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Production Process

Brief flow chart showing how stainless steel is produced.

Stainless steel is produced in an electric arc furnace similar to that used to produce common steel from scrap iron and sponge iron. In the case of stainless steel, the main raw materials are scrap and ferro-alloys such as ferrous and ferronic. The proportion of raw materials depends on the desired final quality of stainless steel, but, in general, about 60% of the load of the furnace is recycled scrap - mainly stainless, but also common.

The liquid metal from the electric furnace is transferred to an Argon Oxygen Decarbonization (AOD) to remove the carbon content by blowing oxygen and argon. During charring, the gas mixture blown becomes more and more rich in argon, and thus the liquid metal content is reduced from 1.5% to up to 0.015% by weight. The carbonization of the melt can also be performed on a VOD (Vacuum Oxygen Decarbonization) mutant with vacuum blowing oxygen.

After the AOD / VOD mutant, the liquid metal is cleaned to remove the residual gases. It is then poured into molds to produce ingots ("turtles"), or is poured continuously into beams ("billets"), or poured into plates ("slam") under pressure. The rolling of ingots and beams is hot or cold, as is the case with common steel, for the production of flat and long products.

Stainless steel sheets are typically heat-treated ("annealing") to make them softer .They are cleaned in an acid bath to clean and create a thin layer of Cr2O3 that protects steel from corrosion.

In 2006 ,global production of stainless steel was 28 million tonnes and is expected to exceed 30 million tonnes in 2010

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