Aluminized steels are steels that have been hot-dip coated with pure aluminum or aluminum-silicon alloys. This hot-dip coating process is termed hot-dip aluminizing (HAD)...
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This article takes an in-depth look at steel service centers.
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Steel service centers are companies that specialize in procuring steel directly from mills and manufacturers and supplying them to the customers. They are fundamental to the steel supply chain. They act as middlemen between steel foundries or manufacturers and customers. Customers transact with steel service centers so that they can focus on their core competencies. The customers are also organizations whose size varies from large companies to small businesses. The customers of steel service centers typically come from the automotive, electronics, HVAC, transportation, construction, and consumer appliance industries.
Steel service centers are responsible for purchasing bulk steel from mills, managing inventory, and distributing steel products that suit their customers’ needs. They may also process the bulk steel to the form, size, and shape specified by the customer. The steel service center and the customers agree with the quantity of steel products that need to be delivered at specified schedules. The customers use the delivered steel products based on their needs.
The following are the advantages of engaging with a steel service center:
Customers of steel service centers save money because of the following cost advantages:
Steel service centers have connections to mills offering the bulk steel with the best quality (at the lowest cost). They are knowledgeable on quality aspects (e.g., inspection, testing, certification) of steel products that the customer can rely on. Renowned steel service centers boast valuable certifications such as ISO 9001 and IATF 16949. These certifications attest to their capability in meeting customer requirements and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
Partnering with a steel service center can simplify vendor management. A steel service center offers a wide range of products suited to customers' needs. These product varieties are readily available for purchase by their customers. Hence, the customer does not have to source several kinds of steel parts from different suppliers. The customer also saves time and effort in dealing, negotiating, arranging delivery and logistics, and maintaining relationships with several suppliers.
Steel service centers buy a variety of steel parts based on their forecast. They store these parts in their warehouse, and they readily ship these parts once their customers make orders. The lead time is shortened since it is not heavily dependent on the mill schedules of steel manufacturers. Hence, steel parts delivery arrives earlier, which helps customers stay on their production schedule.
Steel service centers assist many companies. By employing the services of a steel service center, the customers can focus on their core competencies. They can allocate more resources to the more important things to their business.
The types of steel alloys commonly offered by steel service centers are the following:
Stainless steel contains 10.5-30% chromium (by weight percentage), nickel, molybdenum, and other alloying elements. Stainless steels are widely known for their corrosion resistance attributed to their chromium content. Chromium equips the self-healing property of stainless steel through passivation. This element naturally reacts with oxygen in air or water and forms a stable oxide film on its surface, preventing oxygen diffusion to the underlying metal. Aside from corrosion resistance, they are also valued for their excellent mechanical properties such as high strength, ductility, wear resistance, and toughness. They are also chemical resistant and can withstand high temperatures and pressures.
Steel service centers offer a variety of stainless steel grades. The two most common stainless steel grades are:
Grade 304 is the most common austenitic stainless steel grade. It has a high nickel content ranging from 8% to 10.5%, while its chromium content ranges from 16% to 24%. The most common form of grade 304 is 18/8 stainless steel with 18% chromium and 8% nickel. It has high ductility, allowing easy forming, machining, and deep drawing. It requires annealing after cold working. It has good corrosion and chemical resistance at a wide range of temperatures. However, it is susceptible to pitting corrosion when exposed to chlorides or saline environments. Grade 304 stainless steel is used in kitchenware, sinks, pans, pots, fasteners (e.g., bolts, nuts, screws), springs, pipes, architectural paneling, and other similar applications. It is widely used in constructing equipment that handles food, beverage, and pharmaceutical products.
Grade 316 is also austenitic stainless steel and the second-most popular grade next to grade 304. It has a higher molybdenum content than grade 304. Hence, grade 316 offers better corrosion and chemical resistance than grade 304; this can withstand saline environments and handle industrial solvents because of its resistance to pitting and crevice corrosion. It also has good machinability and formability. Grade 316 is used in medical devices, surgical tools, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, chemical reactors, fasteners, marine equipment, food and pharmaceutical processing equipment, kitchenware, pipes, and other similar applications.
Carbon steel, or plain-carbon steel, is a steel alloy containing 0.05-2.1% carbon. They are often combined with trace amounts of alloying elements such as manganese, chromium, and silicon. Higher carbon makes them stronger and harder but difficult to form or machine. They have lower chromium contents than stainless steel alloys, making them more susceptible to corrosion. However, they are less expensive than stainless steel alloys. Carbon steel alloys can be further categorized based on their carbon content:
High strength steels, or high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels, are low alloy steels that contain a maximum of 0.2% carbon. The addition of nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and copper is limited to 1.5% in total, manganese to 1-2%, and silicon to 0.5%. These steel alloys have high tensile and yield strength, ductility, machinability, formability, and weldability due to their low carbon content. They are also lightweight compared to regular steel alloys. High-strength steels are used in structural parts, heavy equipment, pressure vessels, and others.
