Stainless steels are high-alloy steels that have superior corrosion resistance than other steels because they contain large amounts of chromium. Stainless steels can contain anywhere from 4-30 percent chromium, however most contain around 10 percent. Stainless steels can be divided into three basic groups based on their crystalline structure: austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic. Another group of stainless steels known as precipitation-hardened steels are a combination of austenitic and martensitic steels. Below are the general compositional contents of these groups. Grades are:
Ferritic grades: Ferritic stainless steels are magnetic non heat-treatable steels that contain chromium but not nickel. They have good heat and corrosion resistance, in particular sea water, and good resistance to stress-corrosion cracking. Their mechanical properties are not as strong as the austenitic grades, however they have better decorative appeal.
Martensitic grades: Martensitic grades are magnetic and can be heat-treated by quenching or tempering. They contain chromium but usually contain no nickel, except for 2 grades. Martensitic steels are not as corrosive resistant as austenitic or ferritic grades, but their hardness levels are among the highest of the all the stainless steels.
Austenitic grades: Austenitic stainless steels are non-magnetic non heat-treatable steels that are usually annealed and cold worked. Some austenitic steels tend to become slightly magnetic after cold working. Austenitic steels have excellent corrosion and heat resistance with good mechanical properties over a wide range of temperatures. There are two subclasses of austenitic stainless steels: chromium-nickel and chromium-manganese-low nickel steels. Chromium-nickel steels are the most general widely used steels and are also known as 18-8(Cr-Ni) steels. The chromium nickel ratio can be modified to improve formability; carbon content can be reduced to improve intergranular corrosion resistance. Molybdenum can be added to improve corrosion resistance; additionally the Cr-Ni content can be increased.