a relatively minor role. However, since the 1950s, its role has expanded significantly, helped along by a string of new technical developments. These trends seem likely to continue as pyrometallurgical processes fall out of favour due to factors such as falling head grades, environmental pressure against gaseous emissions, the need to treat lower grades and impure ores, and the growing desire to add value by producing metals at the mine site. Significant growth areas for hydrometallurgy have been uranium ore processing in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, copper in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and more recently nickel and cobalt.

Uranium ores are almost exclusively treated by hydrometallurgy. The most common process is sulphuric acid leaching of finely ground material
at atmospheric pressure and temperatures up to about 800°C, followed by solid/liquid separation and solvent extraction or ion exchange. Stainless steels and high nickel alloys have been extensively used for tankage, pumps and piping.

Copper has traditionally been extracted from oxide ores by sulphuric acid leaching, either in agitated tanks or by spraying on heaps and dumps. Interest grew dramatically after the introduction of solvent extraction technology in the late sixties which, when coupled with electrowinning, enabled high grade copper cathode to be produced on site. More recently, this approach has been expanded to treat secondary sulphide ores such as chalcocite, and processes are now being developed for the treatment of chalcopyrite, the dominant copper mineral which is normally smelted. These new processes include pressure-oxidation, bio-oxidation and other novel leaching technology. Along with all of this has been the successful introduction of the use of stainless steel blanks for electrowinning and refining. Stainless steel is particularly suitable for copper in sulphuric acid solutions because of the inhibiting effect of copper in solution on corrosion.

Nickel and cobalt hydrometallurgy has been significantly boosted by a number of recent developments including the installation of new pressure acid leaching (PAL) operations for laterites in Western Australia, the first application of tank bio-leaching for cobalt recovery, the development of pressure-oxidation and bio-heap leaching technology for nickel sulphides. Although the PAL operations have had difficult start-ups, the PAL process is likely to become a major force in the future treatment of laterites because of its relatively low energy consumption and high nickel and cobalt recoveries.

Ore preparation and slurrying Grade 310 or super duplex grades
Pressure leach circuit Grade 310 or super duplex grades
Counter current decantation
(ccd) circuit
Tanks - grade 316
Rakes and rabble arms - grade 316
Refinery (separating nickel, cobalt
products, making metal)
Process piping - grade 316
6 000 TONNES


Current trends undoubtedly point to an expanding role and bright future for hydrometallurgy in the mining and metallurgical industries. Along with this should come increased opportunity for the use of stainless steels.

Image: Nickel Heap Leaching trial at Radio Hill, WA.

This article was written by Alan Taylor, Chairman of consulting company International Project Development Services and convener of the ALTA Nickel/Cobalt 2001 (Perth, WA, May 15 - 18).

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 18,  May 2001.

Posted 17 May 2001

Stainless steels are widely used in the food industries, including wine production, because of their corrosion resistance and ease of cleaning which result in negligible product contamination.

Long life can be expected from stainless steel equipment provided care is taken with:

> Vessel design
> Grade selection
> Fabrication procedures
> Maintenance practices.

The precautions to be taken are not complicated but are most important - neglecting to follow them can lead to rapid failure.

Much can be done in the detailed design to improve corrosion resistance. The two cardinal rules are:

1. Design for complete and free drainage
2. Eliminate or seal weld crevices.

A series of drawings, with accompanying narrative, comparing good and bad design practices, are set out in Part Ill of Nickel Development Institute publication #11 007: Guidelines for the welded fabrication of nickel-containing stainless steels for corrosion resistant services.

Two stainless steel grades are particularly used in the wine industry, grades 304 and 316, and both 'standard' and 'low carbon (L)' versions are available. Their compositions are shown in Table One below.

Table One: Stainless Steel Grade Selection
304 18.0 - 20.0 8.0 - 10.5 - 0.08 max
304L 18.0 - 20.0 8.0 - 10.5 - 0.03 max
316 16.0 - 18.0 10.0 - 14.0 2.0 - 3.0 0.08 max
316L 16.0 - 18.0 10.0 - 14.0 2.0 - 3.0 0.03 max

The 'L grades are specified w here welding is to be carried out and there is concern that time-at-temperature may be sufficient to precipitate chromium carbides and hence cause sensitisation of the metal, resulting in susceptibility to intergranular corrosion.

