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Posted 1 December 2002.

The last issue of Australian Stainless contained an overview of coated abrasives and guidelines for achieving the desired surface finish. This technical series continues with a comparison of grit size and hardness. Read Part 1. Read Part 3.

Early versions of abrasive sheets and rolls were made by sprinkling naturally occurring grit, such as sand or emery, onto cloth or paper coated with animal hide glue. The resulting 'sandpaper' was used for surface finishing in woodwork or preparing a surface for paint or varnish. Because the application of the grit was random the product soon became dull and lost its cut.

Not long after the development of paper products, the flexible emery cloth roll made its appearance in metal working workshops as a standard tool for rust removal and light finishing. By contrast, solid bonded grinding wheels were developed for heavy stock removal in foundries.

3 Elements: Backing, Bond and Grain
Modern coated abrasives allow stock removal up to 30 times faster than with a bonded grinding wheel. This superior performance has been brought about by improvements to all three elements of coated abrasives: backing, bond and grain.

Backing
The type of backing used sets the basic design parameters, being: strength, safety, shape, geometry, tolerance and coolant resistance.

Paper - available in various weights up to 300 gsm (grams per square metre) in widths up to 1650mm.

Cloth - cotton, polyester or a mixture, in widths up to 1550mm.

Fibre - 0.7mm (30 thou) vulcanised fibre.

Combination - linen scrim cloth plus paper in widths up to 1000mm.

Polyester film - flexible consistent thickness.

Bond
Natural glues can be used for the matrix supporting the abrasive grain but modern abrasives generally use synthetic thermosetting resins which are stronger, tougher and more heat resistant.

Grain
Abrasive grain provides the cutting edges for surface generation. Common types are:

> Aluminium oxide AI203 available with various surface treatments
> Silicon carbide SiC
> Zirconia Zr02
> Ceramic aluminium oxide SG (seeded gel).

The important characteristics of grain are hardness, friability, toughness and shape.

The graph below shows the hardness of selected materials including abrasives.


Relative Comparison of Grit Size
The selection of the correct grit size and sequence is vitally important in achieving the desired surface finish. The most common grading system in use today is the FEPA or 'P' series (Federation of European Producers of Abrasives).

However, certain products made in the US or Japan may be graded differently. Equivalents are provided in Table 1.

Abrasive Production
The majority of abrasive manufacturers employ a reel to reel process to combine the backing, adhesive bond and grit into an efficient cutting tool.

As shown below, he grain is propelled into the wet adhesive by means of an electrostatic force. This critical part of the manufacturing process ensures a sharp, long lasting product. In order to further secure the abrasive grain, an additional coat of adhesive, known as a 'size' coat, is applied and the whole product is dried and cured. Certain products (called multi-bond or super-sized) have a further coating applied in order to minimise heat build up and subsequent welding action. This feature is particularly important in the case of stainless steel grinding because non-oxidised steels are very reactive at interface grinding temperatures and they combine readily with the aluminium oxide grain. This phenomenon is visible as a silvery sheen on the surface of an abrasive belt. Once the grain has been 'capped' with metal it can perform no further cutting action and merely increases frictional heat and subsequent degradation.


Using Abrasives Economically

There are a number of factors to be considered to obtain best value from coated abrasives. If obtaining a specified, repeatable finish is an important consideration it may be most economical to limit the abrasive belt to a set amount of polishing, for example a certain number of metres of coil. If specific finish is not a criteria the abrasive can be used to the very end of its life. Saving time or power usage and utilising the most technically advanced product can be as significant overall as the amount of abrasive consumed.

 

Table 1 - Relative Comparison of Grit Size

Particle size inches Particle size microns All product other than emery Emery
Grading system Comparable grit symbol Polishing paper Cloth
CAMI FEPA
0.00026 6.5 1200 - - 4/0 -
0.00035 9.0 - - - - -
0.00036 9.2 1000 - - 3/0 -
0.00047 12.0 - - - - -
0.00048 12.2 800 - - - -
0.00059 15.0 - - - - -
0.00060 15.3 - P1200 - - -
0.00062 16.0 600 - - 2/0 -
0.00071 18.3 - P1000 - - -
0.00077 19.7 500 - - 0 -
0.00079 20.0 - - - - -
0.00085 21.8 - P800 - - -
0.00092 23.6 400 - 10/0 - -
0.00098 25.0 - - - - -
0.00100 25.75 - P600 - - -
0.00112 28.8 360 - - - -
0.00118 30.0 - P500 - - -
0.00137 35.0 - P400 - - -
0.00140 36.0 320 - 9/0 - -
0.001575 40.0 - - - - -
0.00158 40.5 - P360 - - -
0.00172 44.0 280 - 8/0 1 -
0.00177 45.0 - - - - -
0.00180 46.2 - P320 - - -
0.00197 50.0 - - - - -
0.00204 52.5 - P280 - - -
0.00209 53.5 240 - 7/0 - -
0.00217 55.0 - - - - -
0.00228 58.5 - P240 - - -
0.00230 60.0 - - - - -
0.00254 65.0 - P220 - - -
0.00257 66.0 220 - 6/0 2 -
0.00304 78.0 180 P180 5/0 3 -
0.00363 93.0 150 - 4/0 - Fine
0.00378 97.0 - P150 - - -
0.00452 116.0 120 - 3/0 - -
0.00495 127.0 - P120 - - -
0.00550 141.0 100 - 2/0 - Medium
0.00608 156.0 - P100 - - -
0.00749 192.0 80 - 0 - Coarse
0.00768 197.0 - P80 - - -
0.01014 260.0 - P60 - - -
0.01045 268.0 60 - 1/2 - -
0.01271 326.0 - P50 - - -
0.01369 351.0 50 - 1 - Ex. Coarse
0.01601 412.0 - P40 - - -
0.01669 428.0 40 - 1-1/2 - -
0.02044 524.0 - P36 - - -
0.02087 535.0 36 - 2 - -
0.02426 622.0 - P30 - - -
0.02488 638.0 30 - 2-1/2 - -
0.02789 715.0 24 - 3 - -
0.02886 740.0 - P24 - - -
0.03530 905.0 20 - 3-1/2 - -
0.03838 984.0 - P20 - - -
0.05148 1320.0 16 - 4 - -
0.05164 1324.0 - P16 - - -
0.06880 1764.0 - P12 - - -
0.07184 1842.0 12 - 4-1/2 - -

Words by Charles Fenton. Charles E. Fenton is Managing Director of Kongspor Abrasive Technologies, Australia. The next article will look at specific finishes and their generation using coated abrasives.

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 23, December 2002.


Posted 1 December 2003

Australian-made weighing technology is the first choice for global giant Caterpillar Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.

Local firm Transcale, designers and manufacturers of electronic weighing equipment specifically for the mining and transport industries, exports its equipment worldwide to over 11 countries in North and South America, Southern Africa and South East Asia.

Transcale's focus on the mining sector means that cutting edge technology needs to be protected from some of the harshest environments in the world. Extremes of heat and clod, record rainfalls, drought, high salt or other corrosive minerals are just a few of the considerations in the design process. Transcale's equipment is housed in stainless steel enclosures.

Over the last six years Transcale has used both 'off the shelf' boxes from companies such as ASSDA member B & R Enclosures, and custom-built stainless steel enclosures. One of the custom-built enclosures manufactured by MT Sheet Metal in Archerfield, Brisbane uses a 316 N4 brush finish stainless steel supplied to MT by ASSDA member Atlas Steels. B & R Enclosures also manufactures its high performance enclosures using grade 316 stainless with an N4 finish and fully welded body to withstand corrosive atmospheric conditions.

Both Transcale and its customers report that they are impressed with the long-term performance of these enclosures. According to Transcale, investing just a few extra dollars up front by choosing stainless for their enclosures produces tangible rewards by way of repeat business and an enhanced reputation.