Spring steels contain a medium to high carbon content of 0.5% to 1.0%, silicon, manganese, magnesium, chromium, vanadium, and other alloying elements. Silicon is the key alloying element of spring steels. Spring steels possess a high yield strength imparted by their alloy composition and hardening and cold rolling processes. They can tolerate significant twisting, bending, compressive, and tensile forces without distortion. They can be bent up to their elastic limit without being deformed once the pressure is released. They also have high fatigue strength, and they can be formed, shaped, and post heat-treated. They are widely used in manufacturing saw blades, antennas, scrapers, lock pins, washers, clips, helical springs, tape measures, and vehicle suspension elements.
Tool steels are steel alloys that are well-suited to function as a tool (e.g., cutting tool, die, hand tool, knife, blade). They are characterized by their high hardness, wear resistance, abrasion resistance, strength, and toughness. These properties do not lose at elevated temperatures. Tool steels contain 0.7% to 1.5% carbon and carbide-forming elements such as tungsten, vanadium, chromium, and molybdenum. They are heat-treated to improve their valuable mechanical properties and enhance their performance during shearing, cutting, forming, and stamping. There are six classes of tool steel grades:
The following are the steel products offered by steel service centers to their customers:
Aluminized steel is carbon steel coated with aluminum-silicon alloy by hot dipping process. This process creates a tight metallurgical bond between carbon steel and its coating. It gives the workpiece a combination of the best properties possessed by carbon steel and aluminum alone. Aluminized steel has the strength of carbon steel and the corrosion resistance of aluminum. Moreover, it can withstand higher temperatures (up to 9000F) than galvanized steel. It has a relatively lower coefficient of thermal expansion than stainless steel, which means it is less likely to deform at elevated temperatures. It also has good formability and machinability.
There are two types of aluminized steel:
Galvanized steel is a steel part coated with a protective, thin layer of zinc film through a galvanization or electroplating process. The most common coating method is hot-dip galvanization. The zinc film protects the steel base metal from corrosion, rusting, and acid attacks. Galvanized steel is more durable and has a longer service life than non-galvanized steel. However, prolonged exposure to salt water can corrode the galvanized steel. The zinc coating can wear away from the steel surface over time or by abrasion.
Galvanized steel is more economical than stainless steel. It is commonly used in manufacturing or creating fasteners, HVAC equipment, pipes, tubing, building materials, metal roofs, and others.
Hot-rolled steels are steel that are pressed at a high temperature, typically above 1,7000F, which is above the recrystallization temperature of steel. At this temperature, steel can be easily formed and shaped into various products.
Hot rolling usually takes place at steel mills. It starts with a large steel billet which is formed by a series of rollers at a high temperature. Once the desired shapes and dimensions are achieved, the formed steel is allowed to cool naturally at ambient temperature. The rolled steel shrinks slightly or warps during cooling. Hot rolling has less control over the product's final dimensions than cold rolling, making them less suitable for precision applications. However, hot rolled steels are free from internal stresses which can arise from quenching or work-hardening processes.
Hot-rolled steels are characterized by their scaled surfaces which can be removed by finishing processes such as grinding and sandblasting. Hot rolled steel bars and plates are distinguished by their rounded corners and edges. Hot-rolled steels are cheaper than cold-rolled steels since they require less processing. They are used in making railroad tracks, agricultural equipment, automobile frames, railcar components, and others.
Cold-rolled steels are hot rolled steels that have been re-rolled and further processed at room temperature to achieve more accurate dimensions and better surface finish. Mechanical stress is used to modify the metal's crystalline structure, resulting in higher tensile and yield strengths, hardness, and corrosion resistance. Strain hardening increases the steel’s mechanical by 20%. However, they are less malleable and more difficult to form.
Cold rolling is technically defined as the process of feeding and compressing hot rolled steel strips between rollers, which makes the steel thinner. A reverse mill may be used in which the steel strip passes through the rollers back and forth. The thickness of the steel strip decreases for each pass. After compressing the steel, it undergoes an annealing process to relieve the internal stress and increase the toughness of the rolled steel. Stress must be removed prior to grinding and machining to reduce the risk of failure.
The term “cold rolling” also describes forming processes performed at room temperatures, such as bending, roll forming, and drawing.
Cold-rolled steels are characterized by their smooth and shiny surfaces, which can be oily when touched. Their edges and corners are well-defined, and their surfaces are flatter. Cold-rolled steels are used in structural parts, furniture, home appliances, computer cabinets, etc.
Steel tubing is a versatile steel part available in round, rectangular, and square shapes. It can be manufactured from hot rolled, cold rolled, and galvanized steels. Steel tubing can be welded or seamless.
