metal alloy

What are Metal Alloys?

In the world of metalwork, alloys are an essential part of making sure that things go according to plan and that the metal is as strong and sturdy as it can be. Keep reading for everything you need to know about metal alloys.

What is an Alloy?

An alloy is created by mixing metal with another component, either another metal or a nonmetal substance. Metal alloys are generally made by melting the substances, mixing them together, and then letting them cool to room temperature, resulting in a solid material.

Why Do We Use Alloys?

Many pure metals, like gold, are notably soft, making them less than ideal for certain uses. Making them into an alloy can add strength to the metal, along with other enhanced chemical properties. Hardness, machinability, and corrosion resistance are other properties that can be added or enhanced by creating an alloy.

What are the Most Common Alloys?

Because the metalworking industry rarely uses pure metals, there is a myriad of alloys that are commonly used. Indeed, working with alloys is the preferred method for most metalworkers because they are so versatile and offer a longer lifespan than pure metals. Here are a few of the most common alloys:

Mild Steel 

This alloy is also known as “low carbon steel” and consists of around .05% to .25% carbon added to pure iron. This is the lowest amount of carbon that can be added to iron to produce steel. It is often used in signage, furniture, decorations, fencing, and nails, among other applications.

Cast Iron

Like mild steel, cast iron is a metal alloy of carbon and iron. The carbon content is generally upwards of 2%.

Stainless Steel

One of the most common alloys, stainless steel is an alloy made mostly from iron, mixed with chromium, nickel, or molybdenum. The content of the added metal is usually around 15-30%. Stainless steel alloy is often used in kitchen appliances, medical instruments, hardware, and machinery.

Aluminum Alloy

As a softer metal, aluminum is usually alloyed with other metals to give it more strength and hardness. Manganese or copper are often used as the alloy material to create these desirable properties.

What are the Most Common Alloy Materials?

Alloying elements are the materials added to the base metal. When combined, they add specific chemical or mechanical properties. The following are the most commonly added elements:

  • Nickel – adds toughness.
  • Copper – makes metals precipitation-hardenable and increases corrosion resistance.
  • Manganese – improves strength and heat resistance.
  • Silicon – a nonmetal alloying element that increases strength and lowers the melting temperature.
  • Chromium – increases corrosion resistance, hardness, and strength.

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Still wondering about which type of metal will work best for your next job? We offer a large and diverse steel & aluminum inventory coupled with an extensive array of in house metal processing equipment that allows us to service customers on an unparalleled level. For questions or information on our products and services call us today at 978-658-1121 or contact us directly on our site.