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Metal alloys are produced in the same way all alloys are, by way of a variety of melting processes. Work hardening, heat treatment, annealing, and controlled heating and cooling are all useful ways to meld two atom types into one new alloy. Which technique is utilized depends on the base element, and what characteristics are desired in the end. One of the most common metal alloys is steel, an iron alloy with a fraction of carbon content. Steel is stronger than pure iron and has surpassed iron in its utility. Stainless steel is another common iron alloy, which contains a minimum of ten percent chromium. The added chromium makes stainless steel resistant to rust and very sanitary. Sterling silver is another common metal alloy; it is a combination of silver and copper and is stronger than pure silver. Sterling silver can be used to make large objects that cannot be produced from pure silver, which is too soft. Applications that employ these ferrous metals with an iron base include medical devices, construction materials, manufacturing tools and machine parts, wires and magnetic cores. Industries include aerospace, industrial manufacturing, military and medical fields.
Other examples of metal alloys include non-ferrous metals, which are basically those without iron. Among the beneficial properties of this wide category of metal alloys are high melting points and a light weight nature, which makes them attractive in industries such as automotive, where they are used to make power transmission parts; industrial manufacturing, to construct gears and valves by means of various heat treating processes; the aerospace industry, which requires non-ferrous metal for components like gearboxes, brazements and missile parts; and the marine industry, for use in construction of the structure of varied shipping vessels. Metal bases that make up these non-ferrous alloys include copper alloys, nickel alloys and aluminum alloys. Brass and bronze are the two most common copper alloys, composed of mainly copper and zinc and copper and tin; both have excellent electrical conductivity. Nickel and aluminum alloys are also used often, although none of their alloys are as well known in the consumer context as bronze and brass.