When two steel metals look alike, it is difficult to tell which is which. That is the problem most people have with surgical steel and stainless steel. Here, we’re going to explore the difference between the two and help you eliminate any questions you might have had. The importance of knowing the difference is so that you’re able to make practical applications for each type of steel.
Is surgical steel the same as stainless steel?
Off the top, the answer to this question is not that straight forward. Let’s look at both and see what sets each type of steel apart.
Stainless steel: stainless steel is a steel alloy comprising 10 percent chromium. Other elements included, such as copper, titanium, and nickel. The other non-metal compound found in stainless steel is carbon. The chromium present is what makes stainless steel corrosion resistant as it prevents oxidation from taking place. The reason why that matters is that if oxidation happens, the steel is going to rust.
In other conditions, stainless steel is going to rust, for example, when exposed to certain types of chemicals. One such case is when it is repeatedly exposed to saltwater; it will eventually corrode.
Surgical steel: this type of steel is a variety of stainless steel; the difference is that surgical steel gets used in biomedical situations. Other names for it are surgical stainless. Though it is ideally stainless steel, which gives it an edge is that it is more corrosion resistant as it needs to withstand getting used in biomedical contexts. You don’t want to use a surgical blade with the potential of rusting in any setting.
There are three types of surgical steel. There is the martensitic 440 and 420 stainless and 316 stainless. These are the least corrosive types of stainless steel available in the market.
What’s the difference between surgical steel and stainless steel?
Corrosion-resistance levels: as mentioned, surgical steel is the most corrosion-resistant type of steel there is in the market. If you want to use it for jewelry making and are keen to have something that will withstand corrosion and rust, then opt for surgical steel. You are guaranteed to get more service out of it.
Pricing: Because of the corrosion-resistance aspect of stainless steel, it means that you’ll have to part with a few more extra dollars for this kind of steel. It is thus more expensive than stainless steel in all contexts unless the latter is plated with precious metal.
Uses: surgical steel speaks for itself when it comes to where it gets used. It also includes dental and orthopedic implants, not just medical tools. As for stainless steel, it is more used for cookware and kitchen appliances. It can also get used in aerospace and automotive industries and in some cases, even in construction. Note that stainless steel is different from carbon steel and tool steel that get used for general use.
Pros and cons of stainless steel
Pro: stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for kitchen appliances, cutlery, and cookware. They can give you a lifetime of service when handled with care.
Con: There are chemicals such as those contained in saltwater that corrode stainless steel. You, therefore, have to be mindful of the kind of water you use to clean your kitchen utensils.
Pros and cons of surgical steel
Pro: Ideal for medical use as it is the most corrosion-resistant kind of stainless steel there is. It is also great for when making jewelry as it can withstand the test of time.
Con: It is the most expensive kind of stainless steel there is in the market. Therefore, the jewelry you purchase will cost more.
Types of stainless steel
There are three categories of stainless steel in the market. Let’s look at each one with examples.
- Austenitic Stainless Steels: This steel has high chromium content as compared to other steel alloys and thus is more corrosion-resistant. It is also non-magnetic. Austenitic stainless steel is indeed the most used stainless steel in the market.
Common types of austenitic stainless steel include Grade 304 stainless steel. This steel is by far the strongest is corrosion resistance and can withstand high temperatures. The other type is Grade 316 stainless steel. It is not as strong or as corrosion resistant as 304, but it tends to stand against chloride better with regards to corrosion.
- Ferritic Stainless Steels: Ferritic stainless steel is as standard as austenitic; the difference is that it is magnetic. Compared to other stainless steel, it is also cheaper because it has lower nickel content.
Common types of ferritic stainless steel include Grade 430. It doesn’t stand up as well as austenitic stainless steel, but it stands up best against nitric acid. The other type is Grade 434 is stronger than 430 and also can withstand higher temperatures than Grade 316 stainless steel.
- Martensitic Stainless Steels: This type of is the least commonly used because its corrosion resistance is lower than the other types of steel alloy. Martensitic is, however, the hardest of them all and gets used in circumstance that requires such strength. When in use, a protective layer of polymer coating gets added.
Common types of martensitic stainless steel include Grade 420. This steel is what gets used in making cutlery. It can stand up well to water, some alkalis, food compounds, and mild acids.
Surgical steel falls under stainless steel, and thus, one can say it is part of the whole stainless steel family. Other types of stainless steel get used in everyday things, construction, and even jewelry making. If you want to make jewelry from scratch, at least you now have an idea for what kind of stainless steel to reach for. Overall, in jewelry making, the most commonly used stainless steel is Grade 316 stainless steel.