Questions and Answers

Stainless Steel Tubing – Your Questions, Our Answers

Whether you’re an industry professional or simply curious, we’ve got the information you need about stainless steel tubing. Let’s dive in!

What Is the Difference Between Stainless and Ordinary Steel?

All steel is iron based, but stainless steel contains chromium at 10% or more by weight. Chromium, provides corrosion resistance and a polished appearance, making it highly resistant to rust and staining, while ordinary steel does not have these properties, making it susceptible to corrosion and staining.  Ordinary steel is used in a wide range of applications, from construction to manufacturing, where corrosion resistance is not a primary concern

What Are The Characteristics of Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel’s non-corrosive characteristic gives it a long lifespan. With the addition of nickel, the material survives even longer and in several types of environments. By adding molybdenum and nitrogen, stainless gains improved pitting and crevice corrosion resistance. Stainless steel has a high strength-to-weight ratio even at high temperatures. Adding alloys to stainless steel helps it resist heat and scaling. Stainless steel is easy to clean because the surface is non-porous. It is well suited for medical and food-grade applications because it prevents the absorption of bacteria and germs. Stainless steel does not stain and can be polished to create an aesthetic appearance.

How Are the Different Types of Stainless Steel Classified?

Stainless steels are classified according to their metallurgical structure: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, precipitation hardening, and duplex. Austenitic stainless steels contain chromium and nickel. They are hardened only through cold working and are non-magnetic although some may become magnetic by cold working. Austenitic stainless steels are identified as T300 series stainless steels (typical alloys T304, T316). Alloys containing chromium, nickel, and manganese are identified as T200 series (T201, T202). Ferritic stainless steels are straight chromium. They are magnetic, have good ductility, and resist corrosion and oxidation. Ferritic stainless steels cannot be hardened by heat treatment and are identified as T400 series (T409, T430). Martensitic stainless steels are also straight chromium but can be hardened by heat treatment. They are magnetic and resist corrosion in mild environments. They have fairly good ductility and some can be heat treated to tensile strengths in excess of 200,000 psi. Martensitic stainless steels are identified as T400 series (T410, T416). Precipitation-hardening stainless steels are chromium-nickel types identified as alloys T17-4 or T17-7 PH. They can be hardened by solution treating and aging. Duplex stainless steels have an annealed structure which is typically equal parts of austenite and ferrite. The duplex grades are highly resistant to corrosion and pitting. They have about twice the yield strength of conventional grades. T2205 is the standard alloy for duplex grade.

What Typical Applications Are Suitable For Each Series of Stainless?

Stainless steel finds diverse applications, including cookware, cutlery, sinks, aerospace components, medical instruments, oil and gas pipelines, beverage containers, and laboratory equipment. It is chosen for its resistance to corrosion and heat. Specifically, austenitic stainless steels excel in heat exchangers, medical devices,food and beverage machinery, chemical equipment, marine equipment and nuclear power.  These applications showcase the versatility of austenitic stainless steels, which can meet the demands of industries requiring corrosion resistance, hygiene, strength, and high-temperature performance. Ferritic stainless steels serve in automotive, appliances, and cooking utensils. Ferritic stainless steels are favored in applications that require corrosion resistance in less aggressive environments and where their magnetic properties do not pose a problem. They are often chosen for their cost-effectiveness and resistance to staining and discoloration. Martensitic stainless steels are employed for industrial blades, fasteners, bearings and pump shafts. Martensitic stainless steels are known for their high strength, hardness, and wear resistance. These properties make them suitable for a variety of applications, particularly in situations where mechanical performance and durability are crucial. Precipitation hardening stainless steels find roles in valves, fittings, gears, marine components, and petrochemical equipment.  Precipitation hardening stainless steels are well-suited for industries and situations that demand materials with a unique balance of high strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance. Duplex stainless steels are utilized in scenarios resembling those of austenitic and ferritic types, such as Water and wastewater treatment, storage vessels, processing equipment and more.  Duplex stainless steels are a group of corrosion-resistant alloys with a combination of both austenitic and ferritic microstructures.

Which Grades of Stainless Steel are Best Suited for Marine Applications?

Grades 304 and 316 stainless steel are the most commonly used in marine settings, with 316 particularly renowned for its high corrosion resistance in aggressive marine environments. Stainless steel forms a protective oxide layer on its surface, which acts as a barrier against corrosion, even when exposed to salt water. This oxide layer is self-repairing and continues to protect the material over time. When properly maintained, stainless steel tubing can have a long lifespan in marine environments, often exceeding the lifespan of alternative materials.

How Does the Durability of Stainless Steel Tubing Impact Environmental Sustainability?

Stainless steel’s durability and extended life mean that it requires fewer replacements, reducing the disposal of materials and energy consumption associated with the manufacturing of new materials. By reducing material waste, conserving resources, decreasing energy consumption and minimizing carbon emissions, it supports a more eco-conscious and cost effective approach aligning with sustainability goals for projects and initiatives.

Can Stainless Steel Tubing Maintain a Sterile Condition Without Additional Coatings or Treatments?

