How to Find Defects and Mistakes in Your Stainless Steel Order

February 6, 2021
In this post, you'll read:Mistakes and defects with orders can be frustrating, and with most of the world shopping online for everything from clothes to cars to groceries, errors are bound to happen sometimes.

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Mistakes and defects with orders can be frustrating, and with most of the world shopping online for everything from clothes to cars to groceries, errors are bound to happen sometimes. However, exchanging the wrong size shirt and dealing with a literal ton of stainless steel being unusable are worlds apart. 

Let’s look at some of the most prominent ways there may be a mistake or defect with a stainless steel shipment so that you can catch problems quickly. Customer education is an essential step in any quality-control strategy. Customers understanding their own needs and knowing the available options ensures a supplier can meet their needs. After educating yourself, there are some other steps you can take to ensure your stainless steel delivery comes smoothly and error-free. 

This is an image of quality control.

The Importance of High-Quality Materials

Before we look at problems caused by cut corners or production errors, it is crucial to start the same place the production process does: the materials. Low-quality stainless steel has its place in some projects, but when it is going to be used in a visible location, quality matters. FTSSS only uses high-quality stainless steel from trusted suppliers to avoid the limitations of low quality. 

There are several grades of stainless steel such as 201, 304, 316, 430, and so on. Because most stainless steel mills focus on only one or two grades, manufacturers have to source their stainless steel from a variety of places. Also, different stainless steel mills produce different quality results even if the grade is technically the same. For example, the two prominent Chinese mills JISCO and TISCO both produce 304 grade, but the stainless steel sheets produced by JISCO are more suitable for mirror polishing. 

This is an image of stainless steel grade.

If stainless steel is not high quality, there could be deep-set flaws in a sheet. The casting process can leave dots in the metal that can not be sanded or polished out. These dots are always caused by defects in the manufacturing stage, and the supplier of the finished stainless steel product likely just missed it while inspecting their stock.  

If you notice a spot on a stainless steel sheet you have received, you will not be able to fix it on your own. Let the supplier know; they should be able to replace the piece. And, your supplier will probably thank you for the warning, since this type of defect means they should keep an eye on their manufacturer. 

These small dots are almost impossible to find on a piece of raw steel, but the more the piece is polished, the more noticeable they become. You are more likely to notice them on a part with a mirror finish. Depending on the size of the spots and the steel quality, these could also be visible on other finishes. 

This is an image of dots on stainless steel.

Common Problems with Mirror Finish Stainless Steel

Mirror finish stainless steel sheets are a great way to make a room or building shine, both literally and figuratively. With so many grades of mirror finish, you must be sure to get what you ordered. Some sheet suppliers do not even bother to label the level of their mirror finish, and those are best avoided. 

Engineers grind, sand, and polish mirror finish until it is perfectly smooth and reflective. The grit level of the sandpaper or polishing equipment determines the level of purity and shine in the final product. The standard mirror finish is around 8,000 grit, while a fine grit finish is between 8k – 10k grit. Once you approach or pass 10,000 grit, this is what FTSSS calls our ultra-fine grit level, where the purity of reflected images is nearly pristine. Check your reflection in your mirror finish and see how clear and pure it is. This quick test will help you decide if the work is satisfactory or not. 

This is an image of mirror stainless steel sheet.

Another issue with the mirror finish is scratching on the surface. Original stainless steel is reasonably scratch-resistant, but during the production process and shipping, there is a risk of damage. If there are dense scratches on the surface of the sheets that can clearly be seen, it’s possible the polishing rolls were not correctly adjusted by the engineer. If you have scratches on mirror finish from installation or use, you can always try to polish it yourself

At FTSSS, each polishing machine is assigned a designated Quality Control expert. The QC staff in our mirror polishing workshop tracks the whole production process to ensure that the number of scratches stays within the desired range.

