Technically speaking, stainless steel is an alloy, which means that it is not a natural substance but is rather one which is manmade, being made up a combination of two or more chemical agents. Due to the high percentage of chromium generally present in stainless steel – commonly between twelve and twenty per cent – stainless steel is particularly resistant to both staining and rusting, a quality which means that it boasts a huge range of possible uses, from the domestic to the industrial.
The materials used to manufacture stainless steel can include any of the following; nitrogen chromium, silicon, nickel, carbon, iron ore, and manganese, and the amounts of each which is used, as well as the addition of any other materials, is determined by the intended use of the finished product. Since stainless steel is utilised for situations as varied as car manufacture, architecture, cutlery, food containers etc, it can be seen that the exact make up of the steel for each and every task has to be tweaked somewhat.
The actual production process, in its simplest form, consists of heating stainless scrap, and the various alloys to be added, in an electric arc furnace, until the temperature reaches a point where the material is reduced to a molten condition. Following this, the levels of carbon in the material are reduced and then, in order to reach the specified formulation, further alloys are added. Now that the composition of the steel has been perfected it can be forged or hot rolled into its’ final state. Occasionally, such as when sheets of steel are required, it may undergo a process known as cold rolling.