Either while being welded or glistening in the summer sun, the three major families of stainless steel behave differently to each other, carbon steels, aluminium and copper alloys because, as shown in the bar chart, the coefficient of thermal expansion and conductivity - and their ratio - varies.
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.
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.
The normal state for stainless
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).
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.
Successfully using stainless steel depends on environment, grade selected, surface finish, the expectations of the customer and the maintenance specified.
Stainless steels provide robust solutions, but in harsh or borderline environments with high expectations for durability, surface finish will have a substantial impact on performance. Surface finishes can be applied mechanically (usually with abrasives) and chemically.
Understanding how chemical and mechanical treatments will affect the characteristics of the surface and will enable the best possible outcome for the client and the structure. Chemical treatment can be used to improve the corrosion performance of the steel, and hence its appearance in service.
A crevice is a narrow gap between a piece of metal and another piece of metal or tightly adhering material like plastic or a film of bacterial growth.
Many metals and alloys are susceptible to crevice corrosion, but in stainless steel, crevices are the first and most common place for corrosive attack to begin. With a little understanding, crevice corrosion can either be avoided or minimised.
The visual performance of outdoor stainless steel depends on five interrelated factors:
• Surface finish - smooth and clean and free of crevices.
• Grade selection - appropriate for environment.
• Good design - rain washing and uniform draining.
• Maintenance program - regular cleaning.
• End user expectations.
Combining many of the beneficial properties of both ferritic and austenitic steels, 2205 is the most widely used duplex stainless steel grade. Its high chromium and molybdenum content gives the stainless steel excellent corrosion resistance. The microstructure provides resistance to stress corrosion cracking and ensures high strength.