The molybdenum content of grade 316 significantly improves its resistance to p1tting and crevice corrosion, particularly in the presence of chlorides. It also increases the material cost by about 20 to 25 percent.

For handling waters, grade 304 is satisfactory up to about 200 parts per million (ppm) chlorides, while grade 316 can be used up to 1 000 ppm chlorides.

Tartaric, acetic, tannic, malic and citric acids are not corrosive to stainless steel at the concentrations found in juices or wines. However, the level of su lphur dioxide is an issue. Grade 304 is generally regarded as resistant to corrosion when immersed in juice or wine at free SO2 levels up to 700 ppm. Above this, grade 316 is recommended. The problem is greater in the vapour space where sulphurcontaining acids can form. Grade 304 is not recommended for use in areas where there is more than 75 ppm SO2 in the liquid. This can lead to composite tanks using grade 316 in the ullage zone and grade 304 in the submerged zone.

Cracks and crevices in stainless steel welds can act as initiation points for pitting and crevice corrosion. They can also result in product contamination . The aim should be for smooth weld beads without porosity, slag inclusions or undercut.

During the welding of stainless steels, 'heat tint' is formed. This is a high temperature oxide, rich in chromium which has been drawn from the stainless steel. The result is a very thin low-chromium layer on the underlying stainless steel surtace. For best corrosion resistance, both the oxide film and underlying chromiumdeficient layer must be removed. This can be done by pickling using a nitric/hydrofluoric acid mix, either in a bath or as paste, or by mechanical removal.

Since stainless steel depends for its corrosion resistance on the presence of an extremely thin, continuous chromium oxide film, any contaminants which disrupt this film will reduce its corrosion performance and can initiate pitting. A common contaminant is embedded iron particles from nearby grinding of carbon steel fabrications or the use of iron-contaminated tools. Such contamination can be removed by passivating the stainless steel with nitric acid, followed by a thorough water rinse.

After hydrotesting and before being put into service, tanks should be drained and thoroughly dried. There are too many instances of new stainless steel systems failing due to pitting or crevice corrosion because either:

> Contaminated test water has been left stagnant in the system, or
> The system has been drained but not dried, leaving pools of water to evaporate, concentrating dissolved salts and resulting in corrosive attack.

Stainless steel is inherently a low maintenance material - but it is not zero maintenance. The main requirements are:

> Deposits which build up on stainless steel surfaces should be regularly removed. This is because crevices exist under deposits and crevice corrosion can be initiated in such areas.
> Following cleaning, regular inspection is necessary to establish the condition of the equipment. This will ensure early detection of any developing problems so that steps can be taken to prevent further deterioration.

If guidelines such as these are followed, long and trouble free service can be expected from stainless steel equipment.

Words by David Jenkinson from the Nickel Development Institute.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 18, May 2001.

Principles of Mig Welding

Posted 28 February 2002

According to the AWS Welding Handbook volume 2, MIG welding is "an arc welding process that uses an arc between a continuous filler metal electrode and the weld pool. The process is used with shielding from an externally supplied gas and without the application of pressure". The wire is usually supplied in spools and fed through to the welding arc by an electric feed motor, with no manual control ofthe wire feeding process ie semiautomatic.

Most materials, except aluminium, use what is termed a ‘constant potential power source’, and this automatically regulates the arc gap by varying the burn off rate of the wire.

There are four modes of metal transfer possible with the standard MIG welding system: short circuiting (or dip), globular, spray and pulsed modes.

Short circuiting transfer is the mode which uses the lowest amperage range, hence the lowest heat input of the four variants. Essentially the electrode contacts the molten weld pool, completing the electrical circuit. Resistance heating of the electrode takes place until the tip of the wire is melted off and transferred to the weld pool. The arc is then extinguished, until the tip of the wire comes back into contact with the weld pool, and the cycle begins again. This process is repeated between 20 to 200 per second.