For example, one of Transcale's major clients, US-based Caterpillar Inc., recently stated its intention to use Transcale truck scales exclusively for all replacement systems in its mining departments globally. Caterpillar's considerations for choice of product were quality and reliability along with appearance and after sales support.

In Australia, a major interstate line haul company has just taken delivery of a third Transcale dynamic axle weighing system, giving it a unit in Melbourne, Sydney and now Brisbane. In Brisbane the system has been installed at the Port of Brisbane facility, where salt air was one of the considerations. This system is protected from the elements by an MT Sheet Metal enclosure.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 23, December 2002.

A Style Statement in Stainless


Posted 1 December 2002

The transformation of Sydney's Walsh Bay from derelict wharves and sheds into a prestigious residential complex, complete with cultural, retail and commercial facilities, provides a stage for Australian innovation in design and technology, including some of the finest examples of stainless steel structural and architectural applications.

Located amid Sydney's landmarks -the Opera House, Circular Quay, The Rocks and Sydney Harbour Bridge -the Walsh Bay Precinct is said to be "the most significant urban renewal of heritage Sydney to be undertaken for many years."

According to developers Walsh Bay Partnership (WBP), a joint venture project between Mirvac and Transfield, "the redevelopment captures an exceptional balance between Walsh Bay's rich heritage, sympathetic contemporary design, and the vision to revitalise Walsh Bay as Australia's finest new residential address."

The development features 350 luxury apartments, 140 of them located on Pier 6f7, one of the five "finger wharves" constructed between 1906 and 1922 to serve Sydney's expanding commercial shipping activity. But the area's history goes back much further: Walsh Bay was one of Sydney's first industrial ports, dating back to 1820. Like many other city ports around the world, Walsh Bay ceased operations in the '70s and by the late '90s much of the area was unused and neglected.


New Technology Preserves Authentic Feel
WBP was formed in '97 to undertake restoration, with an emphasis on conservation strategies such as salvaging the old hardwood timbers and historical artefacts. Over 80% of the original buildings are being retained and the style of new construction is required to evoke and interpret Walsh Bay's rich heritage. Preserving its historic appeal, unique operable louvres which mimic the original timber planks face the 200m long refurbished pier. These are made from aluminium and supported by grade 316 stainless steel brackets. The louvres pivot on stainless steel supports, allowing them to withstand winds up to 130krnlh. As a safety measure, they close automatically if the weather worsens. They were designed by Architectural Glass Projects Pty Ltd, a Sydney firm which specialises in building components such as glass facades, operable louvres, balustrading and specialised glazing.

 

Stainless to Resist Sea Spray
To take best advantage of its Sydney Harbour location, a marina with private boat moorings accessible from ground-level apartments runs along both sides of the pier and features     stainless steel steps, gates and balustrades.

Starting with the right materials and selecting the most appropriate surface finish are key factors for ensuring the quality and life-cycle of the finished project, particularly in harsh marine environments. A surface roughness (Ra) under O.SJ.Jm using 320 grit abrasives was specified for the stainless steel used in this project. Mechanical grinding was followed by electropolishing, a chemical process which smooths and levels the surface, to produce the best protection against tea staining and contamination.

Surface treatments were carried out by two ASSDA members, MME Surface Finishing and Metaglo Pty Ltd. A large proportion of the stainless steel material used was imported large extruded T and 'L' sections up to 150mm deep. MME, which has the capacity to process elements up to 6.5m long by either mechanical means or electropolishing, modified machines and developed new techniques to produce a consistent O.SJ.Jm finish throughout. Components were returned to MME after fabrication for immersion pickling and electropolishing.

An Asset for Sydney
The revitalised Walsh Bay precinct is set to become an attraction for residents and visitors when it opens next year. As well as offices and apartments, the development includes a new cultural centre, an 850 seat theatre, parks, restored bridges and walkways. A promenade will link Walsh Bay to The Rocks and Circular Quay, opening up the foreshore to the public for the first time in over a century.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 23, December 2002.


Posted 1 March 2003

Grade 316 stainless steel offers superior corrosion resistance and has become the norm for architectural applications within 5km of the coastline. Another natural use for grade 316 stainless is in boating and marine sports gear, which has to withstand the corrosive effects of salt water.

Deck fittings and equipment made in 316 stainless are stronger and more durable than most alternatives. Their lifespan is further enhanced when kept clear of salt encrustations, grease and dirt. This is facilitated by a very smooth surface which doesn't present miniscule pits and crevices where corrosion can begin.

An example of grade 316 being used to good effect is the Cannon Rod Holder by ASSDA member Emro Products. For the benefit of the non-fisherperson, a rod holder is mounted onto the side or deck of the boat to hold the fishing rod and free up both hands for other tasks.

Using several rod holders when trolling allows more lures to be placed and the area covered is increased if the holders are angled at 90 degrees to the sides of the vessel.

The Cannon is made from highly polished grade 316 stainless steel, rigorously tested to ensure a durable and reliable product. It is fully adjustable so that the rod can be positioned as desired. Being detachable it can be easily cleaned and is less vulnerable to theft.

The D locking mechanism in the base of the shaft ensures that it attaches securely and cannot be accidentally released, losing both valuable fishing equipment and the catch.

The rod holder is manufactured in two lengths, 145mm long with rubber buffers on either end and 300mm long with a pin in the end to suit a gimbal.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 24, March 2003.


Posted 1 July 2003

John Hodgkinson is mad about hams! The managing director of ASSDA member Smo-King Ovens really loves his products and is passionate about helping butchers generate more business through their use.

You may not have noticed these stainless steel ovens that are an important element of nearly every quality butcher shop in Australia. Just as you can tell a good patisserie by their éclairs, you can tell a good butcher by their smoked hams!

Of 304 stainless steel construction, Smo-King ovens are used extensively for smoking and cooking hams, bacon, roast meats, poultry, fish and a wide range of smallgoods. Cakes and pastries can also be made in one oven which can operate at temperatures high enough to allow baking.

“The 304 stainless steel ensures that the ovens are corrosion and stain resistant”, says Hodgkinson. “It also means they are very durable, easy to clean and many health and food safety authorities insist that stainless steel is used in all food processing applications if the equipment comes into contact with the food as it does in a smoke oven – plus it fulfills our requirement for high quality while still providing acceptable cost.

“I’ve been longing to make my own smoked products”, says Wally Dafter. Dafter’s Quality Meats is located in Charmhaven on the NSW Central Coast. “We have one Smo-King oven which operates at least four days a week and currently we produce 10 different types of smoked goods”, he says.

“We reckon our smoked foods are really good”, enthuses Dafter who is planning to enter them in the 2004 Royal Easter Show.

John Hodgkinson believes Smo-King ovens are about 70%-80% of the price of European ovens with similar features. “These ovens definitely allow our customers to add value to their products and their business”, says Hodgkinson.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 25, July 2003.


Posted 1 March 2003

A decor has to be unique to stand out among the trendy cafes and nightclubs in Park Road, Milton, one of Brisbane’s most fashionable locations, and it certainly has to possess the wow factor to compete with the multitude of sensory experiences which greet clubbers out to see the latest bands and DJs.

A unique interior, using stainless steel, which would wow the patrons, was the brief SOBAR NightClub owner Darren Perris gave Brisbane fabricator Klein Architectural, along with just 48 hours for concept, design and installation before opening night.

The mission was accomplished with patterned stainless surfaces to capitalise on the venue’s electric blue lighting and generate myriad shifting reflections, creating the perfect high-energy setting for the pounding beats and sinuous rhythms of the nightclub scene.

Working within a budget of around $8,000, Klein used 13 sheets of 0.9mm thick, grade 304 stainless with a 2B finish, supplied by ASSDA member Fagersta Steels, to line the bulkhead and
square columns of the bar area. This was set off with 65mm round mirror polished tube at the rear of the bulkhead.

Following straightforward fabrication using glue and screwed fixings for the skinning, a heavy metal look was achieved by gluing the heads of cup bolts over counter-sunk screws.

