What to Know About Steel and Alloys

There is no doubt that metal is among the most important building materials that the human race has ever used, alongside wood, stone, and glass. In fact, several prehistoric eras are named after the most commonly used metals of the time, such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution, and steel was being manufactured in incredible amounts to make I-beams for skyscrapers, rail road tracks, steam engines, and more. This continues well into the present day, where stainless steel, thin steel sheets, aluminum metal strips, and more are widely used in manufacturing. And don’t forget alloys, either, such as AMS 5510, ASTM A666, and others. A name like “AMS 5510” sounds pretty technical, but that’s because alloys and combined metals come in a wide variety of forms and brand names. What is there to know about steel and alloys and their many uses today?

All About Steel and Aluminum

While steel and aluminum are not quite used everywhere, they are widely applicable metals that are essential for today’s manufacturing sector. Steel has existed since the Middle Ages, once used to make knight swords and armor. Once modern steel mills were built, though, massive amounts of steel were used to make I-beams, railroad tracks and cars, ocean-going ships, and much more. Today, steel is also used to make car parts, and stainless steel is a rust-resistant metal that can be used to make cutlery and surgical equipment. Steel is lighter and tougher than iron, and there is more than one way to make it. Steel is also widely shipped around the world, and the United States import a lot of steel from China, Canada, and Germany.

Steel is passed through a series of pressurized rollers at high temperature, and the end result is sheets of hot rolled steel. Such products have imprecise dimensions, but that is acceptable when the steel is used to make railroad tracks, I-beams, and the like. Meanwhile, sometimes hot rolled steel is passed through those rollers again, but at room temperature, and the end result is cold rolled steel. By contrast, this steel has precise dimensions and a glossy coat that protects it. This sort of steel is ideal for making many different items that must be carefully manufactured and machined just right in factories and workshops. Care must be taken when shipping cold rolled steel.

Aluminum, meanwhile, is not quite as strong as steel but it is even lighter, and it is widely used to make parts for electrical appliances, not to mention car rims. Many vehicle today are being made with more aluminum, and this makes the vehicle lighter and thus more fuel efficient when in motion. Aluminum is fairly soft, so a car owner should not use steel wool when cleaning aluminum car rims.

AMS 5510 and Other Alloys

While steel and aluminum are quite useful in many applications, these metals cannot do everything. Some jobs involve extremes of heat or cold, pressure, corrosion, or weight that would overwhelm steel or aluminum, so metal alloys are used instead. These may range from AMS 5510 to cupro nickel 70 30, and alloys are composite metals made of two or more ingredient metals in pre-determined ratios. Common metals for alloys include not only aluminum and steel, but also titanium, nickel, iron, copper, and brass, and many alloys are tailed for specific jobs or work environments.

Some alloys are used for naval vehicles such as submarines or battleships, and alloys make be used to make their hull, engine parts, or even the metal cases for missiles. Elsewhere, alloys can be used to make the parts in a jet or train’s engine, where extremes of heat and pressure would compromise ordinary steel. Some alloys are meant to endure extreme weight, or extreme cold.

Copper is often used to make alloys that are exposed to corrosive materials, such as salty seawater. Undersea pipes are often made of copper-based alloys, so they will not degrade while exposed to and carrying seawater inside them. A chemical plant’s pipes, tanks, and valves may be made of similar alloys. Finally, alloys can be made into a metal bellows, or a flexible metal tube that must endure extreme internal temperatures as well as changes in pressure without rupturing.