The use of Stainless Steel and Aluminium is widespread across the healthcare sector due to a range of reasons and its intrinsic properties. But how do you know what metal best suits your application in your medical facility?

Most healthcare facilities frequently use both types of metals but each offers a distinct range of features and benefits.

This article explores how Stainless Steel and Aluminium are used across the healthcare sector with the intent that it may offer some insights into helping you make the right choices.

Strength and Durability

By volume, stainless steel is about three times heavier than aluminium. This is relevant because heavier metals are typically stronger and more durable.

Stainless steel also features the following:

a.Highly moisture resistant. Stainless Steel comprises a broad category of steel alloys that have some proportion of chromium that protects the metal from corrosion and related damage. The amount of chromium in the alloy — as well as the amounts of other metallic elements — differs depending on which variation of stainless steel you are working with.

b.Stainless Steel 316 is a popular alloy that possesses molybdenum. Unlike Stainless Steel 304 (the most common form of stainless steel), it possesses enhanced resistance to corrosion from chloride and other acids. This makes it ideal for healthcare applications in hospital and aged care environments or across applications that risk potential exposure to chloride.

c.It has a higher resistance to bending under pressure.

d.It has a higher tensile strength when compared to aluminium of similar sizes.

e.Able to withstand high pressure and sudden impacts.

Aluminium and its alloys on the other hand are known for their strength to weight ratios. They are not as strong as stainless steel but has the distinct advantage of being much lighter in applications which require them. Applications include walkers, trays, containers, gurneys and rolling carts.

So, when deciding between stainless steel and aluminium, first consider the type of equipment you need and its use within your business.

For lightweight installations, like mobile carts and tools, aluminium is a fine choice. However, most medical environments require heavy-duty equipment, structural elements, and furniture—so for these items, stainless steel is ideal!

Disinfection and Cleaning

In healthcare settings, it is crucial to sanitise surfaces regularly and effectively. You should choose surfaces that are easy to clean and disinfect.

Stainless steel has innate anti-microbial properties—and it also allows for easy cleaning—making it the best choice for hospitals and other medical environments. In fact, sterile processing departments frequently use stainless steel pass-through windows for this exact reason.

Anti-corrosion

Corrosion can cause serious issues in medical environments—especially because hospital furniture and equipment can be expensive to repair and replace.

Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, making it an ideal choice for pharmacies, sterile processing departments, operating rooms, and other healthcare settings. Thanks to its unique composition, stainless steel can form protective surfaces, preventing corrosion. This reaction takes place because of the metal’s chromium component.

When chromium reacts with oxygen, only a fine layer oxidises, creating a durable and non-reactive barrier. This barrier adheres to stainless steel surfaces and will not react with or transfer to other materials.

Interestingly, stainless steel also has self-healing properties. If the thin, non-reactive barrier experiences damage—whether chemically or mechanically—it can heal itself as long as oxygen is available in the room.

Its ability to self-heal is another reason why stainless steel is a cleaner choice. Small cracks and fissures provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Adaptability and Weldability

Thanks to its formability, stainless steel is highly versatile compared to aluminium.

Whether you need trays, bedpans, bedrails, chairs, soap dispensers, or another piece of furniture or equipment, manufacturers can weld and fabricate stainless steel to suit.

Find Out More

Both stainless steel and aluminium have their merits—but in hospitals and other medical settings, stainless steel comes out on top. Thanks to its durability, strength, and anti-microbial properties, choosing stainless steel is the best option for medical equipment, furniture, and structural elements.