Stainless panels on the columns were linished horizontally in a heavy grain and customised patterning was applied to the stainless steel skins of external and interior bulkheads and corners of the columns.

The end result is a shining example of stainless steel being used artistically and functionally without compromising either purpose.

This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 24 - March 2003.


Posted 1 July 2003

Consumers expect processed foods to be tasty and nutritious, affordable and safe. To meet these expectations, food contact equipment has to be hygienic and productive.

A manufacturer’s wish list for its food processing components might read like this:

>    durable, with easy release and easy-to-clean surface
>    inert, non-toxic and non-contaminating
>    corrosion-resistant and non-degrading
>    suited to continuous, in-line sanitation and cleaning
>    impervious and non-absorbent to food products, odours, stains and colourings
>    economical, reliable and safe over its entire working life
>    temperature versatile and highly conductive, eg from cooking to cryogenic temperatures
>    smooth, seamless, one-piece construction
>    removable and replaceable
>    repairable/maintainable by existing technologies.

At first sight this seems too much to ask of any single product, but stainless steel conveyor belts fit the bill.

Unique Belting for the Food Industry
Continuous carbon steel belts were introduced into US and European bakeries in the 1920s and are today used primarily for processing baked goods. ASSDA member Sandvik launched a stainless steel belt in 1931 to withstand wet or corrosive conditions in the food and chemical industries.

The product found a foothold in the market and increasingly since the 1960s, the stainless steel belt has moved from being a simple food conveying medium to a processing platform. Now ranging in width from 200mm up to several metres and in solid or perforated forms, stainless belts are used in cooling (chilling, freezing, pastillating, freeze drying), heating (drying, roasting, blanching, steaming) and mass transfer (dehydrating, aeration, dewatering) for value added processing of foods. Stainless provides superb temperature versatility, from -200ºC (in cryo-freezing belt tunnels) up to +300ºC (high-temperature cooking tunnels). It can be continuously sanitised during operation using zoned washing boxes fitted to the lower strand of the belt.

The smooth, continuous stainless belt is also versatile in the types of food product it can convey and process – powdery, granular, fragile, bacterially-sensitive, sticky, viscous, sharp, pasty, slurry, runny, chunky, awkward, hot, oily … you name it, chances are it can be handled by the stainless belt. Accordingly, the stainless belt has found application over wide areas of wet food processing – for dairy, confectionary, meats, seafoods, pet foods, beverages, snack foods, frozen foods, fruit, vegetables and nuts.

Quality stainless belts for the food industry are solid, continuous, smooth and seamless and free of links, hinges, pins, weaves or anything that could trap food residues, dirt and bacteria.

Textured Stainless Brings Increased Efficiency

Case Study 1 - GP Graders
Melbourne-based GP Graders has captured the attention of fresh fruit packers around the world with its innovative grading and packing lines which utilize textured stainless by ASSDA member Rimex Metals.

Its machines, exported to the US, Chile, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Spain, are predominantly fabricated from stainless steel sheet and square tube, incorporating textured stainless steel sheet.

Rimex textured 6WL is used under flat conveyor belts and in ‘dead’ areas to reduce friction (wet belt adhesion) and eliminate product build up. The increased rigidity has enabled the company to reduce sheet thickness and fabrication time, which previously required labor-intensive friction reduction techniques. The end result is a lighter and more cost effective product.

GP Graders was established in 1963 to design and manufacture grading and packing equipment for the cherry, pome fruit, citrus, stone fruit and mango industries.

Case Study 2 - Tripax Engineering
Melbourne-based Tripax Engineering has been a major supplier of industrial food processing machinery in Australia for over 30 years, servicing the fresh vegetable, fruit, salad, potato, cheese, cereal/snack food, and frozen food industries and more.

Its diverse client profile ranges from large multinationals to small vegetable growers, and current export markets include the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, and Denmark.

The majority of equipment is purpose designed and manufactured. During the design process, special attention is paid to matching the type of stainless to the product type, whether sticky, wet, powdery, warm and so on. Rimex textured 6WL pattern is often selected for its low adhesion which reduces the chance of product build-up. It also provides extra strength and rigidity in vibratory conveyor equipment.

From washing equipment for the salad industry, to cheese shredders, abrasive peelers and cutting equipment, all Tripax equipment is made to food industry standards and incorporates high-grade stainless steel, food grade plastics and ancillary parts.

Serving the Australian Food Industry
The multiple benefits of stainless belt technology have assisted the development of new food products and will doubtless continue to do so.

As well as making the stainless belts, Sandvik Process Systems also designs, builds and services complete steel belt equipment. In parallel, within Australia, services in stainless steel belt technologies are available from Process Systems Services (PSS) in Sydney and Industrial Marketing Services in Melbourne, with the former having design, light fabrication and maintenance capabilities. Rimex Metals textured product is distributed by ASSDA member Fagersta Steels.

Words by Russell Jackson and Neil Lyons.

Image on left courtesy of Sandvik Steel.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 25, July 2003.


Posted 1 March 2003

Lightweight stainless steel construction has allowed the proprietor of a Tasmanian cafe to expand operations without building new brick and mortar premises.

Page’s of the Mall is a stainless steel satellite to an existing cafe located in the busy Launceston Mall. Custom built for the site, it has proved popular and profitable since opening shortly before Christmas 2002.

The client, Mark Page, approached Launceston fabricator FAME Foley Industries with a particular brief: to construct a portable cafe catering to both take-away and sit-down trade which met standard refrigeration, food preparation and hygiene requirements. The unit had to conform to local Council guidelines and match the awnings recently installed in the Mall.

PACK UP AND MOVE

The challenge was to produce a design measuring just 2m high by 1.9m wide and 5.5m long to be wheeled into Page’s main shop at night.

The design evolved over the course of a year with input from a Launceston Council architect and took two months to build. The unit unpacks to a height of 2.5m when the roof is unfolded forming wing-like canopies above the serving areas, and the sides open out to 2.8m in width.

Concealed wheels at one end allow the unit to be moved using an electric pallet lifter. It is positioned over a pit with access via a hatch to water, power and drainage.

A seating area is enclosed by stainless steel barriers clad with laminex signs arranged in a zig zag shape for strength. These are also completely portable and have lockable castors.

Inside the cafe, which has garnered the nickname ‘coffee tram’, stainless steel pie heaters, fridges and washing facilities are built in as integral parts of the unit. Fully enclosed stainless steel trolleys are used to transport supplies from the main cafe.

PRACTICAL AND ECONOMICAL

Stainless steel was chosen for the project both for its clean style and for its appropriateness to the design and usage. The construction is simultaneously lightweight and strong, allowing it to be wheeled around daily and to withstand the mall traffic. Hygiene is readily maintained with easy to clean food preparation surfaces.

Most of the unit, including framework, walls, benches and supports are made from grade 304 stainless while grade 316 is used for the roof as it is exposed to the weather. The fridges, part of Foley’s range of kitchen and bathroom ware, are made from grade 430. Stainless steel was supplied by ASSDA member Atlas Steels.

Costs compare favourably with erecting a permanent building, at around $100,000 to construct and fit out, and the concept can be adapted to suit other locations.

The article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 24 - March 2003


Posted 1 March 2003

Our three-part series on coated abrasives concludes with information on choosing the correct abrasive product for the desired finish. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SURFACE ROUGHNESS

The surface roughness of stainless steel is an important factor in determining corrosion resistance. Put simply, the smoother the finish the greater the corrosion resistance, whether in the form of sheet or coil or in welded components.

SURFACE TOPOGRAPHY

Interaction between the abrasive belt and the workpiece is affected by surface topography (micro texture). Even a surface which appears perfectly flat to the naked eye has ‘asperities’, undulations between 0.05 μm and 50μm occurring 0.5μm to 5 mm apart.

