Are you looking for a tough metal wire material for your next project?
The first metal that pops into your head is probably stainless steel. Stainless steel wire is without a doubt, one of the most durable metals on the market today.
But there’s more than one type of stainless steel wire to choose from.
One can divide stainless steel alloys into roughly 5 main groups. Each group of steel consists of a different mix of metal alloys offering different benefits and durability. Using the wrong type of steel wire for your project can cause serious problems.
You must also consider the strength, gauge, and machinability of the wire. The size and durability depend on your wire needs.
How do you choose the right stainless steel wire for your next project? You start with this guide. Here’s how you can find the perfect steel wire for your project needs.
5 Main Types of Stainless Steel Wire
The metal alloys that make up stainless steel can vary. Different combinations of metal alloys allow the steel wire to become stronger, magnetic, softer, and so forth. Here’s a closer look at each one.
1. Austenitic Steel
This type of stainless steel wire is the most common. Austenitic steel is not magnetic and contains low amounts of carbon and higher amounts of chromium and nickel. In some uses, austenitic steel can become magnetic for certain uses.
Its benefits include resistance to corrosion, formability, and availability.
2. Martensitic Steel
Martensitic stainless steel consists of a high amount of chromium followed by lower amounts of nickel and carbon. It has a greater amount of carbon compared to other steel types. It’s also the rarest type of stainless steel.
Martensitic steel is strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant. Its composition makes it one of the best options for fabrication. You can find it in applications ranging from medical tools to mechanics.
3. Ferritic Steel
Ferritic stainless steel is the second most popular type of steel. This type is magnetic steel consists of high levels of chromium (10-30%) and lower amounts of carbon. Its strength makes it an ideal choice for smaller lighter applications.
Like most stainless steel, ferritic steels are resistant to corrosion and oxidation.
4. Duplex Steel
Duplex steel is a mix of ferritic and austenitic stainless steels. This stainless steel is much stronger than either ferritic or austenitic and is tougher than ferritic steels. They also resist oxidation, stress corrosion cracking (SCC), and have a lower alloy content.
5. Precipitation Hardening Steels
Precipitation hardening steels consist of high levels of chromium and nickel. This gives them a mix of properties from martensitic and austenitic types of steel. Precipitation hardening steels are strong and corrosion-resistant.
Using Stainless Steel Wire
What are you using the stainless steel wire for? Your project will ultimately determine which type of stainless steel wire will be the best.
There are 3 major details to consider regarding your project that will help you find the right type of wire. If you have any questions, your stainless steel wire suppliers can help you out.
Are you using the steel wire to hold a heavy object? You’ll need to determine how strong the wire needs to be.
Stainless steel wire has different levels of tensile strength meaning some are stronger than others. If strength is a must, consider ferritic stainless steel wires. Their higher level of strength makes them ideal for hauling heavy loads.
Grade 420 stainless steel is one of the strongest types of steel. For extra strength, it undergoes a strengthening process of hardening and stress relieving making it 3 times stronger. A thinner wire of 420 stainless steel will be stronger or just as strong as a thicker wire made from a weaker type of stainless steel.
Where do you plan to use the wire? Will it be indoors at a consistent temperature? Or will you be using it for applications in high heat situations, like welding?
Most stainless steel wire has a high melting point making them ideal for almost any application. There are, however, specific types of steel designed to resist melting and oxidation at high temperatures of around 2,000° Fahrenheit.
If you’ll be using the wire for any heat treatment, like cooking, you must choose steel with a high melting temperature. Stainless steel wire with a lower melting point will not hold up to high heat applications.
Chemical & Corrosion Resistance
The third consideration is will you need stainless steel resistant to chemicals. Yes, stainless steel resists oxidation or corrosion from many liquids but not all. Some types of stainless steel wire will resist chloride-based, salt, and acidic chemicals better than others.
If you’re using steel wire for cooking or other chemical applications, austenitic stainless steel is the best option. Grades 304 and 316, for example, have better corrosion resistance than many other types of stainless steel.
Machinability of Steel Wire
The machinability of stainless steel refers to how easy or difficult it is to cut the metal with a blade. Some steel requires special tools and expertise to cut. For some, this can be an issue and an extra expense if you don’t have the right tools.
If you don’t need the strongest form of stainless steel wire, consider lower grades that are easier to cut. If you’re using the wire for fencing, for example, you will want a strong, durable steel but easy enough to cut with manual tools.
Ductility & Formability of Steel Wire
The ductility and formability of steel refer to how bendable the wire will be. You’ll find some types of stainless steel easy to bend into shapes while others are not. If you need a strong yet flexible type of steel, look for or ask about the steel’s ductility and formability.
Choose the Right Stainless Steel Wire Today
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when choosing stainless steel wire for a project. The different types, strengths, and resistance of stainless steel make stainless steel more versatile for almost any application. Now that you know what to look for, you can choose the perfect stainless steel wire for your next project.