Manufacturing Stainless Steel Blanks

Some jobs do not require stock steel fixtures or tools. Sometimes, a custom job is needed for the best possible product. In those cases, stainless steel blanks are needed from which the individual can shape the object needed, be it a name tag, a key, a tool, or even an automotive part. Knowing how steel blanks are made can help an individual select the right steel grade for his or her particular need.

Alloys
Steel is a metal alloy made up of iron and carbon. Regular carbon steel has a higher percentage of iron with carbon making up between 0.2% and 2.1% of its content, making it a very low carbon alloy. Stainless steel is made stronger and more corrosion resistant through the addition of chromium. Chromium makes up a minimum of 10.5% of stainless steel blanks, giving it much greater resistance to rust through exposure to air and moisture. Added nickel also prevents anything made out of a stainless steel blank from rusting like its carbon equivalent.

Melting the Raw Ingredients
In the manufacture of stainless steel blanks, first the metal itself must be made. The raw materials of iron ore, chromium, nickel and silicon are melted together at extremely high temperatures for a long period of time. Special care must be taken to achieve the right balance of iron to the other elements. Too low an iron percentage, and the steel will not be strong enough; too low a chromium percentage and the steel will be more prone to corrosion and rust.

Steel Grades
Any difference in the chemical composition of the steel in its initial combination stage can change the grade of the steel and determine its usefulness for different finished products. The Society of Automotive Engineers and the American Iron and Steel Institute evaluates steel and assigns it a designation; there are even special grades that reflect the process by which the steel was made. Stainless steel has dozens of different designations but the most common are the 300 series and the 400 series. 300 series steels are made of a chromium nickel alloy, while the 400 series designates lower nickel contents and higher carbon. Most general use comes from the 300 series while 400 grade steel is more formable.

Making Blanks
Stainless steel blanks are produced from the various grades of steel, heated and rolled into solid shapes. From there the steel must be treated to ensure strength and ductility through controlled heating and cooling. This relieves internal stresses and makes it pliable, but any variation in the temperature guide can greatly affect how the steel performs. The steel is next bathed in a nitric-hydrofluoric acid to descale any buildup on the steel’s surface, after which it is cut into blanks and finished with appropriate surfacing techniques. The surface may be buffed or sandblasted to achieve the preferred look, before it is sold as a blank.

Stainless Steel Blank
The finished stainless steel blank can then be used in whatever way the company or individual chooses. They may be cut into jewelry or military tags and etched with insignia, names, or ranks. Or they may be shaped into one of a kind custom cutlery or fitted to a specific mechanical piece.