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Stainless steel is an iron-chromium-carbon alloy, with the possible addition of further elements such as nickel and molybdenum whose main feature is the excellent resistance to corrosion. Stainless steels are normally divided, according to their microstructure, into three major families: austenitic, martensitic, and ferritic.


Austenitic steels are stainless steels consisting of Carbon, Nickel (up to 9%), and Chromium (up to 18%) – with the possible additions of other elements such as, for example, molybdenum and titanium. They are especially adaptable steels thanks to excellent printability, weldability, and resistance to corrosion; they can also be work-hardened if cold worked. They are principally used in the liquefied gas tanks, heat exchangers, chemical industry, domestic applications and food and beverage systems.


Ferritic steels are stainless steels essentially consisting of Iron, Chromium (between 11% and 19%), and Carbon, but without/without the addition of nickel and other elements capable of forming austenite. These steels offer good mechanical strength and moderate corrosion resistance; they are also magnetizable and cannot be tempered. They are most commonly used in the automotive, home appliance, and construction industry.


Martensitic steels are Chromium alloys (between 11% and 18% approximately) with a greater quantity of Carbon (between 0.08% and 1,2%) as compared with the other groups; with the addition of a small percentage of Nickel in order to guarantee improved workability. They have very high mechanical characteristics and being the only stainless steel that can be tempered, it can therefore increase its mechanical properties such as tensile strength, yield strength and hardness. They are mainly employed in the cutlery, tooling, and surgical instruments industry.

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