A variety of instruments are available to measure surface micro texture. They work on the principle of moving a stylus over a representative length of the surface and recording the peaks and valleys.

In Australia, surface roughness is expressed in Ra. The measurement refers to the average variations of the undulations from the average surface of the sample.

Current density & surface roughnessTYPICAL FINISHES

Three stainless steel surface finishes are typically available from the mill:

  • #1 hot rolled, annealed and pickled (Ra 3 to 6μm)
  • 2B cold rolled (Ra 0.1 to 0.2μm)
  • BA bright annealed (Ra 0.06 to 0.2μm)

From these initial surfaces, a wide variety of finishes can be achieved with coated abrasives, satinising wheels and mops, buffing wheels and polishes. The type of finish generated depends on many variables: grit sequence, lubrication, raw material quality, machine type, abrasive type, pressure applied, through feed speed, abrasive belt speed and so on.

Because of all these factors, nominally identical finishes vary slightly from one producer to another. To ensure that the desired finish is delivered, specifiers should nominate the acceptable Ra (surface roughness) range and any other factors necessary for the application (for instance viewing angle or light conditions for architectural samples).

The common ASTM designations for stainless steel surfaces such as ‘No. 4’ specify a process to achieve a finish and not attributes of the surface itself. The result can fall outside the desired
surface roughness range. The Euronorm finishes of EN 10088, provide a larger number of specifications than ASTM A480 and include some which require particular Ra values.1

Although the measurements involved are microscopic, research indicates there is significantly higher resistance to corrosion in stainless surfaces with a roughness below 0.5μm Ra.

THE ROLE OF COATED ABRASIVES

Technically advanced coated abrasives are designed to optimise production by delivering consistent, measurable surface finishes. However, the operator must select the correct abrasives and the right product sequence.

Abrasive grainPolishing is hard work and even with machine operations, it takes time and care. The absolutely essential element is to remove all the polish lines from the previous stage before moving on to a finer grit. If this isn’t done, the final and finest buffing step will be marred by a streak on the surface. Although it is often impossible to rotate the work, removal of polish lines is readily
monitored by polishing at right angles for each new step.

The first grinding step should be as fine as possible. As #80 is usually the finest practicable size, it may require some time to smooth a large weld bead. An effective grit sequence for producing a mirror finish is 80, 120, 240, 320, 400, 600 and 800 before proceeding to mops.

Steps can be missed but at the cost of longer polishing times and the risk of stray scratches. Old abrasives will give a smoother finish but the results are less predictable and are operator dependent.

Lubricants may be necessary because of the poor conductivity of stainless steel. Lubricants also remove debris, improve the quality of the finish and increase the abrasive life. When buying abrasives it is important to choose a reputable product; an unknown quality could mean stray, coarse grit with its attendant final streaks which will mar the result and be especially obvious on a ‘mirror’ finish.

When silicon carbide abrasives are used a brighter, more highly reflective finish results, albeit at the expense of belt life. Other materials, for example aluminium oxide, zirconia or ceramic
grains, will give a significantly longer belt life but will produce a different overall finish.

A quality coated abrasive belt acts as a series of single point cutting tools. Each grain has the optimum shape and angle to accomplish the cutting action and subsequent chip removal. This is partly achieved through electrostatically orienting the grains in relation to the backing during manufacture. The rest comes from choosing the correct abrasive type for the job. A cutting facet which isn’t sharp enough results in random streaks on the stainless steel surface as the grain fails to cut cleanly and drags a chip along the surface. This effect is more prevalent with aluminium oxide belts.

Roughness vs Abrasive Grit Size*

Grit
Ra(μm)
500# 0.10 - 0.25
320# 0.15 - 0.22
240# 0.30 - 0.67
180# 0.42 - 0.96
120# 0.29 - 0.81
60# 2.01

GETTING IT RIGHT

Supplying the desired surface is as much a part of filling a contract as other aspects of fabrication. There are a large number of variables which impact on the surface finish. The previous two issues of Australian Stainless presented an overview of modern coated abrasives and specific information on their composition and manufacture (issues 22 and 23). Data on the hardness of abrasive materials and a relative comparison of grit size was included.

An understanding of what makes a quality abrasive product and how coated abrasives interact with the workpiece helps ensure that the corrosion resistance and aesthetic requirements of
the client are met.

1. EN 10088-2 : 1995 specifies additional specific requirements to a ‘J’-type finish, in order to achieve adequate corrosion resistance for marine and external architectural applications. Transverse Ra < 0.5μm with clean cut surface finish.

This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 24 - March 2003. It was written by Charles E. Fenton, Managing Director of Klingspor Abrasive Technologies, Australia and Graham Sussex, ASSDA’s technical specialist.


Posted 1 March 2003

To symbolise the wetlands landscape of the Nundah area in Brisbane’s north, sculptor Daniel Della Bosca sought out materials which best convey the fluidity and reflectivity of water and the reedy texture of waterside vegetation.

His choice was 316 stainless steel, finished with specialised surface treatments, combined with translucent blue glass and earthed in basalt.

“Dancing Wall” was commissioned by Brisbane City Council (BCC) as part of its program of Suburban Centre Improvement Projects (SCIPs) which aim to improve economic vitality, focus on community life and enrich local activity. The Nundah SCIP is one of the larger projects in the scheme with a budget of $2.5m.

The artwork is a sculptural balustrade set on the hilltop at the corner of Buckland Street and Sandgate Road. Its design symbolises the local environment which was once rich in waterholes and is now the focus of BCC and Wildlife Preservation Society rehabilitation initiatives.

According to Della Bosca, the piece is not just about the past: the materials and design provide an inspirational link to the future.

The client has expressed satisfaction with the completed project, with Deputy Mayor Councillor Quinn commenting that it fulfills the Council’s objectives of “good design and creative activity to build a prosperous city.”

FABRICATION

“Dancing Wall” was fabricated by Della Bosca in grade 316 stainless plate, flat bar and rod supplied by ASSDA member Austral Wright Metals. It houses five panels of slumped and toughened ‘azurelite’ glass, made by artist Shar Moorman, internally illuminated by concealed LED lighting.

Most of the structure was fabricated from rolled stock to bring an organic quality to the design. The intricate forming was carried out by local firm BJR Metal Rolling & Pressing who specialise in rolling compound curves.

SURFACE FINISH

Integral to the design are the surface treatments which suggest reed and water textures. ASSDA member Australian Industrial Abrasives helped to investigate the products, appropriate tooling and techniques to achieve the desired effects. The finishing on larger areas was completed with a Dynacushion on a variable speed sander polisher, using abrasive belts in a range from P80 to P150 Zirconia/Alox and finishing with 3M Blue Scotchbrite. The tighter, more intricate areas were finished using a Dynafile and various contact arms and the same range of abrasive belts.

An easily achievable, cost-effective maintenance schedule using an activated surfactant cleaner quarterly and a passivation gel as required has been implemented by Brisbane City Council.

The cleaning agent removes oil, grease and dirt, and also removes surface free iron which may cause discolouration or more serious corrosion.

This step is followed by a passivation gel which chemically generates the chrome oxide passive film on the surface to enhance corrosion resistance for stainless steel installed in high corrosion environments.

ARTISTIC POSSIBILITIES

Della Bosca says the qualities of stainless steel can best be conveyed by allowing the material to interact with light. “As fabricators well know it is easy to ‘muddy’ the surface of stainless, but if care is taken and correct procedures followed, the metal can give opportunities to a surface finisher.

“I work with the stainless to allow it to speak of more than itself. This is much more important to me than trying to force a finish.”

This article featured in Australian Stainless Issue 24 - March 2003.


Posted 1 July 2003

Stainless steel combines structural strength with corrosion resistance to form a superior construction material which additionally supports a range of aesthetically pleasing finishes.

The austenitic grades, typically 304 and 316, are most common and comprise 70% to 80% of all stainless steel used. Their popularity is due to their excellent corrosion resistance and mechanical properties combined with their relatively low cost. Nevertheless, the use of stainless steel hollow sections in construction has been restricted in the past by the unavailability of product larger than 150mm x 150mm x 6mm.

