For many millennia right up to the present day, humanity has used a wide variety of metals for making tools, weapons, and more. In fact, some periods of prehistory are named after the common types of metals used at the time, such as the Copper Age, Iron Age, and Bronze Age. Later in the Middle Ages, European blacksmiths forged iron into steel in limited quantities to make swords and shields for knights, and blacksmiths in Japan did much the same to make katana swords for samurai.
This changed with the Industrial Revolution, when the production of steel become enormous and steel gained many new applications. Construction, for example, was transformed when iron and steel beams could be used to make incredibly tall buildings, and in the 1900s, cars and household appliances were also made of steel, not to mention train tracks of the 1800s and 1900s. Steel is prized for being lightweight but tough compared to iron, and steel is widely produced in the United States, Canada, China, and Germany today. Stainless steel may be used for everyday applications such as making cutlery or surgical equipment, just to name two examples. Stainless steel grades of all kind can be found around the world. But stainless steel products are not alone, and while steel is useful, nickel alloys, copper and aluminum alloys, and other examples of alloys can be found, too. Stainless steel products are common enough, but sometimes, an alloy is the best choice.
Steel and Stainless Steel Products
One can start by considering stainless steel products and the widespread use of this metal. Why are they stainless steel products in particular? This metal is resistant to corrosion, discoloration, and rust in everyday use, and this is quite important for cutlery, surgical equipment, car bodies, and the like. Steel products like these start off as iron being refined and melted into steel in foundries around the world, and steel can then be formed into sheets for wholesale purchase by factories. To begin with, steel sheets are always hot-rolled.
This means that the sheets are sent through rollers with high pressure and heat to refine them, and hot-rolled steel is known for being somewhat imprecise in its measurements. That is acceptable for some applications, though, such as making railroad tracks and the like. Meanwhile, some steel will be cold-rolled, or sent through rollers again and this time at room temperature. When this is done, the steel is further refined and has a glossy, tough finish and it has precise dimensions to it. As long as cold-rolled steel is shipped carefully, it can be used for a wide variety of applications such as car bodies, surgical equipment, and cutlery, among others. Now, while stainless steel products are quite important, steel cannot truly do everything, and this metal is best used in ordinary applications that don’t have extremes of temperature, pressure, or corrosion. If those extremes are present, it is a better idea to make use of metal alloys instead.
Alloys are composite metals, made up of two or more ingredient metals and elements to create a product with desired properties. These alloys are not typically found in nature; rather, they are engineered with specific uses in mind, and these alloys may have quite a variety of metals or elements in them. Monel, which dates back to 1901, is a family of nickel-based alloys that may have nickel, copper, carbon, aluminum, or even silicon in it. These alloys are sometimes more expensive to purchase than ordinary steel, but buyers will find that price worthwhile since alloys can perform some jobs that steel cannot.
Monel is known for being highly resistant to extremes of corrosion, making it ideal for use in a chemical plant’s pipes, storage tanks, valves, and pumps where ordinary metals would be compromised from exposure. Not only that, but undersea pipes must be made of alloys that can endure constant exposure to salt water.
Meanwhile, other alloys such as A 286 and others are engineered for use in extremes of temperature, both hot and cold. A 286, for example, can be used in temperatures ranging from -3320 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,000 degrees F for a long time. For a short time, it can survive 1,500 degrees F during work.