What Are Alloy Steels?

In the construction world, alloy steels are used to make gears, pipes and other components. By adding other elements to the carbon and iron based building metal, it can withstand much more. Steel gears, for instance, are non-magnetic, high-quality and corrosion-proof, and are found in military aircraft. Steel pipes can make roller skates, create tubing for boats or oil and erect commercial steel buildings.

Scientifically speaking, alloy steels are made by adding manganese, silicon or aluminum to remove dissolved oxygen. Next manganese, silicon, nickel and copper are added to form a solid solution in ferrite, thus increasing its strength. Then chromium, vanadium, molybdenum and tungsten form second-phase carbides, strengthening the solution even more. Nickel and copper add the rust-proof, corrosion-proof qualities. Molybdenum prevents the metal from becoming brittle, while zirconium, cerium and calcium increase the toughness. To be machine-ready, manganese sulfide, lead, bismuth, selenium and tellurium are added.

Stainless steel is the most famous of the alloy steels. Known for its low cost, low maintenance and familiar shine, this building metal is ideal for a number of industrial uses. The alloy can be pressed into coils, sheets, plates, wires, tubes and bars to make a wide variety of items: cookware, cutlery, appliances, countertops, aerospace components, industrial equipment, jewelry, watch bands, countertops, hardware, surgical instruments, car parts, food transport tankers, food processing plants and even entire buildings.

To get a glimpse of alloy steels like stainless steel in action, you need not look further than the famous Chrysler Building in New York City. In fact, many Art Deco pieces were made of stainless steel and carbon steels, from fast food diner panels and furniture to neon signs and fixtures. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is made of 886 tons of type 304 stainless steel. Type 316 stainless is used on the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which was the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004 and the Jin Mao Tower in China, another of the world's tallest skyscrapers. The enormous United States Air Force Memorial even has a weather-resistant, austenitic stainless steel structural skin.

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