Today, however, the stainless steel industry internationally has the capacity to produce hollow sections up to 300mm x 300mm OD (outside dimensions) in thicknesses up to 12.5mm, matching the size range of carbon steel.

Design Codes and Research
The new AS/NZS 4673 gives minimum design requirements for static load bearing stainless members cold formed from annealed or temper rolled materials. Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures, Part 1-4: General rules - supplementary rules for stainless steel is the draft European standard for structural stainless steel design.

According to AS/NZS 4763, pending the release of Eurocode 3 as a European standard, the National Building Code of Finland used in conjunction with the draft Eurocode 3 part 1.2: General rules, structural fire design contains the most specific guidance on fire design for stainless steel members.

Finnish supplier Stalatube Oy has a research program which has concentrated on maximising stainless steel’s advantages as a construction material – corrosion and fire resistance, mechanical strength, easy maintenance and clean aesthetic looks. Good results have been found particularly in relation to work-hardening, which can more than double yield strength, and hold the increased values at temperatures up to 800°C.

Work Hardening
Normal austenitic stainless steel grades cannot be hardened by heat treatment. Hardening is achieved through cold-forming which increases mechanical properties such as the yield and tensile strength. This is particularly desirable in situations where weight is critical, for example in vehicles, or in construction where the design is enhanced by reducing bulk. Enhanced properties result in cost savings as well. The savings potential can be roughly calculated by comparing the enhanced yield strength to the base yield strength.

According to the European standard EC3 part 1.4 the design is based on the strength values shown in the table below.

Grade 0.2% proof stress, MPa min Tensile strength MPa Elongation A80, % min
EN 1.4301 (closest to grade 304) 220 540-750 45
EN 1.4404 (closest to grade 316L) 230 530-680

40

Table 2 below compares the requirements of EC3 part 1.4 (the European standard for design) and ASTM A666 regarding proof stress (yield) and tensile strength values for austenitic stainless steel grades in cold worked state.

Strength class EN 0.2% proof stress, MPa min Tensile strength, MPa min ASTM A666 nearest temper
C700 350 700 1/8 Hard
C850 530 850 1/4 Hard

he Australian Standard AS/NZS 4673:2001
permits the mechanical properties used for designing with austenitic grades to be established by testing of the finished product, ie, instead of testing a sample of the original plate or sheet, a section of the tube can be stretched to failure in a tensile testing machine to find the proof stress and ultimate tensile strengths. This allows the benefits of increased strength due to work hardening to be included when designing structures to the Australian Standard.

 

Over a short period, austenitic stainless steel sustains its mechanical values at higher temperatures than carbon steel. The figure above shows the reduction factors for elastic-modulus for stainless and 0.2% proof stress for an austenitic stainless steel. The sustainability of mechanical values makes it possible to obtain 30 minute fire resistance in stainless steel structures without any additional fire protection. These mechanical values are accepted in Finland as the basis for fire design in structures made of austenitic stainless steel hollow sections. In Australia it is possible to take advantage of the high temperature properties of stainless steels by carrying out fire tests, or by using the results of fire tests in conjunction with appropriate calculations.

The high temperature properties of stainless steel means that in suitable locations the intumescent coatings or other fire protection materials which would need to be applied to carbon steel are not required, allowing the stainless steel framing to be exposed. This is simpler and results in a much improved appearance and could be more economical and environmentally acceptable.

Designing with Stainless Hollow Sections
The qualities of stainless steel favour lightweight, slender structures, with a modern, classy feel and futuristic overtones. The combination of higher mechanical strength at room temperature and fire resistance makes stainless suitable for glass facades and glass roofs, accessways, stairways and balcony structures. A major application area in Australia is air distribution tube in sewage treatment plants.

For those projects where structural loads are being carried and design strength is critical, structural tube with guaranteed mechanical properties can be obtained; this generally implies a minimum 0.2% proof stress of 350MPa.

Designers opting for stainless steel are discovering that there is a wide range of products on the market. For example, Stalatube’s hollow sections begin with 25mm x 25mm tubes used for decorative purposes and go up to 300mm x 300mm (or 400mm x 200mm) for heavy structures with high load-bearing requirements. Profiles above 100mm x 100mm can be manufactured to customers’ own dimensions for maximum cost effectiveness. Australian stock is generally limited to 150mm in square sections although rectangular sections to 200mm x 100mm are available. Smaller sections down to about 12.7mm are also readily available. In addition to the “direct off mill” tube external finish, which is essentially that of the 2B of HRAP strip from which the tube was manufactured, grit polished product is routinely stocked in most common sizes. The polished finish presents an attractive and cost-effective product for visually exposed building components. Grit polished surfaces not only look more attractive in appropriate applications, the finish is also such that welded joints can be blended in, giving a more finished presentation.

Image 1 A 15m high, 230m long copper wall surrounds the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. A load-bearing stainless steel frame inside the enclosure supports the copper panels. The welded frame is made of polished (grit 320) 316 austenitic stainless steel hollow sections measuring 120mm x 120mm x 5mm. Stainless steel was chosen to satisfy low maintenance requirements and to provide a surface which doesn't react with the copper.

Image 2 Nokia House, Helsinki, has a double facade with single glazing 70cm from the front wall. The double facade has many advantages. The air gap between the wall and glazing cover acts as insulation, reducing the need for heating in winter and cooling in summer. It blocks traffic noise when the internal windows are opened and allows ventilation during rainy weather and below zero temperatures.
The load-bearing structures of the double facade are made from 90mm x 45mm x 3mm austenitic hollow sections with the glass fixed on the narrow side. The dimensions were calculated to satisfy the load bearing needs whilst maintaining the deflection needed to avoid the light atmosphere required. The building is located close to both the sea and the main western suburbs of Helsinki where traffic pollution occurs. Grade 316 tubes were chosen for this harsh environment.
Architect Helin & Co Structural Design Matti Ollila & Co

Words by Pekka Yrjola. Pekka Yrjola is a Research & Development Engineer at Stalatube Oy's head office in Lahti, Finland.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 25, June 2003.


Posted 1 July 2003

Architect Jan Jensen was a consultant to Brisbane City Council on the design of the Brisbane Riverwalk, currently under construction. The walk will take pedestrians from the CBD to the inner suburb of New Farm along the river.

At this proximity to Moreton Bay, the water is brackish and the air salt-laden - it is destructive to most construction materials. Corrosion-resistant stainless steel was chosen for this landmark project to deliver the 100 year service life required by the asset owner.

The structure consists of floating pontoons, reinforced with 316 stainless steel deformed bar. There are stainless steel balustrades and light poles and a suite of stainless street furniture.

Jensen describes the process of specifying the correct finish, including gaining a theoretical understanding and producing prototypes:

The Starting Point
As a key parameter of design responsibility 'value for money' the decision to use stainless steel was an easy one. Our rationale was: "It doesn't corrode and our work is in salt-affected air; it lasts forever; it is low maintenance; it will save us money and keep on looking good."

We needed a specification to let contracts for the manufacture of street and riverscape elements. Writing a specification required describing and reproducing the manufacturing process exactly to get reliable, predictable, consistent and economic results.

Our research took us to ASSDA's timely seminar on the fifty most frequently asked questions about stainless steel, where we were able to ask about tea-staining and how to avoid it.

Then we talked to manufacturers. The answers to our questions about surface roughness and the finishes available made us realise there were variations within the industry and we needed to define our requirements with scientific precision. Specifically, we needed to know the surface roughness (Ra) in microns (µm), as the labels 2B, No. 4 and so on refer to the method used to achieve the finish and comprise an Ra range.

Building Prototypes
We concluded that to write our specification we needed to build the product first to set it within the theory and the 'standard range of common industry manufacturing practice'. We commissioned prototypes of a balustrade and a light pole then the furniture suite for the Riverwalk: seats, bollards, bins, lights, sign posts and drinking fountain.

