Why Is Machining Stainless Steel Such a Challenge?

If you go to a typical machine shop for service most of them can take care of standard work and CNC machining services are very common today too. However, when it comes to metal machining, some shops do not even attempt to machine stainless steel because of all the problems it can cause. Why is this task so difficult and why should you choose an experienced shop with this ability? Let’s look closer and see.

Stainless Steel Properties
Most stainless steel machined today is austenitic. This is often 300 series metal made from nickel and chromium alloys. It is not hardened by heat and its main purpose is to resist certain atmospheres and materials. This can make it a challenge to machine.

Problems with Machining Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a sticky metal and is nearly impossible to dry machine. Special lubricants are usually utilized and this can make it difficult to work with. In fact, it takes a skilled machinist to successfully complete this kind of metal machining.

Special care must be taken when working with stainless steel because the slightest vibration can interfere with the process. It’s important to have machinery capable of deep cutting in order to get the job right. This calls for a much slower process than usual and in the machine shop business time is money. So this can add to the costs.

Common machining equipment made for standard metals simply are not made to handle this kind of work. In addition, it is difficult to perform fine machining because stainless steel can chip or break easily.

When machining stainless steel, it can be very noisy because of the “squealing sound”. In fact, this can place additional wear and tear on machinery and you may be replacing parts more quickly than normal. Plus, if a machine is already worn some, this could be enough to push it over the edge.

In some cases, all the adjustments needed to prevent vibration are simply more trouble than they are worth. This is why so many machine shops consider stainless steel to be a nightmare to work with.

The Solution
Modern machine shops with the right equipment and skilled machinists have few problems with stainless steel or any kind of metal machining. They know metals well and understand what it takes to create just what their customers need. In fact, this is why many machine shops turn to custom shops for work like stainless steel.