Stainless steel truly shines in applications where hygiene and sanitary conditions are critical.
We’ve previously discussed the variety of materials available for creating enclosures and housing for industrial equipment, including plastic, aluminum, and fiberglass. Take a look at our previous post: Comparing Material Options for Membrane Switch and Touchscreen Enclosures
Today, we want to spotlight one of those materials, stainless steel, and look at how certain environments like healthcare and food production particularly benefit from its use.
Stainless steel facilitates good hygiene.
With no pore, cracks, or other imperfections to harbor dirt or bacteria, smooth and seamless stainless steel can be easily cleaned – even with powerful disinfecting agents – simply by wiping it down. Its anti-corrosive properties and chemical resistance means that it will easily endure frequent cleanings with strong chemicals. This is particularly true if the stainless-steel enclosure is fully sealed according to IP standards (e.g., up to IP69K, as TES-Frontdesign, part of the HK Group, can produce).
Stainless steel can withstand rigorous operating conditions
Both healthcare and food production environments often subject their equipment to unusually rigorous operating conditions, like high temperatures or rough handling. Stainless steel is an extremely strong and durable material; it can withstand exposure to almost any substance (saltwater, rain, oil, chemicals), work within an expansive temperature range, and absorb blunt force easily.
Stainless steel offers amazing longevity while retaining structure and appearance.
Its durability means it is not susceptible to damage that could render it unsafe in healthcare or food production. For example, its anti-corrosive properties mean it will not rust or suffer other surface imperfections due to oxidation, and its nonporous nature means undesirable substances will never be able to penetrate the material. Stainless-steel is also non-magnetic, which can be beneficial in surgical and other medical environments.
Stainless steel enables food to preserve its proper flavor, odor, and color.
Because stainless steel is non-reactive, it can work even with foods whose flavors, odors, or colors might stain other materials. As the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF), a non-profit steel industry research group, writes in a report on the use of stainless steel in food production in developing countries, “Stainless steel’s cleanability is similar to that of glass and china and far superior to plastics, aluminum and earthenware. The properties of corrosion resistance, durability, flavor protection, economy and aesthetics have led to its acceptance to countless food related applications.”
However, it’s critical to choose your stainless-steel enclosure and vendor carefully.
While stainless steel has become quite popular in a wide array of applications, not all stainless-steel enclosures are equal. First, stainless steel comes in a variety of grades among which its characteristics can vary. For example, Type 316 (known as “marine grade” thanks to its resilience against saltwater) is better suited to food and medical applications than the much more common Type 304 (the kind found in tableware, for example). Further, many enclosures require some degree of welding, especially if they are intended to be sealed according to IP standards, but welding stainless steel requires special training and certification.
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Technical wordsmith and guest blogger for Hoffmann + Krippner.