Forge Brothers Engineering produced the prototypes. It drew on the expertise of ASSDA and its members University of Queensland Materials Performance, 3M Australia, Heat & Control, Condamine Wellscreens, Ronstan International as well as AbrasiveFlex and Dana Ridge.

We soon realised that:

> The common system of finish grades is not a measure of surface roughness, eg the Ra of No. 4 finish products measures anywhere from 0.45 to 0.8µm depending on product form and supplier. Typical Ra for sheet is 0.3 to 0.4µm while it is not unusual for other products such as flat bar to be rougher. Thick plate, thin plate (sheet), tube, flat bar and hollow bar are manufactured by different processes which produce different finishes. The surface finish changes in hot rolled plate and gets smoother as the plate reduces in thickness.

> Ra meters were not commonly used in the industry although their use is growing.

> All abrasives aren't the same. Wear and tear and pressure make a difference. We tested non-woven abrasive belts, Trizact belts, air wheels and silicon carbide.

> The electro-polishing industry uses a variety of chemical baths and voltages.

Towards a Specification
In arriving at our specification we learned:

> Best practice calls for a finish below 0.5µm combined with electro-polishing to eliminate sulphides and increase the chromium content of the exposed surface.

> Wet blasting at low air pressure levels with a water and abrasive bead mix provides a consistent surface finish and economically removes surface variations ready for electro-polishing. This avoids the unexpected rise in roughness which can occur when electro-polishing removes microscopic peaks, previously flattened by mechanical polishing, to uncover underlying pits.

The proof that our specification works can be seen on the Brisbane River. After twelve months in a salt air environment our prototypes are still looking clean and new.

Words by Jan Jensen.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 25, July 2003.


Posted 1 July 2003

The long-term cost effectiveness of stainless steel makes it a worthwhile proposition even though the initial outlay can be significant. The construction industry is realising that choosing a cheaper, but less durable material can be a false economy.

Eventually repairs need to be made and this can be at considerable expense. Further, there are likely to be logistical problems absent from the initial construction which add to the cost.

For example, when 101 Collins Street – a prestigious Melbourne high-rise office building – was completed twelve years ago, its two 80,000 litre fire water storage tanks were constructed out of bolted steel with a nylon-coated internal surface. Over time the coating had pitted and the steel was corroding, raising concerns about the future reliability of the system.

It was decided that replacement tanks should be fabricated from 4mm thick 316 stainless steel for long-term reliability.

Access was limited because the tanks had been placed in position with the attendant pumps and fire services system plumbing installed beneath them. In fact, a hatch in the floor above the tanks measuring just under a metre square was the only way in and out of the area.

ASSDA member, J Furphy & Sons of Shepparton, Victoria was the successful tenderer for the construction and installation of the new tanks.

The 7.4m long x 2.4m wide x 4.8m deep tanks were fabricated in individual panels, 4.8m x 900mm. With a hoist assembly above, the panels were lowered into position through the hatch and welded in situ. Other challenges to be overcome were creating adequate occupational health and safety conditions and providing welding power and services to the site.

The final step in the project was in situ hydrostatic testing for leaks which proved successful.

The owners of 101 Collins Street can now look forward to many years of worry-free service performance.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 25, July 2003.


Posted 30 November 2003

When Canberra-based Artist, Anna Eggert began sculpting with stainless steel wire mesh two years ago she tried every tool to model the material with little success.

Almost giving up on completing her installation, Eggert reached for a stone and began attacking the 316 mesh in frustration .... with extraordinary results.

The primitive stone became the perfect tool for modelling the wire mesh into soft folds to resemble drapery.

This modelling skill exploits the material to create smooth flowing lines of a garment pressed against a feminine body. It is an effect that effectively breathes life into material to create the illusion of steel 'blowing in the breeze'.

Metal Mesh in Terry Hills, NSW supplied the sculptor with 0.56mm diameter wire mesh with an aperture of 1mm for strength and rigidity. However, various other sizes are often used to create different visual effects.

Two layers of different size mesh can produce a moire effect, with the lines shimmering in and around the material. In the shade, the mesh becomes transparent and in the sun it shines and glitters, it has a life of it's own.

"I was really lucky to stumble upon Wire Mesh Industries in North Ryde (Sydney). They knit stainless steel wire into all kinds of knitted things, car parts, filters and cables, which make beautiful ribbons and belts", says Eggert.

The works are all put together with 3mm stainless steel rivets supplied by Specialty Fasteners in Canberra.

Anna Eggert was recently a finalist in the National Sculpture Prize at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Her latest work "Belinda's Wedding" features a five piece bridal party. The work will be on show until March 2004 as part of a major exhibition of Australian sculpture at the McClelland Gallery in Langwarrin, Victoria.

Photos by David Paterson and Anna Eggert.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.


Posted 30 November 2003

Coastal areas are popular sites for recreational fun and fantastic fishing. However, the City of Albany in Western Australia had one major problem to deal with - fish waste in the nearby waterways

Local fishermen were cleaning and filleting fish and disposing of the waste overboard. This waste not only stagnated in the water for days, but also attracted seals and stingrays that can become aggressive when feeding.

Faced with a situation of replacing what was a kitchen sink on rusty legs in the water, the Council turned to local ASSDA member, Austenitic Steel Products, to design and fabricate an innovative new stainless steel fish cleaning station for the Emu Point Boat Ramp.

The circular fish cleaning station is believed to be the first and only one of its design currently available in Australia and measures 1400mm in diameter and 1100mm high.

Produced in 316 stainless, the compact design allows six operators at a time and provides a safe environment with no corners or sharp edges.

All plumbing is internal with access only through a hatch on the face of the cone and fitted security locks. Waste water falls to the centre of the table and flows through a circular screen into a collection hopper before entering a two inch waste pipe concealed in the centre.

Initially, the station requires manual removal of offal, but when funding and municipal sewerage is available, the table can be modified to incorporate an automatic processor to pulverise offal into disposable liquid waste.

Albany City's $13,000 station project has generated interest from other Councils and looks set to appear in local boat launching areas, coastal caravan parks and seaside fishing locations throughout Australia.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.


Posted 30 November 2003

The humble stainless steel rail is set to become a visual feature with the introduction of an innovative new product that people just can't keep their hands off.

Decorative Tube or Deco Tube has already started making waves on Queensland's Sunshine Coast with a choice between six different patterns suitable for a whole range of applications.

Caboolture Wheelchairs' new Custom Stallion GT design made with stainless Deco Tube.An Expression of Individuality

Caboolture Wheelchairs manufactures a range of customised manual and electric wheelchairs made of stainless steel for disabled people, sporting wheelies, hospitals and nursing homes.

The company sought to transform an ordinary functional wheelchair frame into a stylish feature by using a Deco N8 tube pattern to create a unique, individualised look (pictured below - left).

Unlike most stainless steel applications, wheelchairs are not polished but powdercoated in a range of colours to overcome the stigmatic 'institutional' image.

Caboolture Wheelchairs applies clear blue or red colour powdercoat on the 1.2mm thickness tube supplied by ASSDA member, Tubesales (Qld) to retain the distinct pattern effect.

Ronca Sheetmetal's office foyer display feature fabricated using Rimex sign lettering and stainless Deco Tube.A Distinctive Foyer Display Feature

Caloundra-based ASSDA member, Ronca Sheetmetal wanted to show their interior design clients a myriad of options available to them using stainless steel materials.

Since the office foyer was due for minor refurbishment, the company opted to create a curved display feature wall that doubled as an internal company sign (pictured below - centre).

A Deco N8 tube was used for the feature rail to highlight the new product ... and to impress.

Manufactured in 304 stainless by ASSDA member, National Tube Mills, the feature rail measures 38.1mm in diameter with a thickness of 1.5mm.

