The advantages of stainless steel for fasteners 18 April 2023

Ideal for a wide range of applications, from construction to plumbing, stainless steel fasteners are the most popular choice for many industries due to their strength, durability and corrosion resistance. Here Specialinsert® Srl takes a look at the main features and advantages of this widely used material. 

Stainless steel is a metal alloy consisting mainly of iron, carbon and over 10% of chromium. The presence of chromium produces a thin, dense, uniform oxide layer that is very adherent to the surface and not very reactive. This ‘passive layer’ protects the surface from corrosion by preventing corrosive agents from coming into contact with the iron in the alloy. 

In addition to varying amounts of carbon and chromium, stainless steel alloys may also contain varying amounts of other elements, such as nickel, molybdenum, manganese, silicon and titanium. The variation in the percentages of these elements defines the type of stainless steel; its structural and mechanical properties; and its degree of corrosion resistance.

In mechanical applications, the use of stainless steel presents many advantages. First, stainless steel fasteners provide a greater tightness than fasteners made of brass, aluminum or galvanised steel and are, therefore, usually employed in applications that require higher mechanical strength or where they will be subject to corrosion.

With their corrosion resistance properties, stainless steel fasteners will also have a longer service life even in highly alkaline and humid environments. Some types of stainless steel are also resistant to chemicals, such as oils, solvents, and acids, so they are ideally suited for use in highly corrosive environments.

Types of stainless steel 

The main stainless steels can be divided into three categories:

  • Ferritic: With a body-centered, cubic crystal structure – ferrite – these are magnetic and have good mechanical properties, but low corrosion resistance.
  • Austenitic: With face-centered, cubic crystal structure – austenite – these stainless steels are non-magnetic and have good mechanical properties and high corrosion resistance.
  • Martensitic: With body-centered, cubic crystalline structure – martensite – these stainless steels are magnetic and display remarkable mechanical properties and acquire excellent corrosion resistance – only after annealing, quenching and tempering.

Classifications of stainless steel

Stainless steels can be classified according to their resistance to localised corrosion and, in particular, pitting. This classification is based on their chemical composition and the calculation of the Pitting Resistance Equivalent Number (PREN) index. The higher this value, the greater the resistance to pitting.

  • Lean stainless steels: Do not contain molybdenum and the typical value of their PREN is around 25.
  • Standard stainless steels: Have a PREN value between 25 and 40, e.g AISI 316.
  • Super stainless steels: Have a PREN index ≥ 40.
  • Hyper stainless steels: Contain high percentages of chromium and their PREN value can be up to 50. 

It is also very important to consider the grades of stainless steel, which indicate different ratios of chromium, nickel, molybdenum and carbon. The grade determines resistance to corrosion, durability, resistance to high temperatures, and other characteristics of the material. For this reason, it is essential to know which grade is appropriate for an intended fastener manufacture application. The 200 series (chromium-nickel-manganese) and the 300 series (chromium-nickel-molybdenum) are the most commonly used, austenitic alloys for making stainless steel fasteners, specifically AISI 303, AISI 304 and AISI 316 – also called grades A1, A2 and A4. 

AISI 303 stainless steel

This is a Cr-Ni austenitic, non-hardenable stainless steel, with high resistance to galling due to its high sulphur content, which also gives it better workability in machine tools for chip removal. It displays good resistance to corrosion in the atmosphere, toward foodstuffs, as well as organic chemicals.

AISI 304 stainless steel

This is a Cr-Ni austenitic, non-hardenable stainless steel, the most popular and widely used of the 300 series – containing 18% - 20% chromium and 8% - 12% nickel. It has good resistance to corrosion, including to intercrystalline corrosion, and is used in all industries, from mechanics to design, as well as applications in food processing, pharmaceutical, chemical, automotive, marine, and aerospace sectors, and in kitchen furnishings, bars, restaurants and butcher shops, to name just a few.

AISI 316 stainless steel

This is a Cr-Ni-Mo austenitic, non-hardenable stainless steel, where the presence of molybdenum is necessary to give the alloy excellent corrosion resistance. Its mechanical properties at high temperatures are also better than molybdenum-free steels. In jargon, it is called ‘marine grade’ naval stainless steel, because of its remarkable resistance to intercrystalline salt corrosion. It comprises 16% - 18% chromium, 10% - 14% nickel and around 2% – 3% molybdenum. 

Stainless steel – a product emerges

Drawing on its many years of experience in the fastener industry, and its understanding of stainless steel, fastener maker Specialinsert®, has launched its FAST-CON® system, a patented metal-snap fastening system in stainless steel that allows panels and coverings to be connected simply by pressing. The new system can be used in a variety of applications with excellent results in terms of corrosion, wear, and flame resistance, as well as its long service life, compared to other types of fasteners. For these reasons, this new fastening system, which consists of two male-female elements available in standard and customised versions, is suitable for the marine, transportation, construction, RV, furniture, industrial and design sectors. Its female product code is FC-01-FE.51 in stainless steel 316; code FC-01-FE.53 in stainless steel 301; and its male product code is FC-01-MA.51 in stainless steel 316; code FC-01-MA.50 in stainless steel 303. 

Content Director

Will Lowry Content Director t: +44 (0) 1727 743 888


Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 15 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.

Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.