Let’s just admit it: Stainless steel ain’t cheap. So why should you choose it for making appliance handles?
The short answer: They’re appliance handles. Most of the appliances people use are supposed to look beautiful and clean. It wouldn’t do to have the handles spotted with corrosion while the rest of the machine keeps its appearance. Stainless steel handles are the perfect fit.
But, appliance manufacturers might have a few questions before moving ahead with speccing out their stainless steel appliance handles:
- “Which stainless steel should I choose?”
- “What should the manufacturing process look like?”
- “What are the most important design considerations?”
- “How do all these factors affect the cost?”
We’ll give you some potential answers to wrestle with:
Manufacturing Tips for Stainless Steel Handles
Which Stainless Steel Is the Right One?
Take 439 stainless steel. This titanium-stabilized, 18% chrome alloy with a low carbon content provides corrosion resistance to a variety of oxidizing environments. It also adds pitting corrosion resistance.
When resistance to corrosion is important, ferritic stainless is the choice, and 439 usually works. On the other hand, there are hundreds of other grades of stainless steel, so it’s smart to ask an expert, such as a metal fabricator, for advice about which grade would be best for your application.
What Are Your Design & Manufacturing Choices?
A couple of considerations here:
- What are your thoughts on design? Are you looking for something light or heavy? Is it OK if it’s not solid but, instead hollow?
- What kind of manufacturing process will work best for the design? Roll forming? Tubular stamping? Tubular hydroforming? Extrusion? Casting? Machining? Papier-mâché?!
If some of these considerations seem foreign to you, a full-service metal manufacturer can provide advice on materials, processes, and design.
Solid or Hollow?
Traditionally, manufacturers make handles using one of three processes:
All of these methods can produce handsome pieces that have real heft and good looks. On the other hand, heft means they’re heavy and use a lot of steel. In other words, you end up with solid, heavy, and expensive handles.
Whether they look or perform better than their lighter counterparts is a subject for a debate that will probably never be settled. (But we’d love to have it with you.)
Sheet Metal Manufacturing: Rolled or Tubular?
- Just as it sounds, tubular steel hydroforming turns tubes of stainless steel into shapes using fluid under pressure. It doesn’t require as much steel as other methods, and there’s not a lot that has to be done to the piece once it’s formed. Hydroforming cuts costs coming and going, and the quality of the pieces is high.
- Tubular hydroforming is fine for less complex shapes, but tubular stamping might be called for when designs get more complicated. You can even add fasteners. Unfortunately, stamping tends to be more expensive because of tooling costs.
- As long as your order is high-volume, roll forming can be a low-cost winner. You don’t need a lot of energy or labor, you can create a variety of forms, and the quality is high. You also can include operations like notching and punching in-line.
Did You Forget About the Grip?
Whether you settle on hollow or solid, and whichever manufacturing process you use, don’t ignore your steel handle’s grip. Nobody wants to fight with an appliance handle that can’t be grasped with soapy hands. Or one that pinches fingers -- ouch.
In other words, don’t let a cool look get in the way of functionality and comfort.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Your choice of manufacturing process depends on the demands of your design as well as your personal preferences.
Chances are you’ll save money if you use less stainless steel -- or any other material. You’re looking at less production cost, less labor cost, and a quicker manufacturing run. You can pad the bottom line and get a great design if you follow the tips above!