Globular transfer uses slightly higher currents than for short circuit transfer, but lower than those used for the spray mode. The arc is continuous, but the molten metal is transferred across the arc in a characteristic globular fashion, with the globule diameter greater than that of the electrode.

Spray transfer uses the highest current ranges, having a continuous arc, and the weld metal transferred across the arc in many tiny droplets. The droplet diameter is equal to or less than the electrode diameter, and is also accompanied by an electric force propelling these droplets across the arc, hence the term spray transfer.

Pulsed transfer is achieved by using a lower welding current at which conventional spray transfer would not be possible, and then imposing background pulses of power through the system. Typical pulsing frequencies can be up to 40 kilohertz and this in turn transfers one droplet across the arc per pulse, thus achieving spray transfer at lower welding currents.

A variety of shielding gases are available from many suppliers, which have been refined to suit various applications. A major effect that these gases have, is their ability to influence arc stability and mode of metal transfer.

The common MIG shielding gases are Argon and CO2. At all usable welding currents, CO2 will commonly produce a drip or globular transfer, whilst the full range of transfers can be obtained with Argon.

Mixtures of these two gases as well as a one or two percent addition of oxygen are also common when MIG welding the carbon and low alloy
steels. They have been designed to get the best characteristics of both gases, and improve arc stability, metal flow, sidewall fusion, wetability

It should not come as any surprise that welding sheet metals by the MIG process must have limits, especially on the thinner sections. MIG welding is a relatively high heat input process, and hence the rate of heat transfer away from the weld pool becomes important. The surrounding material must be able to support and maintain the weld pool until it solidifies. The final weld must also have an acceptable bead profile, with visual and surface quality within the specification requirements. Heat input must be kept to a minimum, and this in turn implies a
short circuit or globular transfer mode. Unfortunately, these modes are prone to spatter.

A compromise must be reached between heat input, travel speed, weldability and bead shape, which are all influenced by specific gas compositions.

The table shows some results of MIG welding austenitic stainless steel sheet using a one millimetre diameter wire, with a variety of gases. The volts and amps recorded indicate the lowest settings which achieved the stable transfer mode indicated.

The values of interest, and which formed the basis for the experiment, are the electrical settings, namely the amps and volts. Travel speed is obviously important in reducing heat input, but the effect of gas composition on the stable mode of transfer was the primary objective.

The results obtained not only confirmed the expected problems when welding thin stainless sheet, but also produced some interesting points
when using the pulsed transfer mode. As expected, spray transfer is not recommended for thin sheet.

Helium, as an alternative addition to shielding gases definitely has advantages in achieving an acceptable weld profile over the more common
gas mixtures, even in semi-automatic welding, but a greater degree of competency is required by the welder to be able to handle the necessary faster travel speeds.

Pulsing helps to overcome the problems associated with bead shape and burn-through, and if the equipment is available, it negates the advantages offered by a helium containing gas. Higher travel speeds in the pulsed mode are still necessary with the helium addition. The use of a helium-containing mixture with the pulsed mode should offer a combined benefit of a lower heat input and faster production rates, and, hopefully, less distortion as a result.

Words by Jim Henderson.

Reproduced with permission from the Australasian Welding Journal Volume 45 Fourth Quarter page 21.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 20, February 2002.

Posted 1 September 2002

Accurate specification of a surface finish is vital for extracting maximum functionality and durability from stainless steel components. Read Part 2. Read Part 3.

Coated abrasives are important in generating the right surface finish for corrosion resistance, cleanliness, aesthetics or other requirements.

Primary manufacturing processes such as casting, forging or rolling produce a surface finish which may be adequate for the end function. If not, there are secondary processes such as machining, cutting, grinding, lapping or mass finishing using tumbling techniques or barrel finishing.

Surface finishing techniques may be mechanical, electrical, thermal or chemical or a combination. The finish depends on grit size, pressure and
product selection.

