In part one of this two-part blog series, we dug into some of the basics you need to know about metal and steel alloys. Alloys, which refer to any combination of a metal with either another metal or a nonmetal element, are substances created with the goal of enhancing the properties of the initial metal.
At Wasatch Steel, our services include helping you with all the basics of various metal processes, including alloying. There are numerous different elements that may be used in the alloying process, some of them metal and some of them nonmetal. We won’t go over every single one of them here, as this might take literal days, but here are some of the most common – broken up by the primary purposes they serve (there will be some overlap here, as certain elements serve multiple purposes).
One of the top desires in many metals is corrosion resistance. Many steel and metal types come into regular contact with moisture or other elements that may lead to rust or other forms of corrosion, and this can create issues both practically and aesthetically. A couple alloying elements that can help with corrosion resistance:
Chromium: Chromium is likely the most widely-used alloying element when corrosion resistance is necessary, helping increase such properties for several different metal types.
Copper: Copper is an interesting element, in that it increases corrosion resistance for some materials but actually lowers it for others. Within the steel world, copper is a big asset for corrosion resistance – but for aluminum, on the other hand, it decreases resistance instead of increasing it.
Other important qualities in many metals and steels are toughness, hardness and strength. A few alloying elements that can make a difference here:
Nickel: Nickel promotes both increased toughness and austenite in many different metal types. It’s commonly found in high quantities in metals like austenitic stainless steel, for instance.
Manganese: Manganese is useful because, as an alloy, it’s virtually unaffected by heat treatment. This means it can be used for higher-temperature applications, and it’s therefore used across several metal types to increase strength.
Chromium: On top of its corrosion resistance properties, chromium may increase hardness and strength in some materials.
Copper: Copper is used to make certain metals, like aluminum, precipitation-hardenable.
Wear resistance is different from corrosion resistance, speaking instead to a simple decaying process that can happen with some metals. A good alloying element for wear resistance is tungsten, which is great at high temperatures and also helps with toughness and strength.
The most common alloying element for improving machinability is likely lead, which is used across several metal types.
There are also a couple common alloying elements that are not metal:
Silicon: Commonly used as a deoxidizer for various metals, silicon can also reduce melting temperature and help increase metal strength.
Carbon: Those in the steel world are forever indebted to carbon – creating steel would not be possible without it. Carbon additions are regularly used in steel or cast iron alloys to help with strength and hardness.
For more on metal alloys, or to learn about any of our steel shop offerings, speak to the pros at Wasatch Steel today.