Posted on: 29 April 2020
If you need metal for a project, does it really matter what type you get, as long as the metal is strong and relatively resistant to corrosion? Yes, it really does matter. Alloy steel forgings are created specifically to give better qualities to certain types of metal. If you use a pure type of metal, you could end up with something that is too weak for your intended purposes, even if the metal itself seems sturdy.
Isn't Metal Supposed to Be Strong to Begin With?
Metal sounds like it should be strong, right? But that's not always the case. Take gold, for example; it's a metal, but it's so soft (relatively speaking) that it has to be mixed with other metals to create an alloy strong enough to stand up to daily wear when making it into jewelry. Even steel, which has a reputation of being very, very strong, can bend easily. Thin pieces or pieces under stress, can be too weak (think of the Cal State Northridge parking garage that had concrete-encased steel beams that bent over easily in the 1994 Northridge earthquake). Mixing the metal, even steel, with stronger metals will create alloys that are more suitable for your project.
Watch out for Other Qualities
Strength isn't the only quality that benefits from alloy mixtures. Corrosion resistance is another, with some metals making others much less susceptible to rusting. Alloy metal choices can affect the color as well as how shiny the metal is. The base metal, such as steel, won't be invincible after the alloy is formed, but it will be better suited for machinery and any other application where those better qualities are needed.
That does bring up the question of why use a weak base metal mixed into an alloy instead of just using the metal that has the desired qualities. Cost is one factor; for example, steel is often cheaper than a lot of other metals that it's mixed with.
Care Has a Major Effect on Metal Longevity
How you care for the alloy will affect its longevity, so if you've had a bad experience with a particular alloy before, review what happened to ensure it wasn't just a matter of bad care. Stainless steel, for example, is supposed to be rust-resistant, but ask anyone who's had a stainless steel dishrack about that, and they'll laugh. That's because stainless steel can have its protective chromium oxide layer scratched away, enabling rust to form. Something as simple as steel wool can do that, along with leaving steel bits behind that are also susceptible to rust. So it's not the alloy that was the problem, but the care is received.
Consider the qualities you need in metal, and then look for an alloy that was created specifically to enhance those qualities. Don't think that cheaper pure metals will be just as good, especially for steel -- alloys are often much, much better.Share