The Many Uses of Steel and Alloys

Metal ranks among the most important materials for construction that the human race has ever used, alongside wood, concrete, and glass. In fact, a few prehistoric eras, such as the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, were named after the most commonly used metals of the time. Fast forward to the 1800s, and steel mills in England and the United States were forging and producing steel at an incredible rate to fuel production of trains, railroads, steam ships, and skyscraper I-beams. Both then and now, different grades of steel and high yield steel are widely used, and steel is lighter and stronger than iron is. Don’t forget stainless steel and the many stainless steel uses out there, either. Finally, alloys can handle whatever job that steel or aluminum cannot, such as K400 nickel alloys or A286 alloys. When it comes to stainless steel uses, I-beams, and more, it is important to know how the sheet metal industry works, given how large an economic sector it is.

All About Steel

While steel cannot do absolutely everything, it is a very useful metal that is found all over the place. It is forged from melted iron, and the impurities are removed to make metal that is light and strong. And what about stainless steel uses? Stainless steel is corrosion and rust resistant, which makes it ideal for making cutlery such as knives or forks, and it is also used to make surgical equipment such as scalpels. Meanwhile, somewhat more crude steel can be used to make railroad tracks and the like. The sheet metal industry employs countless thousands of Americans today, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that this industry will grow even further from 2016 to 2026 at a healthy rate, adding thousands of new jobs.

While stainless steel uses and crude steel are useful, they have to be forged into shape, and this is where machining comes in. In short, machining is the act of modifying metal to create the correct shape for a finished product, and it can be done with saws, laser cutter heads, welding, drilling, and the like. But care should be taken when machining steel, and its carbon content should be factored in. High carbon steel is extremely tough and may resist drills or saws, and even damage those tools upon contact. Very low carbon steel is too soft, by contrast, and it may gum up drills and saws during machining. The ideal medium is steel with a carbon content of around 0.20%, ideal for machining. And once a piece of metal has been machined, it may have upraised imperfections known as burrs, and a lathe table can grind those burrs right off to create a smooth surface.

Steel can come in more than one form, such as stainless, high yield, hot rolled, and cold rolled. During production, steel will be made into hot rolled sheets as it is passed through a series of rollers at a high temperature, and hot rolled steel has imprecise dimensions. This is acceptable for applications such as making I-beams or railroad tracks. Cold rolled steel is produced when those hot rolled steel sheets are passed through the rollers again at room temperature, and cold rolled steel has a protective finish and precise dimensions. Thus, cold rolled steel is ideal for making manufactured goods such as car parts.

The Uses of Alloys

Steel is quite useful, along with aluminum, but those metals cannot do everything. So, alloys can be used for making items that operate in extreme environments, and such alloys can endure extremes of heat and cold, pressure, corrosion, and more. As composite metals, alloys are made up of two or more ingredient metals in certain ratios, to make an alloy with the desired properties. Steel, copper, brass, nickel, titanium, and more can be used. Copper alloys, for example, are used to make undersea pipes that are exposed to salt water both inside and outside, and they can resist corrosion and not break down. Meanwhile, other alloys are used to make engine parts for jets and trains, and yet other alloys are used to make components and the hulls of spacecraft. Alloys can also be used to make military vessel hulls, components, and missiles.