Among all construction materials the human race has ever used, metals rank very high. In fact, several prehistoric eras were named for the most commonly used metals of the time, such as the Iron Age and the Copper Age. The Industrial Revolution allowed the production of refined metal (mainly steel) on a massive scale, and this led to railroads, I-beams for skyscrapers, steam engines, and other marvels. By now, the likes of stainless steel, brass and copper, aluminum, and alloys such as AMS 5510 can be found everywhere, and they can be bought wholesale as thin sheet metal or thin metal strips. Steel and aluminum are quite useful, and for more specialized jobs, alloys such as 70 30 Cupro Nickel and AMS 5510 can do the job just fine, or even copper alloys. What can these metals do?
Producing and shipping metal is a massive industry today, and in 2016, some 138,900 sheet metal workers were employed across the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also says that the metal fabrication industry is due to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026, and this may add 12,000 jobs or so to the sector in that time frame. Sheet metal accounts for $30 billion in U.S. revenue, and often, this metal is made with recycled materials. Steel ranks among the most widely recycled materials of all, and worldwide, around 40% of all steel is made from recycled materials. The United States also imports generous amounts of steel from Canada, China, and Germany, and American steel is widely exported around the globe.
Steel and Aluminum
Steel is refined iron, and it can be used all over the place, from making railroad tracks and engine parts all the way to car bodies, I-beams, and finer applications such as surgical equipment and cutlery. Stainless steel is the norm for scalpels and forks, for example, resistant to corrosion. Steel is also lighter and stronger than iron, making it ideal for creating I-beams. Steel sheets are made when the material is passed through pressurized rollers at a high temperature, which results in hot rolled steel, and it can be used for I-beams and railroad tracks. Sometimes, this hot rolled steel is passed through the rollers again at room temperature, and the resulting cold rolled steel has precise dimensions and a protective coat. Such steel is excellent for making manufactured goods with accurate dimensions, such as cutlery or mechanical parts.
What about aluminum? This soft metal is even lighter than steel, and more often, it is now being used to make vehicle bodies, so the lightweight vehicle can become more fuel efficient. Aluminum is commonly found in electrical appliances today, and it can be used to make car rims as well.
AMS 5510 and Other Alloys
Steel and aluminum are very useful, but they can’t do everything. So, combined metals, or alloys, are used for jobs where plain metals like steel would melt, corrode, or break. An alloy can be made of any combination of steel, iron, nickel, copper, brass, titanium, and others, to create a composite metal with desirable traits. Such alloys are geared to endure extremes such as heat, pressure, cold, corrosive material exposure, and weight. Take AMS 5510 as an example, which is a steel alloy made with chromium and nickel, can resist intergranular corrosion and endure temperatures ranging from 800 to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Often, this alloy is used to make exhaust stacks, manifolds, and ring collectors.
Meanwhile, other alloys are designed to endure extreme weight and pressure, an they can survive where ordinary steel or aluminum may bend and break. Some alloys are ultra heat-resistant, and they are involved in the manufacture of jet engine or train engine parts or heat shields on the space shuttle. Also consider metal bellows, which are flexible metal tubes that carry heated or very cold materials. Such tubes must be able to flex, bend, and expand and contract without rupturing, and most often, only an alloy can do that job. Lastly, some alloys (often involving copper) are designed to stand up to highly corrosive materials, such as salt water. Undersea pipes are made of these alloys, and the same is true of tanks, pipes, valves, and pumps found in chemical plants.