Stainless Steel | Glossary | Specialty Steel Supply

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A metal composed of a combination of two or more metals or a combination of a metal and a non-metal. Alloys are created to produce advantages that the pure metals cannot offer on their own.

Annealing is a heat treatment process which reforms the steel's grain structure. This is typically done after cold working. The annealing temperature varies by the stainless steel alloy.

Austenitic stainless steels have high nickel and chromium contents which provide a level of corrosion resistance that is superior to any other category of stainless steel. This category is also known for its ductility and weldability as well as for its ability to withstand extremely low temperatures.


Binary Alloy
An alloy created by combining two materials. The two constituents can be two metals or one metal and one non-metal.


Chromium (Cr)
Chromium is a hard, malleable, glossy, gray, chemical element with an atomic weight of 24. Chromium has no odor or taste. It is used in alloys to bestow corrosion resistance and shine. Chromium has the remarkable ability to form a film on the surface of stainless steel and continually repair itself, even in an oxidative environment.

Cold Working
Any of the processes such as hammering, rolling, or stretching steel, usually at room temperature, are considered cold working. Cold working is performed to increase the steel's hardness and strength as well as to change the steel's shape.

Corrosion is the destruction of steel caused by oxidation or another type of chemical reaction. Rust is a type of corrosion caused by oxidation.


A metal that is ductile is malleable. A metal that is ductile can be shaped without cracking.

Duplex alloys are both ferritic and austenitic. Not only are duplex stainless steels stronger and more corrosion resistant than most austenitic stainless steels, they are also tougher than most ferritic stainless steels.


Metals that are ferrous are mostly iron.


Gauge refers to the size or thickness of steel.


Stainless steel can be hardened either by thermal treatment or cold working.

Heat Treatment
Heat treatments such as, annealing, precipitation strengthening, tempering, and quenching, are used to harden or soften stainless steel.


Interstitial Alloy
In an interstitial alloy, the atoms of the materials that make up the alloy are quite dissimilar in size and the smaller atoms are situated neatly into the gaps between the larger atoms. These gaps between the larger atoms are called interstices.

Iron Ore
Iron ore are rocks, minerals, or meteorites that are viable sources of iron. Typically, the iron is in the form of iron oxide. According to the Mineral Information Institute, over 98% of iron currently being mined in the world today is used in steel production.


Martensitic stainless steels are between 11% and 17% chromium. Because of their high carbon content (0.10% to 0.65%), martensitic stainless steels are susceptible to hardening via quenching. Martensitic stainless steels are known for providing good corrosion resistance and exceptional mechanical properties.

Molybdenum (Mo)
Molybdenum, with an atomic number of 42, is a soft, silvery-white, chemical element that is considered to be a transition metal. It is used in steel as a hardening agent. When molybdenum is used with chromium, it increases an alloy's corrosion resistance.


Nickel (Ni)
Nickel is a hard, ductile, silvery-white, chemical element with an atomic number of 28. Nickel is a transition metal which bears a high luster. Because of its level of corrosion resistance, it is frequently used in producing superalloys.


Passivation Layer
A passivation layer is an invisible, adamantine, non-reactive film that forms on the surface of steel and other materials in a caustic environment. This film, which is only a few atoms in thickness, helps prevent corrosion.

Precipitation Hardening
Precipitation hardening, a method of heat treatment, is sometimes referred to as age hardening or dispersion hardening. This process is useful for strengthening malleable materials. For precipitation hardening to occur, the alloy must remain at a higher temperature for hours. The specific time and temperature required varies by alloy.


Quenching is a type of heat treatment that can be used to harden stainless steel. First the stainless steel is heated until it is in an austenitic state and then promptly cooled via air, oil, water, brine, etc. Typically, depending on the intended use, the steel needs to be tempered after being quenched.


Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a ferrous alloy that resists staining, rusting, and corrosion. Stainless steel has a chromium content that exceeds 10% and may contain varying amounts of other elements such as nickel, molybdenum, nickel, etc depending on the grade.

Substitutional Alloy
This is an alloy where the atoms of the materials that make up the alloy have equal or very similar dimensions.


Tempering is a heat treatment process that is used to toughen metal.

Ternary Alloy
An alloy created by combining three constituents. The three materials can all be metals or a combination of metal and non-metal.


Vanadium (V)
Vanadium, a silvery grey, malleable, soft chemical element, is a useful in stainless steel alloys because of its structural strength and resistance to corrosion. Its atomic number is 23.


Welding is a process to attach two or more metals or other materials together. A welder uses heat to melt the areas that are to be joined and then uses a molten filler material to help bond the workpieces together.

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