This feature rail was complemented with sign lettering using a passivated 6WL stainless supplied by ASSDA member, Rimex Metals.

A feature rail made with stainless Deco Tube in the wine cellar of Sails Restaurant, NoosaA Wine Cellar with Function and Style

Lyndon Simmons, the owner of Sails Restaurant in Noosa loves stainless steel. Simmons has specified so much stainless steel at the popular restaurant location on Hastings Street that staff nickname him the 'Steel Man'.

So it was no surprise that Simmons jumped at the chance to use Deco Tube for a railing in the restaurant's wine cellar when told of the product by Sunrise Hills Welding and Mechanical.

The Noosaville company installed 304 stainless Deco N8 with a 31.8mm diameter and a thickness of 1.2mm.

The contrast of the timber wine racks combined with the stainless steel railings with minimal lighting creates a warm, alluring visual effect that highlights the quality wine collection.

The Deco N8 tube pattern available in six different patterns increasing to nine in the near future.Properties of Deco Tube

Deco Tube is suitable for bending, polishing and powder coating. Ductility does not change and due to the distinctive patern, tensile strength is increased dramatically. In fact, Deco Tube has approximately 70% higher tensile strength than standard tube, due to the cold working, which is required to produce the patterned surface.

Higher strength can result in weight savings by allowing designs in lighter wall thickness, which can be particularly important in the transportation industry.

Deco Tube is also suitable for use as accessories in bathrooms, marine environments or anywhere where safety is an issue.

The product is expected to be popular with Councils, architects, bending companies, boat manufacturers, home decorators and shopfitters.

Marketed by Tubesales (Qld), Deco Tube is designed and manufactured by National Tube Mills, Brisbane with material supplied by ASSDA member, AvestaPolarit (now trading as Outokumpu).

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.


Posted 30 November 2003

Successfully using stainless steel depends on environment, grade selected, surface finish, the expectations of the customer and the maintenance specified.

Stainless steels provide robust solutions, but in harsh or borderline environments with high expectations for durability, surface finish will have a substantial impact on performance. Surface finishes can be applied mechanically (usually with abrasives) and chemically.

Understanding how chemical and mechanical treatments will affect the characteristics of the surface and will enable the best possible outcome for the client and the structure. Chemical treatment can be used to improve the corrosion performance of the steel, and hence its appearance in service.

Stainless steels resist corrosion best if they are clean and smooth. Clean means being free of contaminants on or in the surface that can either react with the steel (like carbon steel or salt) or that create crevices or other initiation points where corrosion can start.

Smooth means having a low surface area at the 'micro' level. Mechanically abrading the surface can roughen the steel's surface and may also embed unwanted particles.

The common feature of chemical treatments is that they all clean the surface of the steel. They may also smooth or roughen the steel surface, or leave it unaffected depending on which process is chosen. But if carried out properly, they all increase the corrosion resistance.

Corrosion resistance improves as you go to the right of this graph. The graph shows the relative importance of the smoothness of the surface and chemical treatment of the surface. They can be used together to get the best corrosion resistance.

Corrosion resistance improves as you go to the right of this graph. The graph shows the relative importance of the smoothness of the surface and chemical treatment of the surface. They can be used together to get the best corrosion resistance. The study reported by G. Coates (Materials Performance - August 1990) looked at the effect of various methods of treating an artificial welding heat tint on grade 316, 2B surface.

Stainless Steel Products
During steel making, sulphur in the steel is controlled to very low levels. But even at these levels sulphide particles are left in the steel, and can become points of corrosion attack. This 'achilles heel' can be improved greatly by chemical surface treatment.

Most bar products will be slightly higher in sulphur when produced, so chemical treatment to remove inclusions in the surface of these products becomes more important.

Generally mill finishes for flat products (sheet, plate and strip) will be smoother as their thickness decreases.

A No 1 finish on a thick plate may have dimples or other imperfections and a surface roughness of 5 to 6 micrometres Ra.

A typical 2B cold rolled finish on 1.7mm thick sheet might have a surface roughness of 0.2 micrometres Ra or better as shown in Mill Forms.

New surfaces will be created during fabrication processes, (eg cutting, bending, welding and polishing). The corrosion performance of the new surfaces will generally be lower than the mill supplied product because the surface is rougher, or sulphide inclusions sitting just under the surface have been exposed or mild steel tooling contamination may have occurred.

Chemical treatments correctly performed can clean the surface and ensure the best possible corrosion performance.

Chemical surface treatments can be grouped into four categories:

  • Pickling - acids that remove impurities (including high temperature scale from welding or heat treatment) and etch the steel surface. 'Pickling' means some of the stainless steel surface is removed.
  • Passivation - oxidising acids or chemicals which remove impurities and enhance the chromium level on the surface.
  • Chelating agents are chemicals that can remove surface contaminants.
  • Electropolishing - electrochemical treatments that remove impurities and have the added beneficial effect of smoothing and brightening the surfaces.

Pickling
Mixtures of hydrofluoric (HF) and nitric acid are the most common and are generally the most effective. Acids are available as a bath, a gel or a paste.

Commercially available mixtures contain up to about 25% nitric acid and 8% hydrofluoric acid. These chemicals etch the stainless steel which can roughen and dull the surface.

Care is required with all these chemicals because of both occupational health and safety and environmental considerations. HF is a Schedule 7 poison which has implications for sale or use in most states. See ASSDA's Technical Bulletin on this subject.

Passivation
Nitric acid is most commonly used for this purpose. Passivation treatments are available as a bath, a gel or a paste. Available formulations contain up to about 50% nitric acid and may also contain other oxidisers such as sodium dichromate. Used correctly, a nitric acid treatment should not affect the appearance of the steel although mirror polished surfaces should be tested first.

Passivation works by dissolving any carbon steel contamination from the surface of the stainless steel, and by dissolving out sulphide inclusions breaking the surface.

Nitric acid may also enrich the proportion of chromium at the surface - some chelants are also claimed to do this.

Pickling and passivation: before treatment of fuel tanks for storing helicopter fuel on ships. Pickling and passivation (L-R): after treatment of fuel tanks for storing helicopter fuel on ships.
Pickling and passivation (L-R): before and after treatment of fuel tanks for storing helicopter fuel on ships. Photos courtesy of Alloy Engineers and MME Surface Finishing.

Chelants
Chelants have chemical 'claws' designed to selectively clean the surface.

The carboxylic acid group COOH is the basis for many chelants which are used in cleaners, water softening and lubricants. The pH and temperature must be correct for the chelant to do its job. Turbulent rinsing of pipes and vessels afterwards is important.

Cleaning by chelating agents tends to be based on proprietary knowledge and systems, and is less standardised than the other methods described.

The successful use of these systems needs to be established on a case by case basis.

Electropolishing
Most commonly phosphoric and sulphuric acids are used in conjunction with a high current density to clean and smooth (by metal removal) the surface of the steel.

The process preferentially attacks peaks and rounds valleys on the surface and raises the proportion of chromium at the surface.

The technique can have substantial effect on the appearance increasing lustre and brightness while only changing the measured roughness by about 30%.

Precautions
For chemical processes that etch the stainless steel, reaction times will increase with increasing grade.

More care is required with 'free machining' grades and these will usually require substantially less aggressive chemicals. The sulphur addition in these steels makes them readily attacked by chemical treatments. Care is also required when treating martensitic or low chromium ferritic stainless steels.

Detailed recommendations for each grade of stainless steel are given below.

The four categories of treatment are detailed in a number of Standards, but the most commonly used are:

  • ASTM A380 Cleaning, Descaling and Passivation of Stainless Steel Parts, Equipment and Systems.
  • ASTM A967 Chemical Passivation Treatments for Stainless Steel Parts.
  • ASTM B912 Passivation of Stainless Steels using Electropolishing.

These very useful documents give detailed recommendations on many aspects of selection, application and evaluation of these treatments. Highly recommended reading.