Stainless steel’s inherent properties allow it to maintain a sterile condition without requiring additional coatings or treatments. Its surface remains smooth and non-porous, resistant to bacteria and other contaminants.

What Forms Does Stainless Steel Come In?

Stainless steel is  available in bar, wire, tubing, pipe, strip, fittings, fasteners, sheet and plate form. (Eagle supplies bar, wire, tubing and pipe)

Is Stainless Steel Magnetic?

Stainless steel can be either magnetic or non-magnetic, depending on its composition.

Austenitic Stainless Steel: This group, which includes grades like 304 and 316, is non-magnetic.  Ferritic Stainless Steel: Ferritic stainless steels, such as 430, are typically magnetic.
Martensitic Stainless Steel: Martensitic stainless steels, like 410 and 420, are also typically magnetic.

It’s important to note that there are exceptions and variations within each of these groups, and some stainless steel grades may have slightly different magnetic properties based on their specific alloying elements and heat treatment


What Does Gauge Mean?

The “gauge” of stainless steel refers to the thickness. Gauge is represented numerically. For stainless steel, as the gauge number increases the material thickness decreases. This means 14 gauge is thicker than 16 gauge.  The gauge is used to determine the thickness of the tube wall, which is a critical factor in its strength, durability, and suitability for specific uses.

What Does the L After a Stainless Steel Type Mean?

The “L”  indicates a low-carbon or “L-grade” stainless steel. Low-carbon stainless steels are designated by adding an “L” after the alloy grade number. For example, you might encounter designations like 304L or 316L stainless steel tubing.
The “L” signifies that the stainless steel alloy contains a reduced carbon content compared to the standard grades. Low-carbon stainless steels offer several advantages:  improved weldability, reduced corrosion sensitivity, and maintained corrosion resistance.

While the L-grade stainless steels offer enhanced corrosion resistance and weldability, they may come at a slightly higher cost compared to their non-L counterparts.

What is the Difference Between Tubing and Pipe?

In some instances the terms may be used interchangeably; however, there are some differences is in how the material is ordered and toleranced. Tubing is typically ordered to outside diameter and wall thickness; however, it may also be ordered as OD & ID or ID and Wall Thickness. Although tubing has three dimensions (O.D., I.D. and wall thickness) only two may be specified with tolerances and the third is theoretical. Pipe is typically ordered using the Nominal Pipe Size (NPS) standard and by specifying a nominal diameter (pipe size) and schedule number (wall thickness). Also tubing is usually ordered and held to tighter and more stringent tolerances and specifications than pipe.

What is the “Annealed” Condition?

Annealing is a heat treatment process used to modify the physical and mechanical properties of stainless steel tubing, making it more workable, softer, and less brittle. The annealed condition for stainless steel tubing involves heating the material to a specific temperature and then cooling it slowly. The exact annealing process can vary depending on the specific stainless steel alloy and the desired properties.  This process makes it more workable, easier to bend, weld, and fabricate, and improves its machinability.

What is Cold Working? (Cold Forming)

Cold working or work hardening is the process of strengthening a metal by deformation at temperatures below the recrystallization temperature. Any mechanical operation that creates permanent formation, such as bending, rolling, drawing performed at room temperature that increases the hardness strength of stainless steel.
Cold working decreases mechanical properties of metal like elongation, reduction of area and impact values.  Cold working can be a cost-effective and efficient way to achieve the desired characteristics for stainless steel tubing.

How Do You Harden Stainless Steel?

Some types of stainless steel can be hardened through heat treatment while other types need to be cold worked. Examples of cold working include swaging or drawing.

What Kinds of Techniques Are Used to Fabricate Stainless Steel?

Fabricating stainless steel tubing involves a variety of techniques to create the desired shapes, sizes, and configurations for specific applications.  Tube drawing, welding, bending, swaging, expanding, reducing, flaring, CNC machining, and cold working.

Why Is Fabricated Stainless Steel Treated With Oxidizing Chemicals?

Iron particles or other substances can become embedded in the stainless surface during fabrication or polishing operations. These particles must be removed or else they will cause discoloration, rusting, or even pitting. Oxidizing chemicals are used to form a passive layer along the surface of stainless steel to enhance resistance to corrosion. This process is the final preparation for stainless steel parts. It consists of immersing the parts in a nitric acid solution, rinsing with clear running water, and drying.

Can Stainless Steel Tubing Be Used in a High Temperature Environment?

Yes, many stainless steel alloys, including those in the 300 series, maintain their strength and corrosion resistance at high temperatures. This makes stainless steel tubing a suitable choice for applications such as heat exchangers, exhaust systems and industrial furnaces where exposure to high temperatures is a requirement.

Is Stainless Steel Tubing Suitable for Applications in Low or Cold Temperatures?

Yes. Stainless steel retains its strength and ductility even in sub-zero temperatures, making it an excellent choice for applications in cold environments. It is often used in various industries such as cryogenic applications, refrigeration systems, cold storage facilities, and other cold temperature applications.