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Stainless steel is often referred to as rust-free steel in everyday language, which is not entirely true. In fact, stainless steel is the generic term for alloy and non-alloy steels with a high degree of purity that are melted in a special way. In high-purity steels, for instance, components such as aluminum or silicon are removed. Stainless steels are characterized by a uniform response to heat treatment. Depending on the alloy, they exhibit different properties in terms of corrosion resistance or hardness. Common alloy elements are chromium, nickel, molybdenum, titanium, or niobium.
Among the high-alloy stainless steels containing at least 10.5 % chromium, a distinction is made between ferritic, martensitic and austenitic steels (depending on the microstructure), whereby austenitic Cr-Ni steels form the largest group. If ferritic steels with a low chromium content (such as those used in container or vehicle construction) are used, the martensitic stainless steels are characterized by high strength and are made into items such as knives. Austenitic steels are very resistant to corrosion and easy to process. Stainless steels get their resistance to corrosion from a passive layer of chromium oxide, which is formed in many different media.
One widely used stainless type is 1.4301; a Cr-Ni steel that is characterized by good resistance to corrosion and extremely good weldability. 1.4404 (CrNi Mo steel) offers a slightly higher level of resistance to corrosion; this steel is an austenitic stainless steel that withstands the increased demands and pressures placed on it.
Be it in automotive construction, the medical technology sector, chemical apparatus engineering, for prototypes, prototype tools, surgical instruments, small series or individual pieces — stainless steel and laser melting combine to make complex geometries a reality, while also being cost effective.