Cast stainless steel is gaining rapid traction in infrastructure development and other applications, given its inherent advantages, including high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, longer life, and low maintenance costs.
By Snehal Jadhav, Global Market Insights
The alloying elements in stainless steels gives them several beneficial properties, such as high resistance to corrosion and heat. One of the key indicators of stainless steel is a chromium concentration of at least 10.5%. The chromium in the alloy gives the material its strength and corrosion resistance by producing a passive layer when exposed to oxygen in the air. This layer creates a barrier against further corrosion, thereby preventing the creation of rust and allowing the product to remain spotless in appearance, even under normal working conditions for prolonged periods.
Stainless steel is also known for its robust environmental benefits, often touted as an exceptionally green material. In the construction domain, for instance, the recovery rate of stainless steel is nearly 100%. The material is also environmentallyinert and neutral, with its longevity making sure that it complies with the requirements of sustainable construction projects. Also, unlike some other materials, stainless steel does not leach compounds that could affect its composition upon contact with water or other elements.
Cast stainless steel is also known for its aesthetic appeal, easy maintenance, high durability, hygienic nature, and other characteristics. Consequently, it plays a key role as a component across a vast array of industries, ranging from building, to food, to medicine, to energy, to transportation, and more. The global iron and steel casting market size is projected to reach USD 213 billion in annual value by 2027, indicating a sustained demand for products like cast stainless steel components.
Stainless castings in infrastructure applications
Recent years have observed a significant boom in investments in infrastructure development. In particular, waste management and water infrastructure have gained interest of late, both in developed and emerging economies. To illustrate, in 2019, in the U.S. Governor Tom Wolfe of Pennsylvania funded over USD 136 million, geared towards improving the water infrastructure in the state. The project was proposed to enhance waste, pollution, and drinking water management and construct new treatment facilities across 15 counties in the state.
In 2020, the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) introduced a WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan worth USD 40 million to Kissimmee, Florida’s Toho Water Authority. This loan was aimed at financing projects for the repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of sewer lines, sewer mains, and manholes, including more than 900,000 feet of gravity mains and over 65 wastewater pumping station basins. These developments are expected to pave the way for a stronger steel casting industry outlook, given the strong potential of stainless steel as a key material in pipes & fittings, which are essential for various infrastructural applications like water pipes, sewer pipes, and manholes. Steel cast products are becoming increasingly sought-after owing to their cost-effectiveness and convenient installation process.
In 2016, global mechanical pipe joining systems provider Victaulic introduced the StrengThin 100 system, designed for tasks using 2 and 3 mm thin wall stainless steel pipes of 304/316 grades. The system consisted of a complete line of lightweight, stainless steel valves and fittings, and leveraged a novel pipe groove profile that could create coupling engagement sans the risk of pipe flare. Meanwhile, in 2020, stainless steel, titanium, and special alloys producer Sandvik launched its new grade of stainless steel, dubbed Sanicro 35, which was created as a means to reduce the performance gap between stainless steel and pricier nickel alloys. Designed to withstand seawater applications and highly corrosive environments and with several beneficial properties like superior corrosion resistance, greater structural stability, and robust mechanical yield strength, Sanicro 35 was suited for hydraulic and instrumentation tubing and heat exchangers.
With the focus on construction and infrastructure advancement growing stronger over time, the casting market is becoming increasingly competitive. Many prominent players are engaging in strategic activities like focused R&D activities, acquisitions, partnerships, and production expansions to sustain a strong position in such conditions.
For instance, in October 2019, Jindal Stainless inked an MoU with Braithwaite & Co in India to develop stainless steel FOBs (foot-over-bridges), ROBs (road-over-bridges), and other products for the New Delhi-based International Railway Equipment Exhibition. Under the terms of the agreement, Jindal Stainless supplied sheets and plates of stainless steel for the development of foot-over-bridges on railway platforms, road-over-bridges on municipal roads, and smart city skywalks, among others.
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Featured Story by: Snehal Jadhav, Global Market Insights
All images were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, or in compliance with social distancing.