Stainless Steel: The Metal of Choice in Agriculture and Food Processing Equipment
by Columbus Stainless
Columbus Stainless, a member of the Spanish based Acerinox S.A. Group of Companies, is South Africa’s and Africa’s only producer of stainless steel flat products. Founded in 1966, Columbus Stainless is the only fully integrated, technologically advanced, single site stainless steel producer in Africa. The plant based in Middleburg – Mpumalanga produces a wide range of Austenitic, Ferritic, Utility and Duplex grades of stainless steel suitable for most applications and has a melting capacity of 1 000 000 tons per annum to supply stainless steel flat products (coils, plates and sheets) to various final customers, distributors, engineering shops and mines globally (e.g. in Africa, Europe, the United States, Asia, etc.)
South Africa boasts a wide variety of large industries, including farming, power generation, mining, and manufacturing. To support these diverse industries, the steel industry lies at the helm. When choosing metals for longevity and low maintenance in these applications, stainless steel becomes the obvious choice. This is due to their characteristic corrosion of resistance, giving long life in various aggressive environments whilst maintaining their original properties and aesthetic appearance. Columbus Stainless produces the three main families of stainless steels namely – standard and utility ferritic, austenitic and duplex stainless steel.
The main properties and successful applications in the Agriculture, Agro-processing and Food industries are listed below, indicating their strengths and versatility in a wide range of applications.
- Ferritic Stainless Steel; commonly known as plain chromium steels. Typical examples include grades 409 and 430, which are mainly used for functional and aesthetic applications like cutlery, cookware as well as applications like roofing, cladding and decorative trims and are used extensively in abattoirs for wall cladding, balustrades and hand rails.
- Utility Ferritic Stainless Steel: 3CR12® is a low cost utility ferritic stainless steel developed by Columbus Stainless and used widely throughout the South-African manufacturing industry as a cost effective solution to corrosion in a wide range of structural applications. It has excellent properties in wet-abrasion conditions due to its superior strength, moderate corrosion resistance and good slideability. Successful applications include processing and handling equipment in the sugar processing industry, e.g. flue gas ducts, conveyor belt systems, cane crushing equipment, diffusers and various processing tanks, handrails and walkways. 3CR12® has seen great success and longevity in roofing and cladding applications, even in highly corrosive ammonia containing environments like chicken farms, piggeries and other livestock holding facilities.
- Austenitic Stainless Steel: This family of steels are alloyed with chromium and nickel for improved properties including corrosion resistance, fabricability and exhibit good strength properties both in cryogenic temperatures (e.g. cold storage containers) and high temperatures (e.g. ovens, stoves and cookware). Common grades include 304 and 316 which are used extensively in the food processing industries demanding high hygienic properties due to high regulatory safety requirements that stipulate that there must be no measurable chemical reaction between the metal surface and the product (e.g. food). This ensures the product is not contaminated with metallic constituents or corrosion. Typically used in agriculture and abattoirs (including dairy processing and meat handling equipment, food and beverage storage tanks); catering and hospitality (cooking utensils, food processing equipment, cold storage, and health care industries for medical equipment and surgical tools).
- Duplex Stainless Steel grades have high strength, good resistance to stress corrosion cracking and superior corrosion resistance. Popular grades include lean duplex 2304 and standard duplex grade 2205. Successful applications are in the paper and pulp industries, chemical, petrochemical and mining industries for various processing equipment and storage tanks. Due to their superior corrosion resistance these steels can withstand harsh marine environments.
Stainless steel has proven itself as a multi-functional and adaptable metal of choice and has proven successful in many applications and it offers great value to the manufacturing industry. It remains a cost competitive, low maintenance material of choice contributing to long term sustainability, being 100% recyclable and produced using recycled material. Columbus Stainless is proud to have contributed to the development of this material over five decades and will continue to do so as Africa and the whole world continue to grow. Indeed the future of manufacturing is Stainless.
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