AISI 301 Steel: A Complete Guide into the Properties and Functionalities

If you work in the engineering or manufacturing industry, you’ve probably heard of the AISI 301 steel. If you haven’t, then this guide is for you. 

This complete guide delves deep into the world of AISI 301 steel, its mechanical characteristics, chemicals and physical composition, production methods, and recommended working procedures. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a thorough comprehension of versatile and potent material and be ready to join the family of AISI 301 material and end-product consumers.

What is AISI 301 steel?

AISI 301 (UNS S30100) steel is a grade of stainless steel known for its high strength, corrosion resistance, and versatility. It’s a type of austenitic steel, which means it has a face-centered cubic crystal structure.

Due to its special blend of chromium and nickel, low carbon content, and other properties, it exhibits exceptional rust and stain resistance as well as remarkable ductility and workability.

The 301 grade is frequently utilized in various industries, including medical equipment, electronics, and automotive parts. It is pliable enough to be formed into a variety of shapes and strong enough to bear heavy loads and harsh environments.

Composition AISI 301 Steel

AISI 301 steel strip

If you’ve dealt with the AISI 301 steel or its end product, you can attest to its robust, anti-corrosive, and durable structure. But have you ever wondered what makes this steel so unique and reliable? Don’t think too far; it’s all in the steel’s components.

Let’s take a look at the chemical, mechanical, and physical makeup of AISI 301 steel and how they contribute to its properties.

Chemical and Physical composition

AISI 301 steel is an alloy of three essential elements; chromium, nickel, and carbon. According to ASTM specifications, its chromium content is between 16% to 18%, which is reasonable. It means that the 301 steel enjoys a protective chromium layer, possesses excellent corrosion resistance, and is ideal for harsh environments. Nickel is also present in relatively low levels within 6.00% to 8.00%. And as you’d expect, the effect of this quantity is improved oxidation and corrosion resistance at high temperatures making for tough, weldable, and ductile steel.

Now you know that carbon is essential in stainless steel to stabilize austenite and enhance yield strength. And the 301-grade steel is not without carbon, as it contains a value of 0.15%.

In addition to the major elements, AISI 301 also contains small amounts of other chemical compounds such as manganese (2.0%), silicon (0.75%), sulfur (0.030%), phosphorus (0.045%), molybdenum (0.75%), nitrogen(0.10%) and copper(0.75%).

Now let’s talk about the physical composition of the AISI 301. It has an 8.03 specific gravity, a density of 0.29 lb/in3, and its modulus of elasticity is 28 x 106 psi 193 Gpa when under tension. Like most stainless steel (particularly austenitic ones), this steel has a melting point of 2550 – 2590o F (1399-14210 C), proving its ability to survive elevated temperatures.

Tensile strength

Tensile strength, in simple terms, refers to the maximum level of stress that a material (in this case, stainless steel) can withstand before it snaps under tension. Chromium’s high content of nickel, carbon, and chromium allows it to optimize both yield and tensile strength.

With a tensile strength of 185,000 pounds per square inch (Psi), this steel is three or four times stronger than average concrete. Whether tempered, normalized, or hardened by cold treatment, this 301-grade steel will withstand whatever process you put it through, so long as it is below the melting point.

Typically, the AISI 301 is supplied in strips, coils, and wires. It is also capable of being tempered from 1/16 hard to full hard. This means that this stainless steel can go from the softest state (annealed or 1/16 hard) to the hardest temper (full hard). And this definitely bodes well for manufacturers who are looking to shape it into unimaginable forms.

Hardness

The level of a material’s resistance to deformation is referred to as hardness and is measured by the Rockwell (Rb) or Brinell (HB) scale. Hardness is an essential feature in materials, especially stainless steel, as it indicates the material’s resistance to scratch, wear and tear.

AISI 301 has a Rockwell hardness of C95, which means it’s tough and will be suitable in manufacturing end-products subjected to a great deal of friction and abrasion. And its excellent hardness level is all thanks to its carbon content which causes the formation of hard carbides that increase strength and hardness.

The hardness of the AISI 301 can go from 1/16 hard to full hard. Note, however, the level of hardness is dependent on the hardening process. When cold-rolled, AISI 301 steel has a more uniform and dense structure, which increases the hardness.

