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The Importance of Choosing the Correct Grade When Buying Stainless Steel Fasteners

March 20, 2018

Correctly graded stainless steel fasteners are employed on countless engineering projects. Think of them as the chromium and nickel-alloyed nuts and bolts that tether everything, large and small, in the modern world. Manufactured from these differently graded metals, a purchasing engineer can't just pick any old box of stainless steel bolts. No, even if those anchoring candidates are sized properly, there's still that important grading question to solve.

Grading Appraisal: Measuring Stainless Steel Performance

Essentially, the selection process makes sure the graded stainless steel alloy matches a selected application. Already, the purchasing policy has picked an appropriate shank diameter and head width. Now, consolidating this size-based approach, the sharp-eyed project manager is looking at the available grades of stainless steel. Chosen correctly, the strengthened alloy will support a known load. Chosen wrongly, however, the anchoring bolts or screws will fracture and snap under that load. Again, even if these fasteners employ the broadest cross-sectional shafts and toughest bolting heads, it just won't matter, not if the material grade doesn't suit that application.

Balancing Cost against Material Performance

Let's underscore this engineering rule. Even if the stainless steel fastener is as large as a man's fist, that stout form factor cannot assure a nominated load-bearing feature, not if the alloy is manufactured from substandard materials. Do keep buying costs low, but never take shortcuts. The chosen stainless steel base must physically support the project-assessed mechanical load. Furthermore, the anchoring elements must provide enough nickel and chromium power to offset the environmental conditions encountered here. In other words, the loading factors we've covered are accompanied by a whole host of secondary threats. Among them, the corrosive disposition in and around the installation area requires a pinch of design counteracting shrewdness. In particular, the selected stainless steel type must defeat the outdoor elements, especially the rain. Acids, alkalis, toxic chemicals, catalysing compounds and fuels, the stainless steel bolts and nuts cannot succumb to these nasty environmental pitfalls.

Grade 304 stainless steel is tough, but it's not as materially-obstinate as 316 stainless. Alloyed with nickel and molybdenum, this austenitic high-performer resists extremely corrosive applications while providing enhanced mechanical strength. Arguably, 18-8 stainless is the affordable choice, the smart option that fits most structural considerations. However, 18-8 alloys rust when they're used in salt-heavy areas. That oxidizing effect undermines material strength, so the saved expenditure is now endangering coupling integrity. Over time, the less-than-capable alloy will be eaten away until it fails. Avoid material failures and supplement dimensional robustness, all by selecting the correct grade of stainless steel, a feature that assures mechanical and material suitability.

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