Coated abrasives in the form of belts, rolls or discs are used during both the primary and secondary manufacture of stainless steel into coils, sheets or fabrications. Methods and machinery may vary but the broad principles are:

> do not abrade unnecessarily – start at the finest grit which will produce the desired finish quickly

> never skip more than two grit sizes in a polishing sequence or previous grit lines cannot be removed

> don’t use excessive pressure – coated abrasives cut well with minimal pressure

> don’t persist with a worn abrasive product – when a disc or belt stops cutting it should be replaced.

The drive for better manufacturing has yielded improvements to grinding and polishing machinery, accompanied by developments in abrasive products. Better abrasive grains give faster stock removal and longer life which has led to increased horsepower being specified and this has necessitated improvements to the quality of backing materials.

A coated abrasive has three components – backing, adhesive and grain – each of which affects the outcome.

BACKINGS are manufactured from paper, cloth, fibre or a combination, non-woven material or polyester film. The type selected should:

> have sufficient tensile strength to transmit the power loading of the machine

> be flexible enough to conform to component shape

> provide a substrate suitable for the relative strength of adhesive required

> not stretch unduly during use

> in the case of very fine grit coatings, provide a flat and true surface.

Paper backings come in a variety of weights designed for specific tasks. In the stainless steel market belts are most commonly manufactured in E (180-200gsm), F (230gsm) or G (300gsm) weights. They may also have anti-static surface treatments to minimize dust adherence.

Cloth backings come in many varieties. Most commonly, X weight (cotton) and Y weight (polyester) are used in heavier stock removal operations such as the grinding of castings and J weight, which is lighter and more flexible, is used for contour work – polishing complicated shapes. Different cloth backfills applied to the rear of the coated abrasive belt allow it to be used for dry and wet operations (oil or water) according to the type of operation.

Cloth belts are normally used on higher horsepower machines and need to be strong enough for the transmission power which can be as high as 10HP per inch width of belt (7.5kW per 25mm).

Vulcanised fibre is used extensively in the manufacture of resin fibre discs. It is less flexible than paper and cloth backings but has the strength required to withstand high operational speeds and heavy grinding pressures.

Combination backings consist of an E weight paper reinforced with an open weave cotton scrim cloth. They are usually used for very coarse grit operations.

Non-woven backings such as lofted nylon are used in the manufacture of hand polishing pads and rolls. This material also forms the basis of many convolute wheels and flap brushes (pictured) which are used to impart a special brushed finish.

BONDING ADHESIVES are used to anchor the abrasive grains in place on the backing. They can be natural animal glues but thermosetting synthetic resins are the norm. They are stronger, tougher and resist heat and fluids better. Different types and strengths have been developed according to the product’s end use. As a rule of thumb, if belts or discs are shedding (losing grain) then the bond strength needs to be increased; if the product is showing signs of glazing (metal pick up) then the bond needs to be less strong.

ABRASIVE GRAINS Most of the grains in use today are synthetically manufactured to be hard enough to penetrate the substrate being ground while still fracturing under dynamic impact to present new cutting facets. They are designed for high thermal and chemical resistance at grinding interface temperatures.

Premium grade aluminium oxide grains are an effective general purpose abrasive. Silicon carbide grain is used to impart a brighter finish, however it has a comparatively shorter product life. Although more expensive, the newly-developed zirconia alumina grain produces a more consistent finish throughout the life of the product.

Words by Charles Fenton. Charles E. Fenton is Managing Director of Klingspor Abrasive Technologies, Australia. The next article in this series will look at how backings, bonding adhesives and abrasive grains are combined.

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 22, September 2002.


Posted 1 June, 2002

Retaining a sparkling finish on stainless steel surfaces is just a matter of a few simple steps. And you don't need expensive products or special equipment - ordinary household cleaners are usually all that's required. You just need to bear in mind a few easy DOs and DON'Ts...

It'll come out in the wash

Stainless steel looks best if it's cleaned regularly with plenty of water. Drying afterwards makes sure streaky marks aren't left behind.

Remember that simply wiping with a damp cloth is not as effective as it can smear dirt without removing it.

Routine cleaning prevents any stubborn stains building up.

So what will you need?

