Metals are the building blocks of manufacturing industries. Whether your industry manufactures automobiles or home appliances, metal is a crucial material for their formation. With the advent of science and technology, new properties of metals are being rapidly discovered to make their better use in industries.
Here in this article, we’ll consider some common types of metals, their properties, and their applications. So, let’s step forward!
Definition of Metal
We may define metal as a solid substance that is mainly hard, malleable, lustrous, and ductile, with high thermal and electrical conductivity. Usually, most metals have a crystalline structure made up of closely packed atoms with a high degree of symmetry. However, metal can exist as a chemical element (iron), an alloy (stainless steel), or a molecular compound (silver nitrate).
What are Different Types of Metal Materials and their Uses?
Several types and grades of metals are present on the earth, and each is specified for different applications. Let’s discuss some significant metal materials and their uses below.
Almost 5% of the earth’s crust consists of iron. Due to its abundance, it is a low-cost metal. Yet, pure iron might not be suitable for you as it is unstable and quickly corrodes when it comes in contact with air. Though you can mix different elements, such as carbon and silicon, with iron to make it usable.
Primarily, besides pure iron, you can find iron in three forms: wrought iron, cast iron, and pig iron.
● Wrought Iron
It consists of low carbon content (less than 0.1%) and less than 0.25% of the impurities, i.e., phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and manganese. Wrought iron is typically soft but strong, with high elasticity and tensile strength.
● Cast Iron
Cast iron is the most popular type of iron that contains high content of carbon (more than 2%) in addition to silicon (1-3%), minor elements (less than 0.1%), and alloying elements (less than 0.1 %). In contrast to low-carbon steels, cast iron is more rigid.
● Pig Iron
Although pig iron contains the maximum concentration of carbon (3.5%-4.5%), and is tough, wear-resistant, and brittle, still it’s not much useful material, except for a few applications.
Properties of Iron
|Thermal Conductivity||76.2 W/mK|
|Yield Strength||50 MPa|
|Tensile Ultimate Strength||540 MPa|
|Hardness, Rockwell A||49|
Iron plays a major role in forming steel, a significant component of most manufacturing companies. Plus, it helps in making magnets and cookware.
You can also find the use of iron in construction projects, transportation equipment, heavy machines, and machining tools.
Steel is a chemical ferrous alloy mainly made of iron and carbon. 1% carbon present in this alloy makes the steel less dense, less heavy, and less exposed to corrosion. However, the high tensile strength and low cost of steel make it highly applicable.
There are various types of steel, but the two major ones are carbon steel and stainless steel.
● Carbon Steel
As the name indicates, carbon steel is derived from carbon content, and only a small proportion of other elements are included. Generally, carbon steel is further classified into low, medium, and high carbon steel. High-carbon steel is harder and stronger, while less-carbon steel is relatively softer.
● Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is known for the best corrosion resistance due to the presence of a noticeable amount of chromium in it. Technically, chromium forms a thin layered barrier on the surface when it starts rusting. As a result, the rusting process slows down. Additionally, it offers excellent heat resistance.
Properties of Steel
|Density||7.75 and 8.05 g/cm3|
|Melting Point||1350-1450 °C|
|Thermal Conductivity||45 W/mK|
|Tensile ultimate strength||420 MPa|
|Yield Strength||350 MPa|
There are endless applications of steel in various manufacturing areas. For instance, it is used in manufacturing automotive parts, cutting tools, and kitchen utensils. Apart from that, it is applicable in the medical field to manufacturing surgical instruments and machines.
It is also used for construction, including manufacturing industrial pipes and building structures.
Aluminum is not a naturally occurring metal; instead, it derives from bauxite which contains 50% alumina. Aluminum is easy to machine as it doesn’t magnetize.
Besides this, the properties like durability, lightweight, electrical conductivity, and corrosion resistance of aluminum make it an ideal option for manufacturers. Aerospace industries especially prefer aluminum for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Moreover, its extraordinarily soft nature makes it a perfect material for fabrication techniques like CNC machining, milling, drilling, stamping, die casting, etc.
Properties of Aluminum
|Melting Point||660.3 °C|
|Thermal Conductivity||205.0 W/mK|
|Tensile ultimate strength||700 MPa|
|Yield Strength||310 MPa|
|Hardness, Rockwell A||40|
Production of aluminum foils is one of the practical uses of aluminum metal. You can use aluminum foils for packaging or wrapping purposes in the food and beverage industries. Further, aluminum produces solar panels, windows and door frames, kitchen utensils, etc.
Automobile and aerospace industries also use aluminum metal to produce different components.