Common Problems with No.4 Brushed Finish and Hairline Finish Stainless Steel

No.4 Brushed Finish

The No.4 or “brushed” finish of stainless steel is the most classic and widely used. It has a light grain that swirls in all directions to create an even surface. It is not quite as reflective as the mirror finish, which is suitable for maintenance and areas that require bright lighting. 

This is an image of No.4 finish stainless steel sheet.

Similar to a mirror finish, the No.4 can show imperfections in the raw steel. These mistakes by the manufacturer are usually small dots that become more visible during the sanding and polishing process. Scrutinize your sheets before installation, but going with a trusted supplier can alleviate a lot of the risk. 

Hairline Finish

The grain on hairline finish stainless steel should all run in the same direction. And for each piece, the direction should run in a specific direction, along either the length or the width. Make sure your order contains precisely the style that you agreed upon. 

This is an image of hairline stainless steel.

Common Problems with Colored Stainless Steel 

Colored stainless steel can change the whole dynamic of your interior design. The two most common methods for coloring stainless steel are electroplating and adding a PVD coating. Both options have unique pros and cons, so once you have chosen one, make sure it is what your supplier delivers. These two options can become mixed up in inventory, mostly with simple colors like black when stored in expansive facilities. 

This is an image of black mirror stainless steel sheet.

Color coated stainless steel opens up a massive variety of options for your interior and exterior design. Colored metal is also highly desirable in consumer products since it allows for unique branding and personalization. However, it is crucial to understand the basics of coloring metal to avoid defects and mistakes. 

Stainless steel is colored through two different processes: electroplating and applying a PVD coating, but they are not exact equals.

PVD Coating

PVD coating is the newer and more advanced process and works better in many applications. PVD is also more environmentally friendly, which makes it the smart choice for a forward-thinking company. 

In bulk orders for metals that are PVD coated, one day is often not enough to finish the full amount of coating. Whether the supplier splits their work across multiple days or multiples coating machines, there can be discrepancies between the resulting colors. Stainless steel suppliers should be using a colorimeter to confirm the parameters meet the desired color for the PVD coated steel. The crew will set a small range of acceptable variations in color before establishing guidelines for any production scale. 

Black Electroplating 

Electroplating is still very popular for changing the color of stainless steel, and it works well on a large scale for consistency. When dark black is required for a design, electroplating can achieve a richer, darker color. But many professionals say that PVD is more stable and should last longer in most situations. 

Many older metal suppliers prefer electroplating because they have more experience with it or have invested heavily in electroplating equipment and can not quickly pivot to PVD. Ensure your supplier gives you what you ordered by learning how to tell the difference between these two processes. 

The simplest way to tell the difference between electroplating and PVD coating is to flip the piece over. If one side was turned black using PVD coating, the other side should retain its original surface. However, if electroplating was used, the sheet’s reverse will have some black residue or minor coloring. 

How to Avoid Problems with Your Order

Now that you understand the most common bumps that may lie in the road, it is time to order your stainless steel. But first, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure you get the best results possible. 

Ask for a Sample 

Before ordering a large quantity of anything directly from a factory, you can typically request a sample or prototype. By starting a business relationship with a small order, you can reduce your overall risk. FTSSS offers complimentary, small samples, or you can purchase a full, example sheet in advance of a large order. 

This is an image of asking for a sample.

Learn the Lead Times

Most production facilities need a certain amount of lead time before they can fill an order. If your project’s timeline is becoming tight, resist the urge to rush order something cosmetically crucial to your finished result. By planning and working directly with a representative of the manufacturer or supplier you are using, you will avoid sloppy, hurried products. 

Find a Trusted Stainless Steel Producer 

Working with stainless steel specialists with years of experience is the best first step to avoiding many of these common defects and mistakes with your order. Look no further than FTSSS with our experience serving customers around the world. 

Hi, I am Linda, FTSSS blog writer . I have been working on stainless steel  since I graduated from university. How time flies!  13 years have slipped away from me. ‘Stay hungry, Stay foolish.’ I am walking steadily on the road of seeking knowledge every day.

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