You don't need any fancy equipment. For day to day cleaning, plenty of water, some mild detergent and a cloth or soft brush will do the job. You can use a 1% ammonia solution but don't use bleach? it's just too easy to make the solution too strong and too hard to rinse it properly afterwards.

After washing, rinse in clean water and wipe the surface dry with a soft absorbent cloth. On brushed stainless steel, follow the direction of the polish for best results.

An excellent cloth to use is 3M's Scotch-Brite high performance cleaning cloth.

Watch out for scratches!

The important thing to remember is that stainless steel can be scratched by careless handling or aggressive scrubbing. Just like you would take care of a polished timber finish, avoid dragging rough items across the surface and be aware that grit trapped under other objects can be the culprit.

Avoid bad chemistry

Stainless steel may discolour if left in contact with salts or acids for extended periods. Also avoid leaving carbon steel items in contact with stainless steel, particularly if wet. But if you observe ordinary hygiene measures, like timely cleaning-up in food preparation areas, you won't have any problems.

How to handle the tough customers

Sometimes you need a tougher approach. Here's how to get rid of the most common offenders:

Fingerprints, oil & grease marks

If a mild detergent or dishwashing detergent doesn't shift unsightly fingermarks, get rid of them with a bit of glass cleaner on a soft cloth. You can also use a small amount of alcohol, methylated spirits, acetone or mineral turpentine. Then rinse with clean water and dry.

You can give longer protection to high traffic areas by lightly rubbing with olive oil or baby oil followed by a polish and shine using a soft cloth.

Tea & coffee stains

Discolouration from tea and coffee stains can be removed by soaking in a solution of boiling water and baking powder. Remember to rinse well and wipe dry.

Sticky labels

Remove sticky labels as soon as possible. Gentle heat from a hair dryer or a glue gun generally softens the glue for easy removal, or you can warm stainless steel pots and pans in the oven before peeling off the labels. Eucalyptus oil based cleaners (or eucalyptus oil on its own) often work well to remove adhesives.

Ensure you don't leave any glue on the surface ? it could trap dirt or break down and cause staining.

Rust marks

Apply cream cleanser with a soft damp cloth and rub gently.

If the mark still won't shift, it might be necessary to use a proprietary stainless steel cleaner. These are usually based on dangerous chemicals (such as phosphoric, oxalic or sulphamic acids) and must be handled with care according to the manufacturer's directions.

After cleaning it is important to neutralise the acid with a 1% ammonia or baking powder solution, rinse with clean water and wipe dry. If the rust has worn away the surface, don't despair! Bad rusting can be repaired with professional polishing but you will need to get expert advice.


Apply paint stripper, taking care to follow the safety instructions. You may need to use a nylon brush or scouring pad, but avoid metal scrapers at all costs - they will damage the surface.

Hard water scale

Heavy limescale from hard water can be loosened by soaking in a hot water and 25% vinegar solution. Rinse well with a solution of baking powder or 1% ammonia and then with clean water. Always wipe dry.

Cement and mortar

Cement and mortar splashes should be washed off before they set. Mild acids such as vinegar may be needed but not those using chloride rich chemicals. Never use brick cleaning liquids which contain hydrochloric acid. Be very careful that loosened particles don't scratch the steel surface.

Don't go against the grain

Always rub stainless steel in the same direction as the grain. Rubbing against the grain will spoil the finish and stainless will lose its shine. Worse, rubbing against the grain can damage the surface by creating microscopic crevices where dirt can collect. This can lead to corrosion spots.

Fortunately, it's usually easy to tell which is the right direction. You need to watch out for items like round handrails, which are often polished around their circumference when they're manufactured, rather than up and down the length of the tube.

If you have to scrub a stain to remove it, make sure you use a clean nylon scourer or a cloth with chalk-based cream cleaner. But test an inconspicuous area first as you could end up with a bright polished spot which doesn't match the rest of the surface.

NEVER EVER use steel wool (wire wool) to clean stainless steel.

It is usually made of carbon steel and any fragments left behind will rust onto the stainless steel surface. Using any kind of scourer which has previously been used on ordinary (carbon) steel is also a no-no for the same reason.