A welded tube is manufactured by forming strips or sheets of steel into tubes and welding them longitudinally. It is less expensive than seamless tubing due to its more straightforward manufacturing process. It is readily available in long lengths and can be produced quickly. It is commonly used in architectural applications, handrails, machine parts, etc.
A seamless tube is a tube that has no welding seam. It can be made from carbon steel or stainless steel. It is manufactured by an extrusion process; a solid steel bar is pierced by pushing it over a plug, turning the bar into a tube. The bar is pushed multiple times to achieve the desired length and thickness. The welded area is a weak spot for the tubular structure. Without this area, the tube has higher strength and can withstand greater pressures and forces. The welded area is also prone to corrosion attacks. Therefore, seamless tubing has higher corrosion resistance.
Seamless tubing is used for applications requiring high safety. Seamless steel pipes are commonly used in handling high temperature and corrosive liquids, gasses, steam, and vapors.
Steel plates are flat, thin steel products having a thickness of 6 mm or greater. Their thickness is typically specified in inches. Steel plates are manufactured by flat rolling and further processed by fabrication methods like cutting, rolling, press braking, and welding to create new products. Steel plates are used for applications where high strength and durability are critical such as bridges, automobile parts, reinforcing columns, pressure vessels, ship construction, and machine parts.
Steel sheets are thinner than steel plates, which have a thickness between 0.5 mm to 6 mm. Their thickness is typically specified by their gauge number, which is assigned to a specific sheet thickness. A standard conversion chart is used to determine the thickness of a steel sheet in millimeters or inches. Steel sheets have greater formability than steel plates. They can undergo deep drawing, perforation, corrugation, slitting, and similar fabrication methods. They are used for less demanding applications and where high strength is not that crucial. They are used in food and pharmaceutical processing equipment, pots, pans, roofs, tables, etc.
Steel foils are the thinnest among steel plates and steel sheets, which have a thickness of less than 0.2 mm. They are manufactured into very thin sheets by multiple hammering and rolling processes. They are flexible and can be formed into a wide range of products. Stainless steel foils are commonly used as a backing material for stainless steel tapes, which are ideal for use in corrosive and harsh environments.
Steel beams are steel parts commonly used to support heavy loads of structures and buildings and secure them from harsh weather conditions. They are typically made from carbon steel and high-strength steel and are formed by hot rolling or cold rolling. There are several types of steel beams, and they can come in various thicknesses, widths, or sizes.
S-beams, W-beams, and H-beams are variations of the I-beams.
Steel wires are made of low alloy carbon steel containing 0.4% to 0.95% carbon. They are processed by wire drawing and rolling. Multiple strands of steel wires can be weaved in order to form steel mesh or assembled to form a rope. Steel wires, ropes, and mesh have high strength and can support high tensile forces over a relatively small diameter.
Aluminized steels are steels that have been hot-dip coated with pure aluminum or aluminum-silicon alloys. This hot-dip coating process is termed hot-dip aluminizing (HAD)...
Aluminum piping and tubing is silvery-white, soft, and ductile. The metal belongs to the boron group. Aluminum is the third most abundant element present on earth. Aluminum has low density. When exposed...
Beryllium Copper is a versatile copper alloy that is valued for its high strength and hardness, combined with good electrical and thermal conductivity. It is a non-ferrous, non-magnetic, and non-sparking metal alloy...
The copper sheet is a highly malleable and workable metal with outstanding electrical and thermal conductivity and corrosion resistance. Copper (Cu) is a reddish, very ductile metal that belongs to Group 11 of the periodic table...
Metals are a group of substances that are malleable, ductile, and have high heat and electrical conductivity. They can be grouped into five categories with nickel falling in the category known as transition metals...
Stainless steel is a type of steel alloy containing a minimum of 10.5% chromium. Chromium imparts corrosion resistance to the metal. Corrosion resistance is achieved by creating a thin film of metal...
Stainless steel grades each consist of carbon, iron, 10.5%-30% chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and other alloying elements. It is a popular metal used in various products, tools, equipment, and structures that serve in many industrial, commercial, and domestic applications...
Stainless steel can be fabricated using any of the traditional forming and shaping methods. Austenitic stainless steel can be rolled, spun, deep drawn, cold forged, hot forged, or stippled using force and stress...
Stainless steel tubing is a multifaceted product that is commonly utilized in structural applications. Stainless steel tubing diameters and variations vary greatly based on the application requirements and are...
Titanium metal, with the symbol Ti, is the ninth most abundant element in the earth‘s crust. It does not occur in large deposits, yet small amounts of titanium are found in almost every rock...
Tungsten is a rare naturally occurring chemical element on earth. It is known to be one of the toughest metals on the earth. It is usually a tin white or a steel gray metal. Tungsten is common for its high tensile...
Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the Earth’s crust, but it rarely exists as an elemental form. Aluminum and its alloys are valued because of their low density and high strength-to-weight ratio, durability, and corrosion resistance...