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Is Stainless Steel Brittle?

We are often asked the question “Is stainless steel brittle?”  Particularly when components are cast (and many of us have had experience of cast aluminium components breaking given the slightest amount of bending), some of us have a healthy fear of any significant amount of deformation:- "Will it bend or will it break?"

What we are setting out to do here is to give a basic understanding of how stainless steel tends to behave when subjected to mechanical abuse, to let you know its limitations and what you can expect of it compared to other metals.

Below you can see how we got on with testing the ductility of a cast stainless steel fairlead.  As you will see this cast 316 stainless steel fairlead is hollowed on the underside, which you might think would make it quite susceptible to fracture.  Take a look and see for yourself ..... 

Take a look for yourself in our "Test To Distruction Video"

Whether parts are made of aluminium, carbon steel (ie the stuff that rusts easily) or stainless steel there are stronger and less strong grades, and alongside their strength there are more brittle grades and less brittle grades.  For specialist applications it might well be that absolute strength is the key requirement.  With the highest strength often comes brittle failure though when a component is pushed to the limit, so it is often best to find a compromise between strength and ductility (ductile being the opposite of brittle).

We recently had a case where one of our stainless steel anchors was damaged in transit, with one of the tips being bent over – see the photographs below. 

Is stainless steel brittle ?

Anchor with damaged tip

The customer happened to have a contact at a metal workshop who agreed to re-straighten the bent tip and re-polish the anchor to bring it back to looking good as new.  This kind of repair would not have been feasible if the stainless steel material were brittle.

If you would like to see more of how these stainless steel anchors look overall you can see further pictures and dimensional information by clicking here.

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