Stainless steel wool scouring pads are available for heavy duty work, like removing burnt food from stainless steel saucepans. These will scratch the stainless steel surface, but won't leave fragments to go rusty.

Download Technical FAQ 2

Important Disclaimer

The technical recommendations contained in this publication are necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied on for specific applications without first securing competent advice. Whilst ASSDA has taken all reasonable steps to ensure the information contained herein is accurate and current, ASSDA does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information and does not accept liability for errors or omissions.

This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 21 - June 2002.

Posted 1 December 2002.

The last issue of Australian Stainless contained an overview of coated abrasives and guidelines for achieving the desired surface finish. This technical series continues with a comparison of grit size and hardness. Read Part 1. Read Part 3.

Early versions of abrasive sheets and rolls were made by sprinkling naturally occurring grit, such as sand or emery, onto cloth or paper coated with animal hide glue. The resulting 'sandpaper' was used for surface finishing in woodwork or preparing a surface for paint or varnish. Because the application of the grit was random the product soon became dull and lost its cut.

Not long after the development of paper products, the flexible emery cloth roll made its appearance in metal working workshops as a standard tool for rust removal and light finishing. By contrast, solid bonded grinding wheels were developed for heavy stock removal in foundries.

3 Elements: Backing, Bond and Grain
Modern coated abrasives allow stock removal up to 30 times faster than with a bonded grinding wheel. This superior performance has been brought about by improvements to all three elements of coated abrasives: backing, bond and grain.

The type of backing used sets the basic design parameters, being: strength, safety, shape, geometry, tolerance and coolant resistance.

Paper - available in various weights up to 300 gsm (grams per square metre) in widths up to 1650mm.

Cloth - cotton, polyester or a mixture, in widths up to 1550mm.

Fibre - 0.7mm (30 thou) vulcanised fibre.

Combination - linen scrim cloth plus paper in widths up to 1000mm.

Polyester film - flexible consistent thickness.

Natural glues can be used for the matrix supporting the abrasive grain but modern abrasives generally use synthetic thermosetting resins which are stronger, tougher and more heat resistant.

Abrasive grain provides the cutting edges for surface generation. Common types are:

> Aluminium oxide AI203 available with various surface treatments
> Silicon carbide SiC
> Zirconia Zr02
> Ceramic aluminium oxide SG (seeded gel).

The important characteristics of grain are hardness, friability, toughness and shape.

The graph below shows the hardness of selected materials including abrasives.

Relative Comparison of Grit Size
The selection of the correct grit size and sequence is vitally important in achieving the desired surface finish. The most common grading system in use today is the FEPA or 'P' series (Federation of European Producers of Abrasives).

However, certain products made in the US or Japan may be graded differently. Equivalents are provided in Table 1.

Abrasive Production
The majority of abrasive manufacturers employ a reel to reel process to combine the backing, adhesive bond and grit into an efficient cutting tool.

As shown below, he grain is propelled into the wet adhesive by means of an electrostatic force. This critical part of the manufacturing process ensures a sharp, long lasting product. In order to further secure the abrasive grain, an additional coat of adhesive, known as a 'size' coat, is applied and the whole product is dried and cured. Certain products (called multi-bond or super-sized) have a further coating applied in order to minimise heat build up and subsequent welding action. This feature is particularly important in the case of stainless steel grinding because non-oxidised steels are very reactive at interface grinding temperatures and they combine readily with the aluminium oxide grain. This phenomenon is visible as a silvery sheen on the surface of an abrasive belt. Once the grain has been 'capped' with metal it can perform no further cutting action and merely increases frictional heat and subsequent degradation.

Using Abrasives Economically

There are a number of factors to be considered to obtain best value from coated abrasives. If obtaining a specified, repeatable finish is an important consideration it may be most economical to limit the abrasive belt to a set amount of polishing, for example a certain number of metres of coil. If specific finish is not a criteria the abrasive can be used to the very end of its life. Saving time or power usage and utilising the most technically advanced product can be as significant overall as the amount of abrasive consumed.