Dirt and grease will mask the surface from treatments outlined above. Therefore, the steel surfaces must be free of these agents before applying chemical treatments.

Many of the chemical treatments described contain strong acids. Before disposal they will require neutralisation. Check with your local authority concerning the requirements for trade waste, neutralisation and disposal.

Many of the chemicals described above will be classified as hazardous substances under State OHS legislation, with implications for purchasing, transport, storage and handling.

Chemical treatments are useful tools in cost effectively achieving peak performance with stainless steels. With appropriate training, hazards associated with their use can be managed.

This technical article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.


Posted 30 November 2003

PDT Architects, Brisbane in association with HOK Sport, Venue and Event designed and documented the $280m Suncorp Stadium for the Queensland Government.

"It is the top grade material and that's what we wanted for the stadium...

When you take that the client is the people of Queensland, they expect the best to go into the stadium.

If they're paying $280 million for a stadium they want the thing to last and stainless will give you that longevity."

Director, John Brown of PDT Architects described the pros and cons of specifying stainless steel for the redevelopment of Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium).

Ticket Counters
When PDT Architects expressed concerns by Ticketek staff that stainless steel ticket counters would be too glary, ASSDA provided the necessary technical assistance required and prevented a switch to timber material.

JB: The client talked about changing from stainless to timber because Ticketek and others had commented that stainless steel would be too glary.

We found that we could use a brushed finish which wouldn’t throw up too much glare and we also did some sun shade diagrams and all sorts of diagrams to make sure the sun wasn’t hitting the ticket counters.

Full Stainless: Commercial Kitchens
JB: It was always going to be stainless steel, mainly because of the health reasons ... but also for cleaniness and ease of cleaning.

All the commercial kitchens at the stadium have them. All the finishing kitchens, all the food outlets, beverage and of course the main kitchen. All the food is prepared in that kitchen and taken up through the service lifts into the finishing kitchens, warming kitchens and then out into the public.

Stainless Wire Rope for Visibility
PDT Architects has recommended replacing the stadium’s flat bar rails with stainless steel wire rope to improve visibility.

JB: We've been able to convince the State Government code people that we can take a lot of the galvanising rails out and put in stainless steel wire rope which would give a better view.

We’ve put in a report to the Government whereby we can cut out a lot of these flat bars and put in stainless steel wire rope through them which will just open the whole place up.

Stadium Stainless Statistics
ASSDA member Fagersta supplied 60 tonnes of stainless steel coil of various widths and thicknesses to ASSDA member Tom Stoddart. A further 10 tonnes of stainless steel was supplied to Eziform for gutters and box gutters.

Tom Stoddart produced works at a cost of $11 million and approximately 50,000 man hours including full kitchen and bar fitouts, refrigeration units, cash register stations balustrading and some food service equipment.

Fagersta was also the main supplier of stainless steel for Colonial Stadium in Melbourne and Telstra Stadium in Sydney.

The Post Game Wrap-Up
JB: Firstly, it satisfied us as far as an architectural feature went, it satisfied us as far as life cycle went and most certainly it then satisfied us as far as safety issues went.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.

Savings for Stainless


Posted 30 November 2003

Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Cooperative Research Centre for Welded Structures (CRC-WS) have developed a welding process for stainless steels and other corrosion-resistant metals that is significantly faster, cheaper and easier than current practices.

The patented process is an elaboration of standard gas-tungsten arc welding (GTAW), and uses a specially designed torch that establishes and maintains a ‘keyhole’ at the joint.

The weld then proceeds, zipper-like, with the melted sides of the keyhole fusing at the back as the torch melts new material in front of it.

Keyhole GTAW is most effective for materials of low thermal conductivity, such as titanium and stainless steel, but does not work with good thermal conductors such as aluminium.

‘In comparison to conventional GTAW, machining of the edges to be joined is greatly reduced, it uses about one-twentieth the filler material, and reduces the welding time by about tenfold’ says Dr Ted Summerville, a commercial manager at CSIRO Manufacturing & Infrastructure Technology in Adelaide.

Applications of the technology include tube making, welding of rotatable products such as pipes and the joining of large sheets. The technology is particularly advantageous for welding thicker materials.

In keyhole welding, the arc melts the metal right through on both sides of the joint. Via surface tension, this establishes a stable structure which joins the front and rear surfaces through the width of the material. The weld pool is thus anchored, preventing the ejection of molten material.

The result is a process which is not only relatively inexpensive to acquire, but is also cheap to operate. The torch melts right through the joint where the two metal pieces to be welded abut, and molten metal extends through the depth of the material – up to 12mm thick for steels and 16mm for titanium alloys.

Very little filler material is needed to make the joint – about 50g/m for welding 12mm thick stainless steel, compared with about 1kg/m using conventional GTAW. And the joint is made in one pass, compared with up to seven for the thickest steels and titanium alloys.

Reduction to a single pass means that the metal at the site of the weld is only at risk of contamination once, whereas if it is welded seven times, there are seven opportunities for contamination.

The lack of multiple passes also vastly increases welding productivity. Typical examples of keyhole performance include single-pass welding of 12mm thick austenitic stainless steel at speeds of 300mm/min, 8mm carbon–manganese steel at 500mm/min, and 3mm ferritic stainless steel at 1000mm/min.

In one comparison, the welding time of 35min/m for 12mm stainless steel plate using conventional GTAW was reduced to <3.5min/m using the keyhole method.

And the quality of the welds is generally excellent. ‘We have qualified the process against a range of American standards’, says Dr Summerville, ‘and it has always passed’.

In addition, it is clean welding process. Fume generation using conventional GTAW is very low, and the same is true for keyhole GTAW.

The drawback to keyhole GTAW is that the torch can only be used in the conventional downhand position – the joint must be made between horizontal sheets with the torch vertical.

Recent work, however, has demonstrated that it is possible to operate the technology ‘out-of-position’, and this could lead to many new applications in the future.

‘If keyhole welding could be done in any position – for instance, if you could rotate the torch around pipe – it would increase the market for the technology by about ten times’, says Dr Summerville.

The technology is currently being licensed by the joint owners of the technology – CSIRO and the CRC-WS – and licencees are already successfully applying the technology in USA and Finland.

A number of licensees in these markets have reported significant productivity improvements.

Licenses for the keyhole welding technology are being offered in Australia, Europe and USA for use in the manufacture of products ranging from spiral-welded pipe to railway rolling stock.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 26, November 2003.


Posted 28 February 2004

Tamarama Beach or as local Sydneysiders call it 'Glamarama Beach', is well known as the place for beautiful people to be seen and for the rest of us to dream.

Artist, Graham Chalcroft set out to distort self-image in the name of fun by capitalising on the beach's former fairground history to design and fabricate a sculpture - 'Bathing Box: the impossible change room of shattered dreams'.

The stainless steel sculpture was a crowd favourite at the 'Sculpture by the Sea' exhibition held in November 2003 from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach in Sydney NSW.

The sculpture's design aesthetic was inspired by archival images of traditional late 19th century bathing boxes and how they have evolved.

Each sculpture profile is based on the curves of the human form - one male and one female. On approaching the convex/concave doors, the mirror distorts the body with startling effects.

ASSDA member, Stainless Sections, kindly donated six sheets of 304 with a No. 8 mirror finish for profiles fitted inside the doorframes.

For accuracy and efficiency, Chalcroft use T & M Engineering Group in Smithfield to computer design and laser cut the sheets to be clamped on the structural wood faces and strips.

"The stainless steel performed extremely well. It handled well in fabrication and the thick protective coating saved the steel from potential scratching," said Graham Chalcroft.

"The mirrored steel coped with the heat, wind, salt spray and suffered no scratching from the many thousands of hands touching the artwork," he said.

'Sculpture by the Sea' is in its seventh year and is the largest free outdoors sculpture exhibition in the worlds with over 200,000 visitors.

Photos by Graham Chalcroft.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 27, February 2004.