slabs of steel

How many is too many?

Joanne McIntyre - 24 November 2016

The development of new grades is a never ending process. While some argue there are too many grades, is too much choice ever really a problem?

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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The ongoing development of new grades of stainless steels and other corrosion resistant alloys offers the user tailored solutions rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all mentality. However, in our stainless steel community the phrase ‘too many grades’ occasionally pops up. It seems to me that this becomes a problem when a company doesn’t have the technical expertise in-house to accurately select the ideal grade for a certain application, or the lines of communication between the material manufacturer and the end user have grown too long.

Regularly I am sent articles or press releases about a new grade, or the tweaking of an old favourite and rather than think “not another one”, I find it fascinating that materials can be fine-tuned to the point where they become the best fit for highly specific applications. An example is an amorphous steel alloy which was developed this year with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. Possible applications that would benefit from this range from drill bits to military body armour, car parts and even meteor-resistant casings for satellites! Amorphous steel alloys are a subclass of alloys made of arrangements of atoms that deviate from steel’s classical crystal-like structure, where iron atoms occupy specific locations.

Transmission electron microscopy image showing different levels of crystallinity embedded in the amorphous matrix of the alloy. Photo: Jacobs School of Engineering/ UC San Diego
They are very interesting for researchers because they are affordable to manufacture and are incredibly hard without being brittle. The alloy I’m talking about is named SAM2X5-630 and is being developed by researchers at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. It can withstand pressure and stress of up to 12.5 giga-pascals (about 125,000 atmospheres) without undergoing permanent deformations.


Stainless Steel World magazine will have a special feature on new material developments including new grades, additive manufacturing, HIP and powder metallurgy in February 2017. If you’d like to contribute an article, technical paper or press release please email me at

And if you’d like to read more about the development of SAM2X5-630, click here.

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