An alloy produced by an alloy supplier will usually take the characteristics of the elements that it is made from, physical properties like electrical and thermal conductivity, reactivity and density, but this is not a guaranteed fact. At times, the alloy's engineering properties such as tensile and shear strength can be very different from those of the original metallic element. However, alloys are typically stronger, more durable metals with more desirable characteristics than those of their individual metallic components, such as increased hardness, corrosion resistance and malleability. As a result, alloy suppliers are vital businesses for companies in many industries including: industrial manufacturing, for use in application such as heat treating processes and for the production of many parts and components; construction, for use in many applications as versatile building materials; commercial, for use in flexible and rigid packaging and distribution of goods; petroleum, to be used in the extraction, processing and distribution of oil and gas; and defense, for use in combat vehicles such as gas turbines in jet airplanes and military electric motors.
Two main types of alloys that alloy suppliers commonly offer are intermetallics and superalloys. Intermetallics are alloys that are composed of two or more metallic elements that then form a new compound. These alloys are sometimes used because they have increased magnetic, superconducting and chemical properties, as well as being able to combine ceramic
and metallic properties for situations in which resistance to high temperatures and hardness is more important than either toughness or ease of processing. Superalloys, on the other hand, are mostly used for their high temperature creep resistance, but they also have mechanical strength, good surface stability and both corrosion and oxidation resistance. While in the past most alloys have been formed by melting down the materials and mixing them together, powder metallurgy
is becoming an increasingly popular method of alloy formation. Powder metallurgy mixes dry powders, then squeezes them together under high pressure and heats them to temperatures that are just below their melting points, which results in a solid, homogeneous alloy. Another technique for alloy formation is ion implantation, which uses beams of ions of carbon, nitrogen and other elements, and fires. In this process the beam is fired into selected metals in a vacuum chamber that then produces a strong, thin layer of alloy on the metal surface. Additionally, alloys can also be recycled, and alloy scrap is a valuable commodity that is essential to the economic production of alloys.