Passivation is another service that Rubber Fab offers to its customers

The passivation of stainless steel is performed when free iron, oxide scale, rust, iron particles, metal chips or other nonvolatile deposits might adversely affect the metallurgical or sanitary condition or stability of the surface, the mechanical operation of a part, component or system, or contaminate the process fluid.

Why do we need Passivation?

Passivation protects the metal against rust but it also protects the metal parts like hose fittings and collars against other surface contaminations resulting in prolonged life and lower maintenance costs. In the ideal application, stainless steel might not require passivation but it is common to have it done as these applications might subject the steel to chemicals and agents that could make the it vulnerable to rusting. In a food or pharma application, you do not want rusting, you want a long life for your stainless steel!

What is Stainless Steel Passivation?

Stainless passivation is the process by which stainless steel will spontaneously form a chemically inactive surface when exposed to air or other oxygen-containing environments. This protects the different metal alloys from corrosion. Some important facts to know when considering stainless steel passivation:

  • Steels containing more than 11% Chromium are capable of forming an invisible, inert or passive, self-repairing oxide film on their surface. It is this passive layer that gives stainless steels their corrosion resistance.
  • If a stainless steel surface is scratched, then more Chromium is exposed which reacts with oxygen allowing the passive layer to reform. However, if a particle of carbon steel is embedded in the scratch then the passive layer cannot reform and corrosion will occur when the metal is wetted or exposed to a corrosive environment.
  • Stainless passivation is the chemical treatment of a stainless steel surface with a mild oxidant such as citric acid passivation solution. This process is to accelerate the process noted above in No. 1.
  • Passivation is the removal of exogenous iron or iron compounds from the surface of stainless steel by means of a chemical dissolution, most typically by a treatment with an citric acid passivation solution that will remove the surface contamination but will not significantly affect the stainless steel itself.
  • Passivation also is accomplished by electropolishing. Electropolishing is an electrochemical process that is a super passivator of stainless steel and results in a more passive surface than the other methods mentioned above.

This last step is necessary because during handling and processing such as rolling, forming, machining, pressing, tumbling, and lapping, particles of iron or tool steel or abrasive particles may be embedded in or smeared on or into the surfaces of stainless steel components. If allowed to remain, these particles may corrode and produce rust spots on the stainless steel. This is due to the formation of a galvanic couple between two dissimilar metals that can promote a corrosive reaction. To dissolve the embedded or smeared iron and prevent this condition, as well as restore the original corrosion-resistant surface, semi-finished or finished parts are given a ‘passivation’ treatment.