Availability

Are you able to find the particular material, grade, size and shape, by conducting a simple web-search? Availability will be influenced by many factors. Let’s assume the adage; “If you got the money and the time, you can probably get it.” is still very true. But since most often general plant maintenance is the last rung on the “Exotic Metals Food Chain”, most of us will not have the money nor the time. The global state of the raw materials, usage, cost, geography, political climate, shape, size, and condition, and perhaps most importantly, the minimum required order size required. Not necessarily in that order.

During WWII, nickel (considered one of the key ingredients in stainless steel) was in short supply and was being rationed. Metallurgical engineers discovered that they could recreate stainless grades, with similar properties by substituting cheaper elements, like manganese and nitrogen for the more expensive nickel. It was a case of: “live with a little less performance from these modified grades or, have no stainless at all.”

Similarly, a screw machine shop driven by production, speed, and cost, may specify free-machining grades of stainless for which they are willing to sacrifice a bit of performance for processing speed. Those grades may have been treated by adding a mineral element that allows the tooling to pass through the steel more easily than would be possible with a non-treated grade. The addition of that mineral may not contribute to the strength or corrosion resistance or weldability of the steel. It has been added simply to promote machinability. In fact, the addition may diminish other key properties of the steel. Recent innovations have developed free-machining grades that still have high mechanical properties. Note that treated grades may only exist in the form that is used by the most screw machine shops. Such as bar only, no sheet or plate.

-Howard Thomas, October 4th 2017

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