An expert’s guide to working with metal

Member News

You’ll know from our previous article that metals are our thing. As specialists in wire forming, welding, fabrication, machining, presswork, thread rolling and screw cutting, there’s not much we can’t do or don’t know about metal.

Day in, day out we work with a wide range of metals, but on the whole, we mainly tend to work with stainless steels, mild steels, brass and aluminium.

And while none of these materials present any particular problems for us when we process them, it’s always best practice to take note of their properties, which we’ve summed up below:

Stainless steels

We work with up to 15mm diameter stainless steel and carry out presswork with this particular metal, using presses that weigh up to 40 tonnes.

Stainless steels are becoming increasingly popular due to their attractive appearance, corrosion resistance, low maintenance and strength. But for all of their benefits, they are more expensive than mild steels. However, when considered from a longer-term perspective, they can be more economically-viable once service life and lifecycle costs have been factored in.

All stainless steels contain various amounts of chromium, which gives them their attractive, bright finish. The chromium in the alloy forms a self-healing protective clear oxide layer that makes stainless steels corrosion-resistant.

The self-healing nature of the oxide layer means the corrosion resistance remains intact, regardless of fabrication methods. Even if the material surface is cut or damaged, it will self-heal and corrosion resistance will be maintained for many years.

Although the corrosion resistance of stainless steels comes from the presence of chromium, other elements are also added to enhance other properties, such as nickel, copper, titanium and molybdenum, for instance. These additions can make the steel suited to high temperature applications and increase corrosion resistance. As a result, stainless steels have a huge variety of uses, ranging from surgical equipment, domestic equipment, automotive parts and heat exchangers, to many architectural applications.

Mild steels

Mild steels are made up of iron and carbon and are one of the most commonly-used construction materials.

Known as mild steels because of their relatively low carbon content, this metal is very strong and can be made from readily-available natural materials. There are a variety of mild steels, depending on the content, and alloying elements besides carbon that give them certain desirable mechanical properties.

We often work with up to 16mm diameter mild steel wire and carry out presswork using presses weighing up to 40 tonnes. Of all the metals we work with, mild steels are one of the easiest materials to weld.

Mild steels are easier to work with because they’re quite malleable and are cheaper than stainless steels. And they’re very versatile, strong, cost effective and easy to manufacture, thanks to their low carbon content. As such, they’re extensively used in the construction industry and for machined parts, pipelines and many other applications.

Brass

This is a material we tend to work with every now and again. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, in proportions that can be varied to achieve different mechanical and electrical properties.

It's an ideal alloy for transporting water through pipes and fittings and also lends itself well to marine engines and pump parts. It therefore shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the first commercial uses of brass was on naval ships. 

For more information or to discuss your metal forming requirements with us, contact us on [email protected] or 0121 773 04