Top Los Angeles Stainless Steel Supplier
Stainless steel is one of the most widely used metals in the manufacturing industry. Many companies in various industrial sectors such as construction and product manufacturing rely on stainless steel to deliver both unfinished and finished products for metal fabrication projects and a wide range of applications including building and roofing, bulk material handling equipment, automobile components, chemical processing plants, water supply piping and shipbuilding.
Stainless steel continues to lead the way as the material of choice in the construction and manufacturing industries due to a number of advantages that it offers.
- High-strength and ductility capabilities
- Excellent resistance to corrosion
- Low maintenance
- Life cycle costing benefits
- 100% recyclable
- Excellent high and low-temperature properties
- Aesthetic surface finish
- Resistant to unsightly staining
Manufacturers looking for steel products need to choose the right stainless steel product form to suit their project needs. From flat and long products to semi-finished, rolled and finished products, there are different options when it comes to stainless steel production. Your stainless steel supplier should have in place a reliable process of stainless steel supply and manufacturing to meet your specific needs and requirements.
Here’s what you should know about the process of stainless steel supply and manufacturing:
Sourcing of Raw Materials
Stainless steel is mainly made of iron core and other earth elements such as chromium, silicon, nickel, nitrogen, manganese and carbon. Usually, the properties and overall quality of the final stainless steel alloy is tailored by varying the amounts of each of these elements. For instance, nitrogen helps improve corrosion resistance and ductility properties of stainless steel.
Almost 80% of the stainless steel used today will be recycled into new steel, making stainless steel one of the most recycled material in the world. Almost every stainless steel supplier that supplies steel products for manufacturing and construction relies on large volumes of steel scrap as raw material to meet the growing needs for quality stainless steel supply.
At arrival, steel scrap is tested to ensure there are no radioactive elements. The steel is then tested again, analyzed and sorted according to its specific alloying content to determine if the chemical composition is right to produce stainless steel.
The Melt Shop
When it comes to the production of stainless steel, the processing of steel alloys and scraps in the melt shop is the first step. Depending on the capabilities of the steelworks and the type of stainless steel needed, there are typically four main steps taken in a melt shop before the stainless steel manufacturing process begins.
- Melting of raw materials, scraps and ferro-alloys in an electric arc furnace
- Removal of specific elements like carbon, sulphur and nitrogen in a steel converter
- Tuning of the steel composition and temperature in ladle treatment
- Casting of stainless steel slabs or ingots into manageable sizes
The Manufacturing Process
Stainless steel manufacturing involves a series of processes. Before the actual manufacturing process begins, a stainless steel supplier, in consultation with clients, has to make decisions regarding the exact constituents and their compositions to ensure that the stainless steel manufactured meets the demands of specific applications. A lot of work, science and technology, is involved in building a stainless steel product from the ground up.
Here are some of the most critical steps in the manufacturing of stainless steel:
Melting and Casting
The raw materials that constitute stainless steel are placed together and melted in a huge electric furnace. This step involves exposing the raw materials to intense heat for up to 8 to 2 hours. After the melting process is done, the molten steel is then cast or molded into the desired semi-finished forms or shapes like round or square billets, slabs, rectangular blooms, tube rounds and rods.
In the second stainless steel manufacturing process, the semi-finished products are then subjected to a series of forming operations to create products that are suitable for different types of applications. This process involves both hot rolling and cold rolling the stainless steel to achieve and refine specific properties.
For instance, when stainless steel is hot rolled or heated and passed through enormous rolls, the billets or blooms formed can then be converted to stainless steel bars or wire. Slabs can be formed into stainless steel sheets, strips and plates. Semi-finished shapes can easily be formed into bars, which are the most versatile stainless steel form because they come in different sizes and grades including round, hexagonal, square and octagonal.
Heat treatment or annealing is a critical stainless steel manufacturing process. This process involves heating and cooling the steel under controlled conditions that help reduce internal stresses and soften the stainless steel metal further to make it suitable for a wide variety of applications. Some types of steel are heat treated or age hardened to improve their high-strength capabilities.
It’s important to note that even small changes in the heat treatment of steel, from the recommended time, temperature and even the cooling rate can significantly affect the properties of the stainless steel produced. The type of heat treatment used usually depends on the type of steel: ferritic, austenitic or martensitic, that your stainless steel supplier is working with.
Sometimes, cleaning steel part surfaces to get rid of any contaminants is sometimes required to achieve a more effective heat treatment of the steel. For thicker steel sections, water quenching is used for cooling while air blasting or cooling is used for thinner steel sections.
The heat treatment or the annealing process of producing stainless steel often causes a scale or build-up on the steel. Several steps are taken to get rid of the scale, through a process known as descaling. One of the methods involves pickling, where a nitric-hydrofluoric acid bath is used to remove the scale. Electrocleaning, where an electric current is applied to the surface of the steel using a cathode and phosphoric acid can also be used to remove the scale.
Depending on the type of steel being produced, annealing and descaling processes can be applied at different stages. For instance, stainless steel wire and bar have to go through further forming processes like additional hot rolling and forging before being annealed and descaled. Stainless steel sheets and strips have to be annealed and descaled immediately after the initial hot rolling process.
Right after the cold rolling process which passes the formed steel through rolls at a relatively lower temperature, reducing the thickness of the steel, the stainless steel has to be annealed and descaled again, after which a final cold rolling process is done again to ensure the steel is ready for final processing.
Once the semi-finished stainless steel forms are heat treated and descaled, they are cut into specific shapes. Mechanical cutting is the most widely used method. Stainless steel forms can be blanked using blanking punches and dies, straight-sheared using guillotine knives, sawed using high-speed blades or circle sheared using circular knives.
Other methods used in stainless steel cutting include plasma jet cutting which uses an ionized gas column together with an electric arc to cut the steel or a flame-fired torch powered by oxygen, propane and iron powder. The desired shape of the stainless steel forms often determines the type of cutting method used.
Surface finishing is a critical process of stainless steel manufacture. When it comes to producing stainless steel products where the appearance of the final product matters, the right finishing processes have to be done. Surface finishing makes steel easier to clean, and a smoother surface also improves corrosion resistance properties. The polishing grade of the stainless steel also varies according to the final use of the product.
On the other hand, rough stainless steel finishes are needed for lubrication purposes or to facilitate other steel manufacturing steps. Different methods of steel surface finishing are used to achieve the desired aesthetically appealing appearance. Some of the finishing methods involve dry-etching using sandblasting, wet-etching using acid solutions, grinding or polishing using grinding wheels or abrasive belts.
Metal Fabrication for End-User Applications
Depending on the needs of a customer, the stainless steel may undergo further metal fabrication processes like welding to finish the product as per the client’s requirements. Once all the processes have been completed, the stainless steel metal is ready to be shipped to suppliers. You should note that the manufacturing process of stainless steel can differ depending on the product being produced.
The forming and casting methods used are usually different for the type of the alloy being used. The shape of the final product is also taken into consideration when producing stainless steel. Due to the useful properties of stainless steel, it’s the preferred material for manufacturing various products.
Quality Metal Fabrication and Supply
Working with the right metal fabricator and stainless steel supplier is important for any company that relies on the reliable supply of quality stainless steel forms to produce steel products. At Metal Supply, we provide stainless steel fabrication and supply solutions that are tailored to customer requirements. Whether you need large scale metal supply or turnkey solutions for your steel fabrication project, Metal Supply is ready to assist you.