Understanding Nitronic alloys

As seen on Modern Metals November 2016

Nitrogen-strengthened stainless steels can provide many benefits, says Jeff Kirchner, COO of High Performance Alloys

MM 1016 face lead - MM: How did Nitronic alloys get their name? Are there any common misconceptions about these grades?
Jeff Kirchner: Armco, the inventor of these grades, had several alloys. They were calling them 21-2N, 21-4N/22-4-9, and those became 21-6-9, 18-2Mn, 18-3Mn and 22-13-5. The commonality among these alloys was chromium, manganese and nickel with saturation additions of nitrogen. For marketing purposes in the 1970s, these alloys were branded as the Nitronic series and given alloy designation numbers. A common misconception is that the number relates to strength, when in actuality all the Nitronic grades have yield strengths in the 50-60 ksi range when annealed. The numbering system has more to do with the order in which the alloys were developed than with strength, so it just makes it more literal and associative to the manufacturer.

MM: What are some of the benefits of adding nitrogen to stainless steel?
Kirchner: Adding nitrogen to alloys has several effects on the properties. The most common benefit is an immediate boost in the yield strength, or the point at which a material will deform. The nitrogen also improves the impact resistance of alloys. For an example of the enhanced impact resistance, many of these grades will need to be Charpy tested at sub zero temperatures to conduct a valid V-notch test, which is where it breaks.

MM: Can you briefly touch on the different grades of Nitronic alloys, their characteristics and applications?
Kirchner: Nitronic 30 is a corrosion resistant, or basic, stainless-manganese steel, meaning it is good for abrasion resistance. It is commonly used for liners, chutes, and because of its extra strength and lightweight properties, it is now also being used for body panels in transportation. Nitronic 30 is available primarily in heavy sheet and light plate.
Nitronic 40 is a high-temperature stainless with low magnetic permeability. Common applications include instrument or hydraulic tubing, but it is also found in bar and sheet. 22-13-5 Nitronic 50 is a corrosion-resistant stainless, commonly used for saltwater and marine applications. It has a very low magnetic permeability. 18-8Mn (+Si +N) Nitronic 60 is an oxidation resistant (elevated temperature) as well as a corrosion- and wear-resistant stainless. It is well known for its resistance to wear and galling, but the composition performs well in many environments.

MM: What should material specifiers consider when questioning the applicability of Nitronic alloys?
Kirchner: The obvious advantage to the Nitronic series is an immediate increase in strength. Many times we have recommended Nitronic 60 to replace grade 304L or Nitronic 50 for grade 316L. They are basically quick upgrades with little change in their machining or processing capabilities. Another consideration is that these two alloys excel at the low magnetic permeability, but the biggest difference is the permeability doesn’t change when forming and fabricating. During forming and welding, grades 304L and 316L are known to transform some austenite to ferrite, raising the magnetic permeability. There are definitely some applications where this magnetism potential is not an issue at all, but it can be a concern if you have magnetic fields or sensitive electronics near a rotating assembly.
Nitronic 60 solves a common problem where a stainless or corrosion-resistant grade is needed that must also resist wear and galling. It is unique in that it has these characteristics and can still be formed and fabricated with a moderate price point. There are some great cobalt alloys that can be used for wear and galling and will resist staining from the atmosphere or cleaning, but these cost more as cobalt is normally above $12 per pound.

High Performance Alloys, based in Tipton, Indiana, with locations in Oregon and Texas, is a global distributor of wear-, corrosion- and heat-resistant alloys. Kirchner has been with the company for more than 25 years. Call or browse at 800/472-5569 or

Source: Modern Metals, November 2016

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Customer Reviews Summary

Customer service is important. We know, we have to buy products too. We have all experienced bad customer service and we know it is to be avoided. At High Performance Alloys, the service comes before the sale, with the sale and after the sale. We are extremely proud of our customer service. Here are some of the reviews we have received from customers:

"HPA has always been a trusted supplier for our Nitronic stainless steel needs. Quotations are always prompt and clear as to what is being offered if a substitution is being made. That said, HPAlloys is a pleasure to work with."
"I appreciate the ability to easily order small quantities of hard-to-find materials. I also appreciate being able to specify my desires regarding composition and mechanical properties and mostly get exactly what I need."

