Stainless Steel Sheet: From Kitchen Equipment to Skyscrapers

Uncategorised / Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Stainless steel sheet refers to thin metal sheets of stainless steel up to 6mm thick. Pieces thicker than 6 mm (0.25 in) are generally referred to as plate, though this definition can vary from supplier to supplier and also in different countries. At Metal Supplies, we have stainless steel sheet available in a variety of grades and finishes, typically stocking grades 3CR12, T 304 and the most popular grade, T 316.

For details of the available sizes that we stock please click here, but do give us a call if you require a sheet product with dimensions that are not listed as it is highly likely that we will be able to source it for you with a fast turnaround and at a very competitive price. We also offer a range of cutting, fabrication and finishing services for the whole range of stainless steel sheet products. These can be viewed via the Services heading in the menu at the top of the page.

A multitude of uses

Stainless steel sheet products are used in both consumer and industrial applications where the corrosion resistance, heat resistance or design characteristics of stainless steel are required. Sheet is often used in the manufacture of factory equipment and assembly line machinery for fabricating other products, and because of its attractive appearance, it is also used for its aesthetic appeal in construction.

Often seen in lift doors and on escalators, stainless steel sheet’s excellent corrosion resistance makes it an ideal material for creating exterior decorations and ornaments on buildings. Corrosion resistance is also a major reason why stainless sheet is widely used for chemical processing, water treatment and brewing. Other applications of this highly-versatile sheet metal are in consumer products, such as kitchen appliances/equipment and also in medical equipment, where a clean and sterile environment needs to be maintained.

aluminium sheet

Stainless steel sheet being used for brewing, commercial kitchens and steel drum manufacture.

There are some key questions to consider when choosing which grade of stainless steel sheet to use:

  • What level of strength is required at specific service and ambient temperatures?

  • How crucial is the sheet’s ability to resist corrosion, sulfidation and oxidation?

  • How crucial is its ability resist abrasion or erosion?

  • What metal fabrication techniques will be involved?

  • How will the stainless steel sheet to be cleaned?

To help match the answers to these questions with the various stainless steel grades available here at Metal Supplies, we’ve outlined the characteristics of each grade here along with information about the different stainless steel finishes available.

Stainless Steel Sheet Production

Stainless steel sheet and strip products, like stainless steel plate, are flat-rolled and can be sold in any of several conditions. Before the product can be used for any corrosion-resistant application, it must be heat treated to soften the steel (a process called annealing) and also descaled or pickled with acid which removes the surface oxide giving the resulting metal a white appearance. This product is referred to as white band or hot-rolled, annealed and pickled (HRAP) coil. Producing cold-rolled sheet involves further processing with the aim of achieving tighter tolerances, better surface quality and reduced thickness. Unlike carbon sheet and strip, the vast majority of stainless steel sheet and strip is sold as a cold-rolled product.

There are four basic production steps regardless of grade, final width and thickness:

  1. The melting and refining of stainless steel
  2. The casting of flat-rolled slabs
  3. Hot-rolling the slabs
  4. If specified, cold-rolling the hot-rolled products.

For certain applications, stainless steel sheet needs to undergo additional finishing processes, such as temper rolling, which improves the metal’s surface condition (without reducing thickness) after annealing, pickling and cold-rolling stages.

Stainless steel sheet pickling tanks

Non-standard finish: Bright annealing

As previously mentioned, where required, stainless steel sheet is available in a number of rolled (unpolished) and polished finishes. Though not a standard finish, some stainless steel producers also offer a bright annealed finish which gives the sheet a shiny mirror-like appearance. This surface is often required for architectural applications and for other uses where a highly reflective surface is desired. After cold-rolling and annealing the sheet in a controlled atmosphere furnace, the mirror effect is typically achieved through a single light skin pass through a cold mill over highly polished rolls, but additional millwork (such as grinding the surface at an intermediate gauge) may also be required.

Stainless Steel Foil Sheet

Foil, which is the thinnest of flat-rolled stainless steel products (as thin as 0.13 mm / 0.005 inches) is produced by further reducing already cold-rolled material in a cold-rolling mill that is specifically tooled to achieve the required thinness. The mills employed by producers of foil are of the same type as those used by producers of cold-rolled stainless steel sheet and strip, the difference being the size and speed of rolls used along with the number of extra passes the material undergoes during processing.  Foil is used for specialised applications: substrates for catalytic converters, for example.  Because of the additional finishing processes required to produce foil products, stainless steel foil tends to command a higher price.

To speak to our expert team about any of our stainless steel sheet products and associated cutting and finishing services, or to obtain our latest prices, call us today on 0800 021 70 10 or email: sales@metalsupplies.com