Stainless steel

What’s in a name?

Joanne McIntyre - 11 June 2015

Unless you’re a metallurgist, navigating the complexities of stainless steel terminology can be confusing. A recent article provided an easily understood guide.

About the author

Mrs Joanne McIntyre
Joanne McIntyre is the Editor in Chief of Stainless Steel World magazine, and Conference Coordinator for the Duplex Seminar & Summit.
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Do you know the difference between a super-austenitic, a super alloy and a nickel alloy? How good in your knowledge on how various the grading systems used around the world compare to one another? Or perhaps a simpler question…just how many different stainless steels are there on the market today?

Granted, the ability to answer all of these questions may not be of obvious benefit to your day-to-day job, but even if you’re just a trivia freak who enjoys the quirks and intricacies of this fascinating industry, you should test your knowledge in a recent article penned by long-standing Stainless Steel world author James Chater. He spent weeks ferreting out both well-known and obscure details about the world of stainless steel terminology and brought them together in an easy-to-read and entertaining article titled ‘What’s in a name? Categories and grades of stainless steel and corrosion-resistant alloys’ which was published in the June issue of the magazine. Along the way James unearthed some interesting facts…storing these away for later use will impress your colleagues next time you’re gathered in the lunch room!

For example, while we usually refer to ‘stainless steel’ in the singular, it should of course be ‘stainless steels’ as there are around 100 grades currently available. These are helpfully grouped into four families with the AISI designation 200, 300 and 400 series, and duplexes (see table below).

AISI designation Group
200 series Austenitic (chromium-manganese)
Austenitic (chromium-manganese) Austenitic (chromium-nickel)
400 series Ferritic

Martensitic
- Duplex (austenitic-ferritic)

Some metallurgists insist that there is actually a fifth family as well…do you know it? Spoiler alert: the answer is precipitation-hardening or age-hardening materials, but actually this is a process not a distinct family of materials.

Whatever your level of involvement with the stainless steel industry, a little more knowledge is always useful so check out James ‘article to learn all about the difference between a nickel alloy and a super alloy, what the letter “L” means in stainless grades, and many other fascinating facts you may have forgotten, or which may even be entirely new to you.



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