Table 1 - Relative Comparison of Grit Size

Particle size inches Particle size microns All product other than emery Emery
Grading system Comparable grit symbol Polishing paper Cloth
0.00026 6.5 1200 - - 4/0 -
0.00035 9.0 - - - - -
0.00036 9.2 1000 - - 3/0 -
0.00047 12.0 - - - - -
0.00048 12.2 800 - - - -
0.00059 15.0 - - - - -
0.00060 15.3 - P1200 - - -
0.00062 16.0 600 - - 2/0 -
0.00071 18.3 - P1000 - - -
0.00077 19.7 500 - - 0 -
0.00079 20.0 - - - - -
0.00085 21.8 - P800 - - -
0.00092 23.6 400 - 10/0 - -
0.00098 25.0 - - - - -
0.00100 25.75 - P600 - - -
0.00112 28.8 360 - - - -
0.00118 30.0 - P500 - - -
0.00137 35.0 - P400 - - -
0.00140 36.0 320 - 9/0 - -
0.001575 40.0 - - - - -
0.00158 40.5 - P360 - - -
0.00172 44.0 280 - 8/0 1 -
0.00177 45.0 - - - - -
0.00180 46.2 - P320 - - -
0.00197 50.0 - - - - -
0.00204 52.5 - P280 - - -
0.00209 53.5 240 - 7/0 - -
0.00217 55.0 - - - - -
0.00228 58.5 - P240 - - -
0.00230 60.0 - - - - -
0.00254 65.0 - P220 - - -
0.00257 66.0 220 - 6/0 2 -
0.00304 78.0 180 P180 5/0 3 -
0.00363 93.0 150 - 4/0 - Fine
0.00378 97.0 - P150 - - -
0.00452 116.0 120 - 3/0 - -
0.00495 127.0 - P120 - - -
0.00550 141.0 100 - 2/0 - Medium
0.00608 156.0 - P100 - - -
0.00749 192.0 80 - 0 - Coarse
0.00768 197.0 - P80 - - -
0.01014 260.0 - P60 - - -
0.01045 268.0 60 - 1/2 - -
0.01271 326.0 - P50 - - -
0.01369 351.0 50 - 1 - Ex. Coarse
0.01601 412.0 - P40 - - -
0.01669 428.0 40 - 1-1/2 - -
0.02044 524.0 - P36 - - -
0.02087 535.0 36 - 2 - -
0.02426 622.0 - P30 - - -
0.02488 638.0 30 - 2-1/2 - -
0.02789 715.0 24 - 3 - -
0.02886 740.0 - P24 - - -
0.03530 905.0 20 - 3-1/2 - -
0.03838 984.0 - P20 - - -
0.05148 1320.0 16 - 4 - -
0.05164 1324.0 - P16 - - -
0.06880 1764.0 - P12 - - -
0.07184 1842.0 12 - 4-1/2 - -

Words by Charles Fenton. Charles E. Fenton is Managing Director of Kongspor Abrasive Technologies, Australia. The next article will look at specific finishes and their generation using coated abrasives.

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 23, December 2002.

Posted 1 March 2003

Our three-part series on coated abrasives concludes with information on choosing the correct abrasive product for the desired finish. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.


The surface roughness of stainless steel is an important factor in determining corrosion resistance. Put simply, the smoother the finish the greater the corrosion resistance, whether in the form of sheet or coil or in welded components.


Interaction between the abrasive belt and the workpiece is affected by surface topography (micro texture). Even a surface which appears perfectly flat to the naked eye has ‘asperities’, undulations between 0.05 μm and 50μm occurring 0.5μm to 5 mm apart.

A variety of instruments are available to measure surface micro texture. They work on the principle of moving a stylus over a representative length of the surface and recording the peaks and valleys.

In Australia, surface roughness is expressed in Ra. The measurement refers to the average variations of the undulations from the average surface of the sample.