"Many times the order goes to the company that responds quickest. HP Alloys quotes are always quick. You don't have to nag them to get your quotes. "
"I do like that I go to the same sales rep. for each order not just another operator in the system."
"One area of concern in general with metal suppliers is the quality of packaging / protection during delivery. Your pieces arrive to our shop without marring, packaging intact and ready to machine. We are able to order closer to final dimensions when this is done which saves us time and money."
"High Performance always help us find the materials we need with the quickest turn around possible. We normally don't have a lot of time to too work with and they always seem to help us get the job done."

Still not convinced? Read more

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NITRONIC: Material Tradename

NITRONIC: A material Tradename 
   Material definition - Nitrogen strengthened stainless steel series

The NITRONIC family of alloys was developed by Armco in the 1960s. The name NITRONIC comes from the addition of Nitrogen that is added to the composition of the alloys in this series. Typically this Nitrogen addition is made to the full solubility of the alloy. There are other ways that Nitrogen is used to enhance various materials, such as Nitriding or using liquid Nitrogen as a tempering medium. Unique to these alloys is that prior to these grades being developed, adding Nitrogen to the alloy was as a by-product. 

  A common misconception about NITRONIC alloys pertains to the grade designation, or numbering system within the material series. Some people think the grade numbers designate the strength of the alloy. People were saying they could use 40, 50 or 60. While all three of these grades are corrosion resistant to some extent, with low magnetic permeability - they are not normally used in similar applications. They are all Nitrogen strengthened grades, which helps the impact properties and lowers the ferrite number (pushing further to full Austenitic). Read the embedded article below for more information about how each grade came along. Nitronic 60 being the last one in the series, developed primarily for heat resistance.
  The primary engineer working on this project was Bill Schumacher (now retired).  I reached out to Bill for a clarification of the naming and he had a great write up about it.  Bill's story of "Naming the NITRONICS" follows, in its entirety.

NAMING the NITRONICSBill Schumacher, May 18, 2016
   Over the years, some end users have questioned the origination of the Trade name “Nitronic”.  They even speculated that it might be a reflection of the alloy's strength level.  However, this is not the case. The term relates to the fact that these stainless steel alloys are nitrogen-strengthened, and thus, "nitronic".
   The addition of nitrogen (N) to stainless steels has a long history dating back to the early '50's during the Korean War.  To conserve on the expensive nickel (Ni) content in austenitic stainless alloys like 301 and 304, N and Mn (manganese) were added and later identified as the 200 Series grades: 201, 202 and 205.   N has the most benefit to replace Ni, but the Mn was usually added to increase the N solubility so higher levels could be introduced.  These changes had little detrimental effect on corrosion resistance but made the alloys functional and available at a fair price.  The N was low enough to not greatly increase the strength and impair fabricability.
   In some cases N was added to very high levels for high temperature strength for automotive engine valves.  These were called 21-2N and 21-4N and a plate version 22-4-9.  These alloys also increased the carbon level such that the C+N total = 1%.  A further refinement of  22-4-9 led to 21-6-9 for sheet and strip products with intermediate N and low C levels respectively.  
   As markets were developed and stainless steel melting became more economical, other N + Mn alloys were developed for specific applications and not necessarily for low cost.  Armco, (the original trademark owner of Nitronic), added 18-2Mn, 18-3Mn and 22-13-5 austenitic stainlesses.  In the early '70's these alloys were becoming more accepted in the market, so Armco decided to streamline the names using the Nitronic trademark and help “brand” these modern alloys.  Armco 18-2Mn became Nitronic 32.  Armco 18-3Mn became Nitronic 33.  Armco 21-6-9 became Nitronic 40 and Armco 22-13-5 became Nitronic 50.  During all this name changing, a new alloy was being developed that also contained N and Mn but also a high silicon content.  This alloy was released under the Nitronic name as Nitronic 60, an anti-galling grade.
   All the above Nitronics have similar yield strengths of about 50-60 ksi.  Later developments included Nitronic 30, a leaner version of Nitronic 33 and Nitronic 19D, a duplex stainless steel with a 50% mixture of austenite and ferrite.  This last alloy also has much higher yield strength due to its mixed microstructure. The original intent of the name was to follow the level of alloy content-the lower numbers tended to be leaner in expensive elements like Ni.  However, later alloys diverged from this.  Nitronic 60 is not richer in alloy content than Nitronic 50 and Nitronic 19D even less so, but they both had high Mn and added N levels.