Corrosion resistance

When materials like steel are exposed to the elements, there is a high probability that they’ll get oxide and start to deteriorate, especially when they lack corrosion-resistant components. You want to avoid purchasing a stainless steel spoon and watching it get rusted after using it a few times. That’s why AISI 301 steel is made from a powerful corrosion inhibitor – chromium.

With chromium on its surface, AISI 301 steel has a protective sheet that prevents oxidants such as oxygen and other corrosive elements from getting to the steel. The presence of chromium makes the AISI 301 suitable for application in marine and saltwater environments.

High strength

If you’re curious about the strength level of the 301-grade steel, the answer is simple – AISI 301 is incredibly strong. And its strength level is evident in the doggedness of each chemical, physical and mechanical component.

AISI 301’s strength comes from its chromium and nickel content. But that’s not all. Its carbon and nitrogen contents also contribute to its strength. Plus, it has high yield and tensile strength, meaning it can withstand great stress and force without bending, breaking, or getting deformed.

Good ductility

Ductility has to do with a material’s ability to stretch under pressure or deform without breaking. For many stainless steel variants, this isn’t much of a problem. 

The AISI 301 is quite malleable, especially when it is subject to cold working after quenching. This process not only enhances ductility but also improves strength.

Differentiating AISI 301 from other grades

stainless steel strip

Like fingers, not all stainless steel grades are created equal. Thus, while the AISI 301 might have similar chemical components to other grades, a few differences set it apart. One such difference is its high corrosion resistance, thanks to its chromium and nickel components. 

It also has unique low carbon content, making it more pliable and slightly easier to work with than other grades, allowing it to form into various products easily. And like the 304 grade, the 301 grade has an incredibly versatile application.

Applications of AISI 301 Steel

Due to its unique properties, AISI 301 steel is popularly used by manufacturers in a variety of industries. For the sake of this piece, you’ll be exposed to the application of 301-grade steel in four sectors: automotive, medical, aerospace, and construction.

Construction

AISI 301 steel is widely applied in construction. It’s a popular choice among manufacturers due to its durability, elasticity, strength, and corrosion-resistant nature. Thus, it is often applied in various aspects of construction. For instance, this steel is frequently used in the creation of columns, beams, and supports that are required to withstand a significant load.

Additionally, 301-grade steel is applied in the roofing and cladding of buildings in harsh climatic environments such as industrial and coastal areas. This is due to its chromium protective layer that makes it thrive in such conditions.

Upon a closer look at your nuts, bolts, and washers, you’ll find that these fasteners and connectors are also made from AISI 301 steel.

Automotive

If you are a car owner, you know that it is essential for a vehicle to be durable, reliable, and strong. Manufacturers realize this, too, so the automotive industry heavily relies on AISI 3101 steel.

Commonly it is used in the production of automotive parts – from the engine components to suspension panels and even down to body panels. Like its application in construction, this austenitic steel is also used to make fasteners and other small components that enhance stability.

When tempered at ½ hard conditions, it can be used in making rail car, battery, and exhaust components.

Aerospace

AISI 301 is essential in airspace because aerospace crafts are often exposed to extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions. Hence, they need to be built from a material that is not only tough, durable, or corrosion-resistant but also known for its high strength-to-weight ratio. This steel produces turbine blades, wing spars, engine mounts, landing gear, and other-high temperature components based on these qualities.

Medical sectors

Since AISI 316L is commonly referred to as surgical steel, it is easy for you to think that other stainless steel grades are never or seldom applied in the medical sector. Like other non-corrosive austenitic steel, AISI 301 is used by medical manufacturers to process equipment that is not susceptible to rust and degradation when exposed to harsh chemicals and bodily fluids. It is used to manufacture surgical blades, scalpels, and even surgical implant materials.

Specific benefits of AISI 301 Steel offers in these industries

Hardened AISI 301 strip

Each quality of the AISI 301 steel benefits each of the above-listed industries. But these industries’ most specific benefits from applying this steel are corrosion-resistance, strength, and durability.

