The medical profession is extremely innovative, especially in the field of medical equipment and tools. Stainless steel has played a major role in the development of implants, surgical instruments, medical aids and operating theatre equipment. The advantages of stainless steel are that it can be easily cleaned, disinfected and sterilised in order to remove soiling and microbial contamination and resist biofilm formation (only on the best surface finishes).
The requirement to be strong and maintain a cutting edge and to be suitable for shaping, cutting, forming and welding are also the qualities that are sought after by the clinical technologists, engineers and surgeons. Last but not least is the resistance to corrosion. The internal environment of the human body and cleaning sterilisation processes are very aggressive.
Martensitic grades are used for high quality cutting edges. For general medical/surgical applications, the standard 304 (1.4301) and 316 (1.4401) austenitic grades are used. This industry is open to all suitable materials such as plastics, ceramics and indeed other steels and alloys but the mainstay of the industry is still stainless steel.