Hopefully this helps to straighten out some of the questions about the NITRONIC grades and how they were named.

NITRONIC is now a registered tradename of AK Steel.

We offer you our 'Research Facility'

Research and Development Facility Expanding Production

We are expanding to handle greater production requirements, because we do not want to turn away any potential clients. Although we may be busier than ever, and running extra shifts - we plan to still offer the quick lead times and short production runs that have made us one of the best kept secrets in the business. Word of mouth advertising with engineers has helped us through the years. We'd like your help in keeping the engineers informed of the possibilities we can offer.

We have helped multiple companies develop their alloys and processing. Using our furnaces, pyrometry, forge press, rotary forges and rolling mill; we can quickly generate processes to make products available to test and qualify for production. We do not have the typical bureaucratic malaise that seems to infect larger companies and our clients enjoy that about working with us. 

Our clients are in the medical, marine, petroleum, nuclear, aerospace and defense sectors. We make products for some of the harshest environments on the planet. These clients, like most companies these days, are looking to shorten the development cycle. We offer flexibility in scheduling through fast tracking (concurrent operations) or crashing operations (running more pieces of equipment at once). We can help to complete process scheduling by helping put all the pieces together. While we are not a one stop shop, we are a one stop for information to make your project work and work fast. Follow on operations we can help with include: drawing, rolling, vacuum annealing or helping lineup tests with independent laboratories.

Among the many materials we have worked include: Tantalum, Nitinol, Titanium, Tungsten, Molybdenum, Molybdenum-Tungsten, Zirconium, Platinum, and even powder metal products. We have forged nuclear grade ESR and VIM/VAR stainless grades for nuclear applications, and performed ausforming on tool steels. We have developed many of our own processes in superalloy and superstainless materials. We can develop a practice for your product that will help it be lighter, stronger or more corrosion resistant.

The processes we perform have many benefits that cannot be found in other manufacturing methods. These include densification and grain size refinement, primarily though forging techniques and heating cycles. Grain refinement will also help many materials for high temperature service, allowing them a greater service life before the grain size becomes too large.

Do you need help in categorizing and writing the research report for R&D tax credit justification? Let us know, we can help with that as well. For your next research project, just remember to contact us:

High Performance Alloys

444 Wilson Street
Tipton, IN 46072

A Look Back - 30 years in the making

[We had a series of articles written for High Performance Alloys (HPA) as a reflection of the roots of the company, and early achievements - this is one such article.]

The Very Beginning

  Starting a company is difficult, but starting a company in the middle of a trying economic recession is just crazy. That bit of crazy made the small company of High Performance Alloys a stable leader in the industry for the past 30 years. 
Mr.Kirchner spent the better part of his early years learning from various places, whether it was school, internships, or work. He spent time at companies across the midwest including Monsanto and Union Carbide. It’s at Union Carbide where he started to step into his own. Union Carbide division was bought by Cabot and called the Stellite division. At Cabot, he had stated to the company that they were missing business on the small orders that customers required. He saw potential in these small orders. 

    When it was time for layoffs at the company, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided to go have a talk with human resources. “I told them I lost faith in management,” Mr. Kirchner said. Layoffs weren’t out of the ordinary, as the industry typically sees highs and lows on a seven-year cycle, but this time it was different. As a marketing boss of several people he’d grown close to, it was hard to see them go and he would not name people to leave. That next day, he was called into the office and let go. Cella Kirchner said “First of all, I was more afraid when he came home and said that he was ‘let go'. That meant more than starting a company.” Fear is a powerful force to incite change. For Cella Kirchner, that fear existed from the beginning, but her husband had a vision for the future and was determined to reach it.

