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What process can create a scratch proof stainless steel surface?

A discussion started in 2004 & continuing through 2017


Q. I would like to know in what process can we create a scratch proof stainless steel surface. Is there any add on process to a stainless steel plate after polishing to create scratch proof surface. Is there any stainless steel grade of scratch resistance quality?. Can an additional chemical electrolysis process create such scratch proofing on stainless steel surface. Please advice.

Francis King
- Kuala Lumpur, W.P., Malaysia

simultaneous (2006)

A. Scratch proof or scratch resistant, to what? Bulldozer blades or tissue paper. Think about it, it makes a difference to your question. Note that there is no global definition.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. The quality of the answer often matches that of the question, Francis. Anything can be scratched given the right indenter and force. Even diamonds are scratched by other diamonds (that's how they are polished). Please refine your question. Scratched with what, a pen, a knife or blade, a dirty rag, a plastic slider part? What forces would be involved? How deep a scratch is objectionable? What is the function of that surface? Is it an optical instrument, a part of a house appliance, a car trim, a mold surface?

Guillermo Marrufo
Monterrey, NL, Mexico


A. I think some polishing of other metal like Ni, Cr improve scratch resistance of stainless steel.

Umashankar Gupta
- Hyderabad, AP, India

December 2, 2016

Q. I too am looking to know how to produce scratch resistant stainless steel surface but am willing to go into more details.

The part in question is a key that will live on the keyring of the user, maybe in a pocket with coins. So the scratch agents would be keys and coins, with little pressure but many encounters.

We would like it to stay polished and "scratch free", which means, no visible scratches when looking at it under normal light.

We have made prototypes in SUS 304 with a high mechanical polish; the parts are beautiful but scratch immediately when put in a bag with other keys and coins (for testing purposes).

We also have made prototypes also in SUS 304 with chrome plating, and others with something called "UV coating". Chrome plating seems to be the more scratch resistant but it has a very blueish color.

Is there a process or a material that helps fight scratches more? Is 316 or 316L better in that regard than 304? Does electropassivating help with scratch resistance or not at all?

Thanks for any help!

Jean-Pierre Desmond
- Paris, France

simultaneous December 3, 2016

A. How about coating TiN on the keys? It is pretty hard ( ~ 2500 HV )and more scratch resistant than chrome plating and environmental friendly too.But the keys would look like gold/brass rather than stainless steel. There are other variants like TiCN, CrN etc which come in different colours.

H.R. Prabhakara
Bangalore Plasmatek - Bangalore, Karnataka, India

December 3, 2016

A. Hi Jean-Pierre
It is an inescapable fact that any material can be scratched by a harder one. In your case that could include any grit as well as coins etc.
The 300 series of stainless steels are primarily designed to be - stainless - hardness is not a requirement.
But there are many 'stainless' steels and some are designed to be hard.
I suggest that you consider 440C. It requires heat treatment to achieve its maximum hardness.
It is commonly used for knife blades. Mine has no signs of scratching after many years of hard use.
You should speak to your ss supplier.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith

December 5, 2016

A. It is possible to deposit a PVD coating that looks like stainless steel. Check with your local suppliers.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California

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