Metal fabrication may encompass a wide range of specialist techniques, from casting and pressing to welding and CNC machining; however, in theory, it is a very simple process. Essentially, it involves taking a raw material – or refractory metal – and transforming it into a new metal part or component. The process of metal fabrication adds value to the raw material in some way and the resultant component is typically made with a specific purpose or application in mind. Of course, different raw materials are suited to different applications. Before starting a new metal fabrication project, it is therefore important to understand exactly which raw materials are available at your local company and which are better suited to your individual needs and requirements.
Here we take a look at each raw material or fabrication metal in turn, highlighting their unique properties and exploring exactly why they are suitable for the metal fabrication process.
The Most Commonly Used Materials in Metal Fabrication
Molybdenum is one of the most in-demand fabrication metals currently on the market. As an element that sits in the middle of the periodic table, it has 42 protons and 54 neutrons and a silvery-white appearance; however, it is the unique and notable properties of molybdenum that make it particularly suited to the metal fabrication process. For example, it has an exceptionally high melting point of 2620°C and it demonstrates both high thermal and electrical conductivity. Molybdenum is resistant to corrosion from glass and other metals and, despite its strength, it is incredibly ductile and can be successfully manipulated into a wide range of different shapes and sizes.
With these properties in mind, molybdenum is the perfect fabrication metal for a wide range of different applications. It is a fantastic alloying agent and it has previously been used in the medical, chemical, agricultural and aerospace industries to name just a few.
When it comes to metal fabrication, Niobium is a raw material renowned for its versatility. It is a unique chemical element with the atomic number 41 and a shiny, whitish-silver appearance and – thanks to its remarkable properties – it can be used in both its pure form and in various alloys and compounds. For example, pure niobium is incredibly soft and ductile, and it demonstrates a high melting point of approximately 2750°C. However, when mixed with other metals, it can become significantly stronger and harder and thus suitable for a wider range of applications.
Niobium is now a highly popular fabrication metal, utilised across a huge variety of different industries – from jewellery manufacture and coin-making to use as a superconductor and superalloy. It’s fair to say, its applications are very far-reaching, and it could be the ideal raw material for you.
Tantalum is initially mined as a powdered ore and subsequently sintered into a refractory metal. First and foremost, in the world of metal fabrication, it is renowned for its excellent resistance to corrosion – whether that be corrosion from acid, sea water, molten metal or a range of other liquids. However, tantalum is also highly biocompatible. It demonstrates an extremely high melting point of around 2990°C and fantastic conductivity and, collectively, these properties make it an effective and reliable fabrication metal for a wide range of different applications – including use as heat exchanger tubes, electrodes, high-heat piping, and jet engine parts to name just a few.
Strong, dense, and extremely robust, Tungsten is the ideal raw metal for the metal fabrication process. It has the highest melting point of all refractory metals at 3422°C, it has a low coefficient of thermal expansion and, when incorporated into an alloy, these features are significantly intensified – making them suitable for thermally intensive applications where other metals would fail. Tungsten also demonstrates excellent resistance to corrosion from water, acids, and solvents and, thanks to its high tensile strength, it can be successfully drawn out into very thin wires.
With these properties in mind, Tungsten is an excellent fabrication metal with a wide range of different applications. For example, it is used in everything from light bulb filaments and heating elements to jet engine components, missile components and vehicle construction.
Zirconium is a greyish-white metal with a shiny, lustrous finish. Solid at room temperature, it has a melting point that is much higher than many other metals – averaging around 1855°C – and, as a result, it is capable of holding other molten liquid metals without melting. This makes it a very useful fabrication metal for high-heat applications, such as crucibles and refractories. Zirconium is also incredibly malleable and ductile, meaning that it can be worked into different shapes and components, and it demonstrates exceptional resistance to corrosion by alkalis and acids. Collectively, these properties make it the perfect fabrication metal for use in surgical appliances, missile components, and vacuum tube filaments.
Titanium is yet another chemical element suitable for the metal fabrication process. It has a shiny dark-silver finish and a high melting point of approximately 1668°C, and it demonstrates excellent resistance to corrosion due to salt water, chlorine, and other corrosive substances. Despite its incredible strength, Titanium is significantly lighter and softer than most other refractory metals and – as a result – it can be machined to create an endless variety of metal components. It can also be combined with other metals to form strong lightweight alloys for aerospace, military, industrial, automotive, medical and a wide range of other day-to-day applications.
Contact Special Metals Today
If you’re about to embark on a new metal fabrication process and you’re unsure on which fabrication metal is best suited to you and your individuals, please feel free to get in touch at any time. Our team of experts, here at Special Metals, demonstrate a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area and they are happy to provide further information on each of the fabrication metals covered above. Simply give us a call on 01268 820409 or send an enquiry using the online contact form and we will respond as soon as possible.