Stainless Tools: Advantages and Key Differences
The great diversity of hand tools that we all use, whether at home, in the workshop, in industry or the various trades and professions, gives us unbeatable usefulness. Think of the indispensability of a combination wrench, a parrot beak clamp or pliers of any kind for a variety of tasks that our hand is unable to perform.
The vast majority of these excellent tools are made of carbon steel, a highly resistant material that guarantees a long service life. A unique range of devices for specific purposes, such as insulated tools, has also been achieved using special steel treatments or coatings.
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However, there are work environments where the use of carbon steel hand tools is not recommended, or over time can present problems. Precisely, these problems arise when carbon steel begins to show its disadvantages, which are:
These disadvantages are unacceptable when using these tools in industries such as automotive, marine, construction, aeronautics, chemical, energy, electronics, oil, nuclear, etc. Pollution and oxidation cannot be allowed in the pharmaceutical, food, biotechnological or medicinal industries, nor in demanding environments such as clean rooms, laboratories, water treatment plants, and wet or underwater locations, for example.
In these environments, the use of a conventional screwdriver or hammer can ruin complicated steps that ensure sterility and environmental integrity in sensitive manufacturing operations.
Therefore, the use of appropriate hand tools to install and maintain processing line machinery in particular environments is an essential element of today's good manufacturing practices in critical areas.
It is in the face of these demands that technology has recently advanced with the design of the same hand tools that we know but built with a material that is by no means unknown to us, but which is capable of coping with these difficult environments: stainless steel.
So, before going any further, let's start with the obvious question. What is stainless steel?
In the early 20th century, metallurgists observed that chromium had a greater attraction to oxygen than iron, so they added a low amount of chromium to steel.
Studies have shown that when at least 10% chromium is added, it binds with the oxygen to form a solid transparent layer on the surface of the steel, which prevents rust by eliminating the possibility of oxidation.
Hence, stainless steel is a low carbon alloy containing at least 10% chromium to resist corrosion. Contact with oxygen forms a passive (i.e., non-reactive) surface film of chromium oxide that does not contain iron, unlike ferrous surfaces laminated in chromium.
Moreover, when scratches damage the passive film, wear or dents, the oxygen in the air can regenerate it.
Stainless steel is a material of enduring beauty, as it also resists the corrosive attack of many acids. It has strength and toughness at both ends of the temperature scale and yet can be manufactured in complicated shapes for many uses. Due to this exceptional versatility, stainless steel deserves careful consideration for any product requiring one or more of the following properties:
Stainless steels have more than 250 kinds that are divided according to their crystalline structure. All are developed to consolidate the chemical and mechanical properties required by specific customer applications. Thus we have classes of steels that are more resistant to corrosion while others that are more resistant to traction. There are also those types that have harder materials than others.