17-4 PH: The Best Stainless Steel in Its Class

17-4 PH: The Best Stainless Steel in Its Class

There are many different types of stainless steel, each having their own special characteristics that allow them to perform better in certain situations than others. Precipitation hardening stainless metals are known for their strength and high corrosion resistance. Considered to have the best weldability of the precipitation steels, 17-4 PH is the most widely used stainless grade in its class.


Consisting mainly of chromium, nickel and copper, the versatility of 17-4 stainless made its use popular in the food processing, paper, chemical and petrochemical industries among others. Available in a variety of forms, 17-4 stainless owes its versatility to its ability to develop a wide range of properties depending on the temperature in which it is treated. Available in strip and sheet metal form, the strength of 17-4 stainless is a close match to bar and wire.


When it comes to withstanding corrosive attack, 17-4 PH is superior among standard hardenable stainless and comparable in most situations to grade 304, the most commonly used stainless in the world. Due to cost effectiveness, an increasing number of parts requiring heavy corrosion resistance are now being made with 17-4 PH stainless instead of high alloy non-ferrous metals and chromium-nickel steels.

Additionally, 17-4 PH stainless exhibits good mechanical properties up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit and solid toughness when used as a base metal or welded into shapes.


Another precipitation hardening metal is 15-5 stainless, which is available in sheet and strip form. This iron-free steel has many of the same positive attributes of its counterpart, 17-4 PH stainless steel, including easy weldability and heavy resistance to corrosion when in hardened form. However, the reduced ferrite content in 15-5 ph gives this metal more toughness than PH 17-4 stainless.


Another metal known for strength and high corrosion resistance is steel type 301, a modified version of 302 stainless. Grade 301 is part of the austenitic family of stainless steels. Known for strength, workability and weldability, austenitic steels are composed primarily of chromium and nickel, making these metals highly resistant to oxidation and corrosion. 

In particular, 301 stainless is known for its ductility when strengthened through cold working, which also causes it to become slightly magnetic. The wide range of cold workability of 301 is due in part to its low content of chromium and nickel compared to other austenitic steels. The strength, corrosion resistance and easy formability of grade 301 stainless have made it popular for making a variety of items, including aircraft parts and tableware.

When Looking for Strength...

While all stainless steels are known for their ability to resistant rust, some are tougher than others. If you're looking for a steel providing strength, consider grades 17-4 PH, 15-5 ph or 301 for your next project. Contact your local sheet and plate stainless steel supplier for more information.

R. Tackett is Owner of Slice of Stainless, Inc., and is the author of this article on 17-4 ph, metals and stainless steel. Slice of Stainless is a Cincinnati, Ohio based distributor of specialty stainless steel, nickel alloys, and small quantity metal orders.
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