Every application is unique, and each one dictates what type of steel should be implemented. Within corrosive environments, the choice for shafting remains stainless steel. In this article, we offer some background on the different categories of steel, and then further investigate the different types of stainless steel shafting, including their characteristics and applications within industrial automation.
A quick background on steel.
There are four broad categories of steel. In addition to stainless, they include carbon steels, alloy steels, and tool steels. Carbon steels are the most common and evident by their dull, matte appearance, with each grade containing different percentages of carbon. Alloy steels contain a mixture of alloys such as silicon, copper, and aluminum that offer varying degrees of corrosion resistance and strength. Tool steels are hard and sought after for their heat and scrape resistance.
The darling of the family.
The fourth type, stainless steel, utilizes a mix of low carbon content coupled with no less than 10.5% chromium. This group is the shiny overachiever, offering strength and resistance to high temperatures and corrosion, as well as options for special requirements. The group is divided into five types that include ferritic, austenitic, martenistic, duplex, and precipitation hardened. In this article, we are focusing primarily on austenitic steel, which is the most common, and makes up our 300 series stainless steel shafting. Below is an in-depth look at the most common types of stainless steel used within industrial automation.
303 Stainless Steel – A blend of machinability and corrosion resistance
Type 303 stainless steel is non-magnetic and cannot be hardened by heat treatment, which makes it unsuitable for use with rolling element bearings. Its basic alloy composition is 18% chromium and 8% nickel stainless steel, with the addition of selenium or sulfur making it highly machinable. Type 303 was designed with added sulfur content to allow for improved machinability over other similar materials, but also hold good mechanical and corrosion resistant properties. While the sulfur content aids in making 303 stainless highly machinable, it also slightly decreases corrosion resistance and toughness, comparatively.
- Magnetic: No
- Hardenable: No (Limited bearing choices and reduced life)
- Machinability: High
- Weldability: Poor
- Corrosion resistance: High, but less than other types of 300 series
- Washdown environments: Not preferred
- Cost: Expensive compared to other materials
- Applications: Areas where parts need to be heavily machined