Current density & surface roughnessTYPICAL FINISHES

Three stainless steel surface finishes are typically available from the mill:

  • #1 hot rolled, annealed and pickled (Ra 3 to 6μm)
  • 2B cold rolled (Ra 0.1 to 0.2μm)
  • BA bright annealed (Ra 0.06 to 0.2μm)

From these initial surfaces, a wide variety of finishes can be achieved with coated abrasives, satinising wheels and mops, buffing wheels and polishes. The type of finish generated depends on many variables: grit sequence, lubrication, raw material quality, machine type, abrasive type, pressure applied, through feed speed, abrasive belt speed and so on.

Because of all these factors, nominally identical finishes vary slightly from one producer to another. To ensure that the desired finish is delivered, specifiers should nominate the acceptable Ra (surface roughness) range and any other factors necessary for the application (for instance viewing angle or light conditions for architectural samples).

The common ASTM designations for stainless steel surfaces such as ‘No. 4’ specify a process to achieve a finish and not attributes of the surface itself. The result can fall outside the desired
surface roughness range. The Euronorm finishes of EN 10088, provide a larger number of specifications than ASTM A480 and include some which require particular Ra values.1

Although the measurements involved are microscopic, research indicates there is significantly higher resistance to corrosion in stainless surfaces with a roughness below 0.5μm Ra.


Technically advanced coated abrasives are designed to optimise production by delivering consistent, measurable surface finishes. However, the operator must select the correct abrasives and the right product sequence.

Abrasive grainPolishing is hard work and even with machine operations, it takes time and care. The absolutely essential element is to remove all the polish lines from the previous stage before moving on to a finer grit. If this isn’t done, the final and finest buffing step will be marred by a streak on the surface. Although it is often impossible to rotate the work, removal of polish lines is readily
monitored by polishing at right angles for each new step.

The first grinding step should be as fine as possible. As #80 is usually the finest practicable size, it may require some time to smooth a large weld bead. An effective grit sequence for producing a mirror finish is 80, 120, 240, 320, 400, 600 and 800 before proceeding to mops.

Steps can be missed but at the cost of longer polishing times and the risk of stray scratches. Old abrasives will give a smoother finish but the results are less predictable and are operator dependent.

Lubricants may be necessary because of the poor conductivity of stainless steel. Lubricants also remove debris, improve the quality of the finish and increase the abrasive life. When buying abrasives it is important to choose a reputable product; an unknown quality could mean stray, coarse grit with its attendant final streaks which will mar the result and be especially obvious on a ‘mirror’ finish.

When silicon carbide abrasives are used a brighter, more highly reflective finish results, albeit at the expense of belt life. Other materials, for example aluminium oxide, zirconia or ceramic
grains, will give a significantly longer belt life but will produce a different overall finish.

A quality coated abrasive belt acts as a series of single point cutting tools. Each grain has the optimum shape and angle to accomplish the cutting action and subsequent chip removal. This is partly achieved through electrostatically orienting the grains in relation to the backing during manufacture. The rest comes from choosing the correct abrasive type for the job. A cutting facet which isn’t sharp enough results in random streaks on the stainless steel surface as the grain fails to cut cleanly and drags a chip along the surface. This effect is more prevalent with aluminium oxide belts.

Roughness vs Abrasive Grit Size*

500# 0.10 - 0.25
320# 0.15 - 0.22
240# 0.30 - 0.67
180# 0.42 - 0.96
120# 0.29 - 0.81
60# 2.01


Supplying the desired surface is as much a part of filling a contract as other aspects of fabrication. There are a large number of variables which impact on the surface finish. The previous two issues of Australian Stainless presented an overview of modern coated abrasives and specific information on their composition and manufacture (issues 22 and 23). Data on the hardness of abrasive materials and a relative comparison of grit size was included.

An understanding of what makes a quality abrasive product and how coated abrasives interact with the workpiece helps ensure that the corrosion resistance and aesthetic requirements of
the client are met.

1. EN 10088-2 : 1995 specifies additional specific requirements to a ‘J’-type finish, in order to achieve adequate corrosion resistance for marine and external architectural applications. Transverse Ra < 0.5μm with clean cut surface finish.

This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 24 - March 2003. It was written by Charles E. Fenton, Managing Director of Klingspor Abrasive Technologies, Australia and Graham Sussex, ASSDA’s technical specialist.