Stainless Steel Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal manufacturing is one of the most common types of American industrial work, and stainless steel sheet metal is one of the materials of choice for many industries.

From enormous structural projects and construction equipment to intricate telecommunications and electronics, the fabrication of stainless steel is an essential part of projects both large and small.

What is sheet metal fabrication?

One of the most common industrial alloys, stainless steel is highly machinable and adaptable to custom applications. The types of processes, transformations, and finishes it undergoes are as varied and unique as its applications.

Stainless steel fabricators can transform sheet metal with processes such as:

  • Bending
  • Cutting
  • Press and roll forming
  • Joining
  • Mechanical working
  • Annealing
  • Drawing
  • Folding
  • Anodizing
  • Electrical discharge machining
  • Welding
  • Riveting
  • Brazing
  • Stamping
  • Punching

Once a sheet of metal has been transformed into a three-dimensional piece, it can be finished with paint, powder coatings, silk screening, and other specialized surface treatments. Most specialty manufacturers will offer a full array of processing services, all with their own process qualities, finishing options, and unique results.

Stainless Steel Sheet Metal

One of the most widely known steel alloys, stainless steel is also known as inox steel or inox. It is always made up of a minimum of 10.5% chromium, which gives it a number of specific properties.

Unlike standard steel, stainless does not easily rust, corrode, or otherwise stain with water. Different surface finishes and varying grades are increasingly corrosion resistant, and some will perform better than others when exposed to high-salinity, low air circulation, and other such demanding environments.

Stainless steel fabricators will often stock a variety of choices in sheet form. These may include various finishes, sizes, thicknesses, and grades of the following types:

  • Austenitic, 200 series — Combined with the 300 series, this alloy comprises over 70% of stainless steel manufacturing. A blend of carbon, chromium, nickel, and/or manganese, this steel can be hardened through cold working but is weaker in corrosion resistance.
  • Austenitic, 300 series — The most widely used austenite steel is grade 304, also known as A2 stainless or 18/8 for its 18% chromium and 8% nickel content. 316, the second most common grade, qualifies as marine grade and can commonly be found in high quality cookware and cutlery.
  • Ferritic — This stainless steel metal sheet has superior engineering properties but reduced corrosion as compared to austenitic alloys. Lower chromium and nickel content, as well as the occasional inclusion of lead, make it less costly. Some can be enhanced with aluminum or titanium, as well.
  • Martensitic — Not as corrosion resistant as austenitic or ferritic stainless steel sheeting, martensitic makes up for the shortcoming with extreme strength and machinability. It contains chromium, molybdenum, nickel, and carbon.
  • Duplex — Roughly a 50/50 mix of austenite and ferrite, duplex stainless steel has an overall lower alloy content than comparable austenitic grades, which makes it popular for many applications due to its economical price point. It’s also twice as strong as austenitic stainless and contains high chromium and low nickel proportions, making it more resistant to corrosion, cracking, and pitting.
  • Precipitation-hardening martensitic — With better corrosion resistance than standard martensitic steels, this metal can also be precipitation hardened for higher strength applications.

Sheet metal fabrication first involves carefully choosing the right material, supported by a combination of manufacturing processes and finishing.

For more information on stainless steel fabrication or custom material choices, contact the team at PMI today.