Magnesium is also mostly found as an alloy. Thus, the mixture of other materials and metals gives rise to a hybrid material with combined properties. It is lighter than aluminum, so preferred when lightweight is the priority. Yet, the mechanical properties of magnesium are similar to aluminum.
Typically, it has high strength, light-specific gravity, high stiffness, easy processing, good thermal conductivity, damping, and electromagnetic shielding. All these properties of magnesium make it the third-largest engineering metal after steel and aluminum.
Properties of Magnesium
|Melting point||650 C|
|Boiling point||1091 C|
|Tensile ultimate strength||175 MPa|
|Hardness Rockwell A||35 – 37.5|
Magnesium is used in the electronic and military industries to manufacture different equipment. Additionally, wires, rods, tubes, and sheets are made of it. Manufacturing automotive parts also utilize magnesium to make wheel rims, transmission cases, and engine blocks.
Another old-fashioned metal material used by human civilizations is copper. Due to its versatility, it is still considered an ideal metal material in fabrication and other industries. The critical characteristic of copper is its high electrical conductivity.
On the other hand, copper is a pretty soft metal. Thus you need to be pretty cautious when machining it. Hence, you can treat it under every machining process, including joining, welding, and deforming for its soft hands. Whereas if a higher cutting force is applied to this metal, it may break the edges.
Properties of Copper
|Melting Point||1084 C|
|Boiling Point||2562 C|
|Thermal Conductivity||385.0 W/mK|
|Yield Strength of Copper Alloys||62-69 MPa|
|Tensile Ultimate strength||210-390 MPa|
|Hardness Rockwell A||33 HRC|
Copper is widely used by the transportation and electrical appliances industries. Motors of electrical appliances, electrical circuits, and wires use it for their production.
The following are some other applications of copper:
● Plumbing applications
● Found in heat exchangers such as boilers, heaters, etc.
● Cookwares and decor accessories
The key specification of tungsten metal is its highest melting point among all pure metals. However, mostly it is preferred to be used in an impure form, i.e., tungsten carbide. Tungsten carbide has remarkable hardness and tensile strength.
Moreover, it is highly abrasion-resistant, which makes it ideal for making cutting tools to cut other hard materials. Most commonly, milling, turning, and drilling tools are made of tungsten.
Properties of Tungsten
|Melting Point||3,422 °C|
|Boiling Point||5930 C|
|Thermal Conductivity||173 W/mK|
|Yield Strength||750 MPa|
|Tensile ultimate strength||980 MPa|
The most common products formed by tungsten include circuit board parts, drilling equipment, weapons, airplane components, gyro motors, construction equipment, and industrial machinery parts.
Typically, it acts as a heating filament in light bulbs. Plus, it is present in arc welding electrodes. The petroleum and mining industries also use tungsten for various applications.
One of the most expensive metal materials known today is titanium. The reason for being expensive is it’s hard to refine in pure form. Yet, it is worth using because of its exceptional properties.
The presence of oxide film on titanium boosts its performance in oxidizing environments. Titanium alloys also have higher strength and superb creep resistance than other metals. Apart from that, it has a low young’s modulus value so that you can get significant spring back.
On the other hand, titanium reacts violently with hydrogen; thus, you must avoid placing it in areas with excessive hydrogen.
Properties of Titanium
|Melting Point||1,668 °C|
|Boiling Point||3287 °C|
|Thermal Conductivity||17 W/mK|
|Tensile Strength||1450 MPa|
You can find the applications of titanium in medical industries to manufacture dental, prostheses, orthopedic implants, etc. In addition, chemical and aerospace industries use it for various components formation. It also has applications in armor plating and is used in manufacturing desalination pipes. Moreover, metal cutting tools contain coatings of titanium nitride.
Another metal in our list is the fourth widest-used metal on the earth, zinc. You can find its applications in every household as well as industry.
Usually, people prefer zinc for its suitable corrosion-resistant property. Being an active, reducing agent it is relatively more reactive than most metals, i.e., iron and steel. Mainly, chemists use zinc as a catalyst to boost chemical reactions under optimum conditions.
Properties of Zinc
|Thermal conductivity||112.2 W/mK|
|Ultimate Tensile Strength||37MPa|
The primary application of zinc is to galvanize steel and metal products. It also plays a critical role in the manufacturing of brass, aluminum solder, and nickel silver alloys. Furthermore, you can find its use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textile industries, batteries, etc.
To conclude, several types of metal and their alloys are available in the market. Through this post, you have developed a basic concept about some common metal materials. However, selecting the best material is based on the application and properties of the material grade. Every grade of metal material has different specifications.