A stainless steel sheet is a type of sheet metal made from an alloy of steel and chromium. Though the thickness of a stainless steel sheet can vary, it is generally thicker than metal leaf or foil, but thinner than a metal plate. Most metal sheets can be slightly flexed or bent by hand, which is not possible with a plate.
Because of their relatively attractive appearance, stainless steel sheets are used for both decorative and structural purposes. They can be laid over a wood base to create a countertop or table, and are also a popular finish for kitchen backsplashes. Many appliances and machines are made using a stainless steel sheet casing, as are many cars and airplane bodies. Metalworkers use these sheets to create artwork and architectural elements, while electronics manufacturers rely on stainless steel sheets when building equipment casing and some operating components.
While there are many different types of stainless steel sheet design, most fall into one of three basic categories. Type 306 is the most widely used, and also the most economically priced. Type 316 is a more expensive version of standard stainless steel sheeting, and offers a higher level of strength and corrosion-resistance. Type 410 is the most basic, and is generally used to produce cutlery and kitchen ware.
Buyers can choose from smooth or textured stainless steel sheets, with finishes ranging from polished to brushed, or matte. Sheets are often cut to size by the manufacturer, and can be shaped with a sheet metal brake or other metalworking tools. The thickness of the sheet is expressed in terms of gauge, with higher gauge values used for thinner sheets.
One of the primary benefits of a stainless steel sheet is its relatively high level of corrosion- and rust-resistance compared to other types of metal. This quality allows stainless steel to hold up in marine or plumbing applications where regular carbon steel would be expected to rust. Some buyers may also choose a stainless steel sheet for its attractive finish, or for its versatility in terms of bending and shaping.
In certain applications, stainless steel sheets may not be the best choice for all buyers. Compared to carbon steel, stainless steel sheets are fairly expensive. Those with a polished finish are very difficult to keep clean, and are magnets for grease and fingerprints. When the finish on stainless steel is scratched, it is difficult to impossible to repair.