Stainless steel is available in many ‘grades’, each of which has different properties and so is used in different applications. A particularly common grade, popular for its versatility, is A2. So what exactly is Grade A2 stainless steel and where is it likely to be found?
First it is important to understand exactly how stainless steel differs from standard carbon steel. Stainless steel is an alloy - a mixture of two or more metals - that must contain at least 10.5% chromium in order to be called ‘stainless’. This added chromium makes stainless steel far more resistant to corrosion and staining than unalloyed carbon steel by forming a passive layer of chromium oxide, preventing further corrosion at the metal’s surface and blocking it from spreading to the internal structure of the metal.
Other metals, including nickel, copper, titanium and molybdenum, can be added to stainless steel to modify and enhance its properties, improving such qualities as strength, corrosion resistance, formability and cryogenic durability. It is these additions that alter the grade stainless steel.
A2 grade stainless steel is also often referred to as type 304 or 18/8 - this latter label denotes the fact that A2 grade stainless steel containing approximately 8% nickel and 18% chromium. With a high hardness level and consistent dimensional stability, A2 stainless steel shows good resistance to wear & tear.
Where is it likely to be found?
This grade has found extensive use in the food and catering industries, used for everything from sinks and cookers to cutlery, pans and working surfaces. Stainless steel fasteners are also often created from A2 stainless steel as the metal offers strong abrasion resistance, good resistance to corrosion and reliably low levels of distortion.