  It was a turning point for Mr.Kirchner but he was ready. For the past few months he started to work on a business plan. His wife was going to help with the financial side of the company. It was nerve racking, but the Kirchners had interest from some of the customers he had helped at his previous place of employment. The partnership would be the start of a long and prosperous business.

The late 1990s

  Take one look at the Kirchners and it’s easy to dismiss them for “typical Midwesterners, but go a little deeper and see there is much more to them than meets the eye. Mr.Kirchner know his metals and spending just five minutes talking to him about the subject and any ignorant person would be left in the dust. The small Indiana-based company was the idea of Russ Kirchner, a metallurgist and salesman. High Performance Alloys specializes in working with metal alloys that are incredibly resistant to corrosion and wear and completing small orders in a fast, timely manner.

   Mr. Kirchner wasn’t a typical business owner either, due to the fact that he was doing a lot of the work on some of the orders. Performing well on the sales side, but also making the routing sheets, purchasing materials for projects and having the material tested. His favorite projects over the years involved the use of Nitronic 60. He’s not the type to sit in the office, instead opting to get his hands dirty. He attributes this to his desire to solve problems.

  Over time, an interesting problem came to the table. The company was beginning to see it’s fair share of work and received multiple offers to be bought out. However, the Kirchners wanted to instead keep the business in the family. Russ and Cella Kirchner have three sons, in which they wanted to pass the company down.
Russ Kirchner III specializes in accounting and financials, much like his mother, Cella. David Kirchner excelled at the IT side of the day-to-day work. Jeff Kirchner had success in sales early on, along with doing some manufacturing in the company. Each of the boys covered a different area of the company, allowing specialization of tasks.

2010 and beyond

  The boys  look forward to seeing the company grow and how to take the company to into larger growth in the next ten years. The ideas to expand the growth of the company include acquiring more machines and becoming more efficient through the use of technology. High Performance Alloys has been in business for 30+ years now, since its humble beginnings in 1984. The future is no longer in Russ and Cella’s hands, but instead the three sons. It’s an exciting future where enormous growth is possible. 

  High Performance Alloys’ products include metal alloys from the Nitronic family including Nitronic 50 and 60. The other products carried include cobalt and nickel based alloys, along with the Hastelloy and Inconel family of alloys. These alloys can be forged and ordered in plate, sheet or bar form. These metals are suited to withstand incredibly high stress environments, extreme corrosion, extreme cold and hot temperatures. High Performance Alloys has excelled in the ability to push product out the door fast and creating an ease of mind for their customers. High Performance Alloys sometimes deals with research and development projects, but also helps companies that don’t need large quantities of product.

   HPAs' metals are currently being used all over the world as well as in space. Projects like the Brooklyn Bride restoration and the metals for the Hoover Dam are just to name a few. HPA has metals on several Mars rovers as well as the International Space Station. Despite the small roots, High Performance Alloys has been involved with large scale projects. 

High Strength NITRONIC 60 Bridge Hinge Pins

High Performance Alloys, a distributor of Nitronic 60 and producer of high strength Nitronic 60. This alloys makes bridge hinge pins for use in high strength applications. Nitronic 60 a chromium nickel stainless steel that is excellent for high strength situations. It also has good corrosion resistance and great galling resistance. These characteristics of the high strength steel help it to be very effective in construction projects such as bridge repairs and construction.
The galling resistance is a tremendous bonus to the alloy over other stainless steels as the pin must be able to move with the expansion and contraction of the bridge. The ability of Nitronic 60 to resist galling and corrosion are remarkable advantages in high strength applications for the continuous lifecycle of a bridge.

High Performance Alloys has produced high strength Nitronic 60 to over 200 KSi yield. High Performance Alloys is also a domestic distributor, and a stockist of Nitronic 60 that allows for quicker turnaround times here in the United States.