The need for corrosion-resistance steel in the aerospace, medical, automotive, and construction sectors should be emphasized. These industries require materials that can stand extreme heat and harsh temperate or moist conditions. Manufacturers also need to create end-products that last long and can provide proper value for money. 

That’s where the AISI 301’s durability comes in. And in the medical sector, this steel’s ability to maintain a sharp edge also comes in handy, reducing the need for frequent replacement.

Best Practices for Working with AISI 301 Steel

Stainless steel exhaust

To achieve optimal results when working with the AISI 301 steel, here are some of the best practices to follow:

Guidance on how to properly work with AISI 301 Steel

Working with AISI 301 steel can be a challenge, especially if you are not a manufacturer or familiar with the material. And the fact that it has a high strength and hardness threshold doesn’t help either. However, this shouldn’t deter you when you must, of necessity, work on the steel.

Working with AISI 301 requires starting by gathering the right equipment. Develop the right understanding of the material and its components, then ensure that you have the right cutting tools. This is especially important because AISI 301 stainless is coarser than other materials. 

The ideal tool will be able to handle high-pressure applications. And, remember to wear the right safety gear. 

Finally, be careful to consider the right technique – from travel speed to heat limit requirements. You also need to store the material in a cool, dry place to prevent corrosion and oxidation.

Machining

When machining AISI 301, you need to maintain consistent cutting conditions. The feed rate, cutting speed, and depth must align to ensure consistent results. Also, use constant cutting temperature to prevent the steel from overheating and becoming too difficult to cut.

Note the following, however: 

  • You want to choose a carbide grade with a semi-hard substrate and a thin CVD coating while maintaining stable cutting conditions.
  • When CNC milling AISI 301 stainless steel, we advise that you use cutting equipment with a semi-hard substrate and a thin PVD coating.
  • We also recommend maintaining a cutting speed of 195-260 m/min or 640-850 SFM

Forming

Forming is a process that involves deforming a material to create a desired shape. AISI 301 is formulated primarily to be formed into wrought products, and there are several ways to go about it, the most common of which are – drawing, stamping, and bending. You should note, though, that the forming method to be applied depends on the material’s thickness, elasticity, and surface finish requirements.

The bending process involves placing the stainless steel material between two dies and applying the necessary force to bend it into a desired shape. It is often used to form this 301-grade steel into complex shapes. On the other hand, drawing and stamping are used to create thin-walled components (such as tubing or wire) and intricate shapes, respectively.

To produce perfect forms, ensure that you use the right size of die, accurate bend radius, and the right amount of force.

Welding

Welding is another way to work on AISI 301 steel. The welding process is often followed by annealing to reinforce its corrosion resistance at maximum levels. And the essence of both techniques is to eliminate the high strength produced by cold rolling — note, however, that you don’t necessarily have to anneal the 301L and 301LN grades after welding.

When wielding, make a mental note to avoid excessive heat input, as this can cause the steel to be brittle and prone to cracking. Try preheating the material before welding, use low heat welding techniquesMan welding stainless roof or a back-step welding technique that involves short welds and gives room for the 301-grade steel to cool between each weld.

Also, do not forget the place of filler material while welding the material. 308L is a standard and excellent filler material for the AISI 301.

Conclusion

The AISI 301 is a premium austenitic steel with full potential that, if properly utilized, will bring about excellent outcomes. 

Reach out to us today to become an AISI 301 user and enjoy optimal results on your projects!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is 301 vs. 302 vs. 304 stainless steel?

Grades 301, 302, and 304 are austenitic stainless steel composed of chromium, carbon, and nickel. The presence of these chemical compounds in varying degrees brings about the difference in these grades. AISI 301 is high-strength, low-nickel steel, AISI 302 is a high-strength, low-carbon steel, while AISI 304 possesses an increased nickel and chromium content.

Of all three, 304 is the most used due to its excellent formability, corrosion resistance, and applicability to various industries.

One Stop Stainless Steel Supply.

Whether you need stainless steel materials for your business or fabrication projects, TuoLian is your best supplier. You can find all types, grades, and thicknesses based on your needs. Guaranteed that we provide the best quality at a reasonable cost.
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